Nigeria: Provisions, interpretation, application and sanctions of the Nigerian Penal Code pertaining to a civilian suspected of assaulting or killing a member of the military, including whether charges would be brought before a civilian or military court; possibilities for bail and/or a fair trial for a person charged (1998 - May 1999)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 June 1999|
|Citation / Document Symbol||NGA31920.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nigeria: Provisions, interpretation, application and sanctions of the Nigerian Penal Code pertaining to a civilian suspected of assaulting or killing a member of the military, including whether charges would be brought before a civilian or military court; possibilities for bail and/or a fair trial for a person charged (1998 - May 1999), 1 June 1999, NGA31920.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ab6610.html [accessed 18 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Please refer to the attached excerpts from the World Factbook on Criminal Justice Systems for details on Nigeria's legal system, crime, and the judicial process and system (1993). Please also refer to the "Denial of Fair Public Trial" section in Country Reports 1998.
Country Reports 1998 states that the government of General Abubakar has not used the practice of trying civilians before military tribunals (1999, 317).
Correspondence from the Secretary for Organisation of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) - a Lagos based pro-democracy coalition whose "activities include rendering legal aid and assistance to indigent victims of human rights violations, human rights campaigns and education encompassing workshops, seminars and publications" - indicates that
Under a military regime, if a civilian commits assault on or manslaughter of a member of the armed forces, he might be tried in a military court. The penalty for murder is death, manslaughter is life imprisonment while assault is punishable with weeks, or months of imprisonment sometimes with an option of a fine or both. The offences in question are bailable but at the discretion of the court. It is however, difficult to grant bail on charges of murder. Recent development suggests fair trial may be possible (27 May 1999).
Both the Director of Africa Programs for the International Human Rights Law Group and the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development stated that it is much more likely than previously that a person will now receive a fair trial (20 May 1999; 21 May 1999). The latter group is a British non-governmental organization dedicated to research and education on West Africa, while the International Human Rights Law Group has a "fairly extensive program in Nigeria and works a lot with human rights groups." Both of these sources also said that it is difficult to indicate what would happen to a civilian suspected of an infraction against a member of the military since much depends on the circumstances of the alleged infraction. They added that it is important to distinguish between what is outlined in law and what actually occurs. They both expressed their understanding that the law provides for a civilian to be tried within the normal court system.
The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development stated that until recently the chances of a fair trial were poor for a civilian charged with assault or murder of a member of the military. He stated that it is difficult to say what would happen now, but suggested that the military would be "reluctant" to extend "summary justice." He stated that the civilian could be arrested and charged but that there is now "much more certainty" that the case would go to a civilian court (21 May 1999).
The Director of Africa Programs claimed that within the normal court system, the military could still influence the outcome of a trial, both in the past and present. Nevertheless, he stated that the likelihood of the military using this influence would depend on the circumstances of the incident, such as whether it involved a high-ranking officer or involved something "considered an offence against the state" (20 May 1999).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Centre for Democracy and Development, London. 21 May 1999. Telephone interview with Director.
Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos, Nigeria. 27 May 1999. Correspondence from Secretary for Organisation.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 1999. United States Department of State. Washington, DC.
International Human Rights Law Group. 20 May 1999. Telephone interview with Director of Africa Programs.
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington. 1993. Obi N.I. Ebbe. World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems. 6 pgs. [Internet]
Additional Sources Consulted
Resource Centre. Nigeria country file. November 1998-present.
_____. Nigeria: Amnesty International country file. November 1998-present.
Electronic sources: IRB Databases, LEXIS/NEXIS, Internet, REFWORLD, World News Connection (WNC).
Four non-documentary sources contacted could not provide information on the requested subject.