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14 Key Rights of a Suspect in Police Custody

14 Key Rights of a Suspect in Police Custody

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Arrest and detainment of a suspect by the police and other law enforcement agents in Nigeria doesn’t strip suspects of their rights. These are the constitutionally protected rights of every suspect in police custody which should not be violated or breached.

1. Right to Silence

A suspect in Police custody has a right not to answer any question put to him until after consultation with a legal practitioner of his choice. The police officer making the arrest shall inform the arrested person of his right to remain silent.  Section 35(2) of the CFRN.

2.  Right to a Lawyer

 A suspect has the right to engage the services of a lawyer of his choice before making or writing any statement at the police station. Section 35(2) CFRN. Upon arrest by the police, a suspect must be given access to his lawyer before answering any question put to him or making a statement.

3.  Right NOT to Answer any Question or Make a Statement

A suspect has the right not to utter a word throughout the period of investigation and he cannot be forced to make a statement orally or in writing.

4.  Right to Dignity of Human Person

A suspect shall not be subjected to torture, inhumanE or degrading treatment while in police custody. A suspect must not be beaten, handcuffed, leg chained or subjected to any form of torture while in police custody. S 34(1) CFRN.

5.  Right to be Informed of the Reason for Arrest

 The suspect must be informed of the reason for his arrest at the earliest opportunity at the point of arrest or upon arraignment in court. A suspect arrested by the police must be informed in writing within 24 hours of the grounds for his arrest in a language which he understands. Section 35 (3) CFRN.

6.  Right to Interpreter

A suspect being interviewed or interrogated by the police is entitled to an interpreter if he does not understand the language of the police interviewing him S36(6) (e) CFRN.

7. Right to be brought to Court within a Reasonable Time

A person arrested by the police shall be brought to court within 24 hours where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of forty kilometres from the place of his arrest. Where there is no court of competent jurisdiction within a forty KM radius available, then the suspect shall be arraigned in court within 48 hours. Section 35(4)(50 of t2he CFRN.

8.  Right to be Presumed Innocent

A suspect arrested by the police shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. Section 36(5).

9.  Right to Life

 A suspect in police custody has a right to life, such suspect shall not be killed or executed extra-judicially except with the order of the court. S33(1) CFRN.

10.  Offence must be known to Law

A suspect can only be arrested in connection with an offence known to the law and the punishment prescribed.  Section 36(12) CFRN.

11.  Right NOT to be Arrested in Place of a Suspect

 A person shall not be arrested in place of a suspect. Only those directly connected with an offence should be arrested for committing the offence. Therefore a suspect’s family member, relative or friend shall not be arrested in lieu of the suspect.

12.  Right against Double Jeopardy

A suspect shall not be arrested in connection with an offence in which he had been previously tried and convicted or acquitted by a court of law. Section 36(9) CFRN.

13.  Right to Privacy

 The constitution guarantees the protection against any form of unlawful invasion of his private life except if there is a court order authorizing it. Section 37 CFRN.

14.  Right to Compensation and Public Apology

Any person unlawfully detained shall be entitled to compensation and a public apology.

Funmi Oderinde Esq., a Legal Associate at Citizens’ Gavel writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. She can be reached at

Edited by Taiwo Makanjuola, Communications Associate, Citizens’ Gavel. She can be reached at

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Taiwo Makanjuola

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