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No One Is Above The Law – The Rights and Obligations Of The Nigerian Citizens

Popular hip-hop artist and rapper Habeeb Okikiola, aka “Portable,” was arraigned for the offense of assault before a magistrate court in Ogun state on April 3, 2023, after a petition was written against him; he was arrested and charged to court following an investigation.

The mode of arrest generated an uproar on social media following a series of videos made by the singer resisting arrest and informing the general public that he is a superstar and could not be arrested.
The police arrested Okikiola at the expiration of an ultimatum to submit himself on Friday, March 31, 2023.

The Nigerian Police is saddled with the responsibility of preventing crimes, arresting offenders, and ensuring the safety of lives and property in society. In other to enable it to carry out its functions effectively, the police is conferred with investigatory powers under the Police Act. Hence, they may interview a complainant, an eye witness, or a suspect, as the case may be.

From the videos that went viral on social media, officers stated that a petition was written against the defendant, and he had been invited to the station to give a statement on the petition written against him, but he failed to show up after refusing five invitations. Thereafter, the defendant assaulted one of the arresting officers, Inspector Hammed Moshood, after Okikiola elbowed the officer’s nose, causing it to bleed, reported Daily Trust.  

The police are entitled to interrogate a suspect on any issue as it relates to the commission of the offense being investigated. Though citizens have rights, they also do have obligations under the law. Section 34 of the CFRN 1999, as amended, provides that a suspect is entitled to the dignity of his person and shall not be subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment. However, these rights have an exception where a suspect may be bound and restrained as follows;where there is a reasonable apprehension of violence;where the suspect attempts to escape;where restraint is considered necessary for the safety of the suspect or defendant; andan order of the court.When a petition is written against a suspect, and they have been invited to answer to the petition, the suspect should be informed of these rights and comply with same;Everyone has a right to legal representation. The statement a suspect wishes to make must be taken in the presence of a legal practitioner of his choice or in the presence of an officer.Not to resist arrest.A suspect has a right to remain silent until consultation with a legal practitioner.The suspect will be informed of the reason for his arrest.If the accused person is arraigned in a court of law after investigation, the suspect has a right to be arraigned within a reasonable time.Where the suspect wishes to make a statement but does not understand, speak or write in the English language, he/she is entitled to an interpreter.The suspect is entitled to bail pending investigation, or trial as the case may be.A suspect should not insult or physically abuse a police officer rather, they should give a statement at the police station addressing the petition.Citizens are expected to live within the confines of the law, obey the law, and should always seek the advice of a lawyer. It’s in Okikiola’s interest to avail himself of the provisions of the law and his obligation to obey them.  
HRF facilitated the release of indigent clients, Mohammed Sanni Bello, Ishola Wale, and Akinniran Ambrose Olaleye on April 21, 2023, at Owo Prison, Ondo State after awaiting trial and incarcerated for 6 months. The case was struck out for want of diligent prosecution.

L-R: Ishola Wale, HRF Legal Associate, BC Obilor, Akinniran Ambrose Olaleye and Mohammed Sanni Bello.
HRF represented indigent client, Henry George.  A ruling on “No Case Submission” was delivered in favor of the defendant after 18 months incarceration in prison. He was discharged and acquitted on April 26, 2023, at a High Court in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

L-R: Correctional Officer A. Aftikus, Henry George, and HRF-North Coordinator, Samuel Olaoye.

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