Many are not aware of their rights as accused persons. The constitutional rights of an accused is enshrined in Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. Such rights include:
The right to be informed promptly in the language that he understands and the nature of the offence.
The right to be given adequate time to prepare his defence. In Ugwu V. State Sc 220/197 it was said that the opportunity to defend an allegation is an cardinal rule of fair hearing and an accused charged with an offence has the right to present his defence. It is the fundamental of fair hearing that the accused person must be given adequate time and facility.
Right to defend himself in person or by legal practitioner of his own choice, an accused person has the right to lawyer to defend his case at his expense. The state will only provide a lawyer where it is impossible for the accused to afford a lawyers. In cases of capital offence a lawyer will be awarded him to defend his case.
An accused person is entitled to an interpreter free of charge if he does not understand the language of the court. In the case of Uwaekweghinya V. State Sc. 55/2004, the supreme court per Datiru Musdapher JSC said Non by the provision of section 36(6) (e) of the 1999 constitution, the law requires that there shall be adequate interpretation to the accused person of anything said in a language which he does not understand. The right of an accused to an interpreter cannot be raised in an appeal unless he claimed the right during his trial and was denied it.
Right to presumption of innocence. Every person charged with in offence should be pressured innocent unitil proven unity. The accused person has no duty to prove his innocent, it is the sole duty of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Right to remain silent. An accused has a right to remain silent unity after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his choice, neither is he bound to say anything before or during trial.
Right to bail, an accused person is entitled to bail as guaranteed by section 35 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No police station has the right to detain an accused person for over 24 hours without arraignment or presenting them before a magistrate. The law provides that in the case when it is impossible to arraign the accused person within 48 hours arraign the accused peson or release him on bail. The only exception to this, is an accused suspected of committing a capital offence such as murder.
Right to fair hearing. The accused person must be given easy access to court. The right to fair hearing is described as an extreme fundamental right in the constitution and the breach thing has its implication on the proceedings.
The right to have record of proceedings kept and the right to have copies of it within seven days of the conclusion of the case.
All these rights are aimed at ensuring that an accused person is not unjustly dealt with.
Nkechi Bright Ewere