In Nigeria’s criminal justice system, an accused person is entitled to bail, which can be granted by the court or the police, depending on the magnitude of the alleged offence committed.
A series of controversies have surrounded the administration of bail in recent times, especially the attachment of money to bail.
Another thorny issue in the administration of bail in Nigeria is the issue of surety.
In this context, a surety is a person or party that undertakes an obligation to pay a sum of money or provide an individual in the case of the disappearance of such individual or any other responsibility.
Recently, the debate on whether women are allowed to stand as sureties has surfaced on social media.
The debate resurfaced after a social media user claimed that a woman was not allowed to stand as surety for her husband at the police station, adding that the officers asked her to come back with a male adult.
What does the law say on this?
THE POSITION OF THE LAW
The 1999 constitution (as amended), the Nigeria Police Act 2020 and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 clearly frown at any form of gender discrimination.
Although the 1999 constitution is silent on the specific issue of a woman standing as surety, the provision of section 42 clearly prohibits gender discrimination or any form of social class discrimination.
Section 42 (1) states that: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:
“(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject.”
“(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.”
Meanwhile, section 135 of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 states that: “The police force or other persons shall not, in the performance of his or its functions under this act, regulations or standing orders made under to this act, discriminate against any person on the basis of gender as provided under section 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
In the same vein, section 167 of ACJA 2015 succinctly states that surety should not be denied on the “ground only that the person is a woman”.
Section 167 (3) of ACJA 2015 also contributes to this, by saying that: “A person shall not be denied, prevented or restricted from entering into a recognizance or standing as surety for any defendant or applicant on the ground only that the person is a woman.”