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FACT CHECK: Can a woman post bail in Nigeria?

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One of the issues that come up when discussing gender bias in Nigeria is that “a woman cannot post bail in Nigeria.”

This statement is understood to mean that a woman cannot stand as surety or provide any security for a defendant or a suspect.

This was further crystalised in a Nigerian web TV series entitled ‘Skinny Girl In Transit (SGIT)’ by Ndani TV.  SGIT is seen as a show that highlights societal issues dealing with themes of domestic violence, adoption, inter-faith and culture relationship, among others.

In the pre-credit opening scene of Season 6 Episode 7 (S6E7), a police officer stated authoritatively that a woman could not post bail.

By January 6, 2021, the episode posted on March 27, 2020, had garnered over 640,000 views.

THE CLAIM

A woman cannot post bail in Nigeria.

THE FINDINGS

Findings by the FactCheckHub show that the claim is false.

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‘A woman cannot post bail’ is often listed among the litany of things women cannot do in Nigeria when having gender bias discussions

The web TV series, SGIT, in a hard-to-miss position – the first 40 seconds –also reiterated this narrative that a woman could not post bail in Nigeria.

Here is the dialogue that ensued in the first 40 seconds of the episode.

Woman: I don’t get it. Are you telling me that he is going to sleep here tonight?

Policeman: Madam, I never knew you are such a nice person. But you see, in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), a woman does not post bail. So, you have to come back with a man tomorrow morning and that is how it is done.

Woman: Really?

Policeman: Yes.

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The statement meant that a woman could not enter any recognisance or stand as surety or provide any security for a defendant because the woman in question attempted to get her son released on bail from detention.

Abimbola Craig, lead actress and a producer of SGIT, says the show tries to mirror society as well as shed light on societal ills.

Responding to a question around the show opening room for discussion on a lot of societal matters in Nigeria, she said “…Every time we come up with storylines, we try to make sure we come up with stories that are addressing everyone’s life”.

For instance, she pointed out that the show sought to highlight the ignorance around dating married men.  “[What] I really wanted people to take out was the married men situation. It has happened before, it will constantly keep happening. We need to stop being ignorant and letting girls think it is okay.”

The FactCheckHub reached out to the managing partner of Spectrum Legal Services, Saidu Muhammad Lawal, who noted that the claim was false.

Lawal said, “a woman can stand as a surety in Nigeria.”

He, however, clarified that ’to post bail’ means to pay a sum of money for bail.

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Lawal also stated that a woman could stand as surety for any accused person or defendant standing trial in Nigeria.

He said this was backed by Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Lawal stated that claim that a woman could not stand surety would be contrary to Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution and that law would be void to the extent of its inconsistency with the Constitution.

Another lawyer, who is principally into litigation, John Okebe, concurred with Lawal, adding that the practice of not allowing women to stand as surety did exist.

Okebe told the FactCheckHub that “It is not the law that says a woman cannot post bail in Nigeria. I must, however, admit that it is a fact in some parts of Nigeria that women are disallowed from guaranteeing bail.”

Okebe said culture and the stereotype that women were incapable of owning personal properties, which was often a condition for guaranteeing bail, were likely reasons why this might happen.

He, however, maintained that “The law itself, in this instance, the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex as such wherever and whenever a woman is not allowed. Such a woman can maintain action in fundamental rights from discrimination on the basis of sex.”

Nnenna Joy Eze, a partner at Ijenna LP, noted that the Constitution was silent on who was eligible to post bail, implying that the claim was false.

She said, “From the combined reading of Section 35(4) and Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN as well as Section 30 of Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), nothing stops a woman from posting bail.”

The sections read:

Section 35 (4) Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time, and if he is not tried within a period of –

(a) two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail; or

(b) three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date.

Section 30 ACJA reads;  1) Where a suspect has been taken into police custody without a warrant for an offence other than an offence punishable with death, an officer in charge of a police station shall inquire into the case and release the suspect arrested on bail subject to subsection  (2) of this section, and where it will not be practicable to bring the suspect before a court having jurisdiction with respect to the offence alleged, within 24 hours after the arrest.

(2) The officer in charge of a police station shall release the suspect on bail on his entering into a recognisance with or without sureties for a reasonable amount of money to appear before the court or at the police station at the time and place named in the recognisance.

(3) Where a suspect is taken into custody and it appears to the police officer in charge of the station that the offence is of a capital nature, the arrested suspect shall be detained in custody, and the police officer may refer the matter to the Attorney- General of the Federation for legal advice and cause the suspect to be taken before a court having jurisdiction with respect to the offence within a reasonable time.

Now these two sections provide for bail and as you can see, nothing here suggests such, she noted.

Eze told the FactCheckHub that some argued that Section 122 of the Criminal Procedure Act created such a provision:

“An accused admitted to bail may be required to produce such surety or sureties as, in the opinion of the court admitting him to bail, will be sufficient to ensure his appearance as and when required and shall with him or them enter into a recognisance accordingly.”

However, this, Eze stated, was struck off by Section 14 of the Interpretation Act which clearly stated that “words importing the masculine gender include females.”

Furthermore, Eze stated that Section 42 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution precluded any law in force in Nigeria from subjecting anyone to any form of disability or restriction on grounds, inter alia, of sex.

Eze also noted that the Administration of Criminal Justice (Repeal and Re-enactment) Law of Lagos State, 2011, which was the criminal procedural law in place within Lagos, had dispelled every doubt as to the eligibility of a woman to post bail by its provision in Section 118 (3) of the law stating that “No person shall be denied or prevented or restricted from entering into any recognisance or standing as surety or providing any security on the ground that the person is a woman.”

She added that Section 167 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 regulating criminal procedure in the FCT had a similar provision.

Furthermore, all states that had domesticated this law equally had similar provisions too, she explained.

THE VERDICT

The claim that a woman cannot post bail in Nigeria is FALSE.

This is because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is silent on the gender of eligibility and it also does not allow for discrimination on the basis of sex.

 

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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