“SUSPECT PARADE” OTHERWISE “MEDIA TRIAL” BY THE NIGERIAN SECURITY AGENCIES: A BREACH OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.
BY: BADMUS UTHMAN O.
LLB in-view (BUK).
Suspect parade is an unconstitutional practice and custom of the Nigerian security agencies most especially the Nigerian police force, this practice can be referred to as the act, or situation by which suspects are displayed, assembled, and exhibited before the general public, it also involves the interview of suspects by the media outlets and taking of group pictures of suspects.
Nevertheless, the habit of granting the media outlets the privilege to interview suspects often lead to situations whereby suspects are forced to admit to have committed the alleged crime of which they are suspected to have committed before the public. This is often refers to as “suspect parade or media trial”.
The illegal and unconstitutional custom and practice of suspect parade could be traced back to the military Era. During this Era, the constitution is always on suspension which automatically lead to the revocation, violation and misconduct of the fundamental rights of the citizens. Military regime can be basically described as lawless, brutal and selfish administration.
How be it, the illegal custom and practice of suspect parade should have been limited and restricted to the lawless regime (Military) and could have also been prevented from penetrating into a democratic society of the fourth republic where the constitution and the rule of law are the basis, and foundation on which it was established, built and on which it justifies it operations.
IT UNCONSTITUTIONALITY, ARGUMENTS AND THE POSITION OF THE LAW
The former inspector general of police, Ibrahim Idris is quoted to have said that the practice of suspect parade is simply the force letting the public know the efforts and achievements of the police in curbing and reducing crime to the barest minimum. The affirmation of the practice was said, posted otherwise uploaded on #ASKTHEPOLICE session on twitter sometimes around May 17, 2018. See https://t.co/HcroNtqIgX
However, it should be noted that the provisions of the law is superior, above and supercede any contrary opinion, observation, recommendation and suggestion of anybody irrespective of their position, be it a member of the government or an ordinary citizen.
However, in contrary to the opinion of the former IGP, we may begin to ask, whether or not upholding the fundamental rights of suspect(s) is paramount and more important than proving to the public that the police is curbing crimes. Then we can justifiably arrive in a legally backed answer that the fundamental rights of every person irrespective of their status must be protected, ensured and observed, except for exceptions of which suspect parade is not among.
Furtherance, It is so disheartening that this illegal custom has become widely accepted by the general public and people no longer see it as an unlawful act. Parading a person without prior conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction is a total breach of the law, and gross abuse of the person’s human rights.
Generally, it often cause destruction of suspect’s personality, and also psychological disorder. Sometimes, paraded suspects are later found not guilty of the offense of which they are paraded for. The most challenging part is that neither do NPF go back to the media to clear acquitted persons’ name nor assume responsibility for their action.
How be it, the provisions of the law frown at this gross breach of human rights, the position of the law is clear and free from any mischievous interpretation. Section 36 (5) of the 1999 constitution as amended clearly provides for presumption of innocence of every suspect until determined, or proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction. A paraded suspect, who is also force to undergo media trial, and equally compel to publicly admit to the allege crime is no longer presume to be innocent rather declare guilty by his accuser(s).
In addition, in determining suspects rights, section 35 (2) of the 1999 constitution as amended provides for their right to remain silent and also the right to avoid answering questions until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of their choices. Also, a suspect has a right to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense by virtue of section 36 (6) b of the 1999 constitution as amended.
Furthermore, the illegal custom of media trial has been determined by the courts in numbers of cases as to it unconstitutionality. In the case of Dyot Bayi & 14 Ors. v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004-2009) CCJLER 245 at 265 the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS COURT condemned what is called ‘media trial or suspect parade’ of the applicants in the following words: ‘THE COURT IS OF THE OPINION THAT FOR THE FACT THAT THE DEFENDANTS PRESENTED THE APPLICANTS BEFORE THE PRESS WHEN NO JUDGE OR COURT HAS FOUND THEM GUILTY, CERTAINLY CONSTITUTE A VIOLATION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE’.” (Ecowas Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja).
Also, in the case of Ndukwem Chiziri Nice v. AG, Federation & Anor. (2007) CHR 218 at 232 Justice Banjoko held that ‘THE ACT OF PARADING HIM (the suspect) BEFORE THE PRESS AS EVIDENCED BY THE EXHIBITS ANNEXED TO THE AFFIDAVIT WAS UNCALLED FOR AND A CALLOUS DISREGARD FOR HIS PERSON.’
It is my conviction that, by virtue of these relevant authorities, suspect parade otherwise known as media trial is inconsistent with the existing laws, and unconstitutional by act for any of the law enforcement agency(ies) within the territorial jurisdiction of this country.
SOLUTION AND CONCLUSION
A paraded person should or can institute an action before a high court for the enforcement of his/her right and also demand for damages.
Suspect parade otherwise known as media trial is an unconstitutional practice and custom of the Nigerian security agencies particularly the NPF, and this custom has since began during the military Era and still in practice till now. More so, the provisions of the law under the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution frown at this gross abuse of human rights.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.