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RIGHTS EXPLAINED TO THE ACCUSED MUST BE RECORDED

Dictum

In my view, a bald statement, as in this case, that – “the rights of the accused are explained to him” is certainly not enough. Not only should the court record show clearly what the trial court has done, whatever rights have been explained to the accused must be fully recorded see Ama Ema v. The State (1964) 1 All N.L.R. 416, for, indeed, this is the essence of having a court of record.

— Eso, JSC. G. Josiah v. The State (1985) – SC.59/1984

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PRINCIPLE ON THE VALID ARRAIGNMENT OF AN ACCUSED PERSON

By the combined effect of these provisions a valid arraignment of an accused person must satisfy the following requirements: 1. The accused shall be placed before the court unfettered unless the court shall see cause to the contrary or otherwise order. 2. The charge or information shall be read over and explained to him in the language he understands to the satisfaction of the court by the Registrar or other officer. 3. He shall then be called upon to plead instantly thereto. This court has held in a number of cases that these requirements must be satisfied. Nothing should be left to speculation. The records of the trial must show that these conditions are complied with. This is so because the object of the Constitution is to safeguard the interest and fair trial of those arraigned before the court. See Kajubo v. State (supra); Erekanure v. State (supra). It must however be said that each case must be treated on its peculiar facts. The mode of compliance will differ from case to case. Let me explain. It is not every requirement that must appear on record. For example the requirement that the Judge should be satisfied that the charge has been read and explained to the accused need not appear on the record. It is however good practice to so indicate. There is nothing in section 215 of the CPL which says that the trial Judge must put on record his satisfaction. No. It is a matter of common sense really. For once the record of the court shows that the charge has been read over and explained to the accused, and the accused pleaded to it before the case proceeded to trial, it is to be presumed that everything was regularly done; that the Judge was satisfied. Secondly, the requirement that the charge must be read and explained to the accused in the language he understands, in my opinion, presupposes that the accused does not understand English which is the language of the court. If he does not, the court has a duty to put on record the language spoken by the accused. However, if the accused understands English, then it is not necessary to record this fact. See Idemudia v. State (supra). In that case this court observed as follows: “The language of the court is English. A vast majority of the people in this country are not literate in the English language. I believe and indeed I am convinced that the person the lawmaker had in mind to protect by these provisions was the illiterate Nigerian. If this were not so the phrase “in the language he understands” would become meaningless. This phrase surely presupposes that the accused person does not understand the language of the court which is English.”

— Katsina-Alu, JSC. Adeniji v. State (2001) – SC. 210/1999

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PERSON ACCUSED OF CRIME STILL HAS ACCESS TO ENFORCE HIS RIGHTS

The fact that a person has been accused of a crime, however serious, will not deny that person access to Court to enforce his fundamental right if these rights have been violated. See Duruaku v. Nwoke (2015) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1483) 417.

– Ngwuta JSC. Ihim v. Maduagwu (2021)

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ACCUSED DUTY TO LET THE COURT KNOW HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE-USED

Appellant’s counsel is vehemently holding unto the position that it was the duty of the trial Court to make available to the Appellant the services of an interpreter because he is an illiterate. It must be pointed out that where the accused does not understand the language used at his trial, it is his duty or his counsel’s duty to bring to the notice of the Court at the earliest opportunity, that he does not understand the language used at trial. I think the duty of ensuring that the right thing is done is not only on the trial Judge. It is a duty as well on a party to a case or his counsel if represented by one.

– A. Jauro JSC. Balogun v. FRN (2021)

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ONLY EXCEPTION FOR WHEN AN ACCUSED MAY BE ABSENT FROM HIS TRIAL

In any case, the very fact that the 1st appellant and the 3rd appellant were absent in their joint trial in court on 14 June 1999 when the inferior court was addressed and 18 April 2000 when the inferior court delivered its judgment, this exercise of allowing the trial to proceed in the absence of some of the accused persons being jointly tried had rendered the entire proceedings of that court including the judgment a complete nullity for not only denial of fair hearing under section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 but also for failure of that court to give the affected appellants even a hearing that may not be called a fair hearing: Godpower Asakitikpi v. The State (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 296) 641 at 657.

— M. Mohammed JSC. The State v. Monsurat Lawal (SC. 80/2004, 15 Feb 2013)

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FAILURE TO PROVIDE AN INTERPRETER FOR AN ACCUSED IS NOT FATAL

In any case, I hold that failure to provide an interpreter where an accused person is represented by counsel, and there is/was no objection raised at the trial court, this will not result in vitiating the trial or result in disturbing or interfering with the judgment of a trial court. It will or may be a different thing where there is no counsel representing the accused person and where such failure will or has led to a miscarriage of justice or that the accused person has been prejudiced thereby as a result.

— Ogbuagu, JSC. Udosen v State (2007) – SC.199/2005

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EVERY RULE IN FAVOUR OF AN ACCUSED MUST BE METICULOUSLY OBSERVED

Under our system, there is no onus on an accused to prove his innocence. The law presumes him innocent. There is thus no duly on the accused to help the prosecution prove him guilty. Our law is against self-incrimination. It is in the interest of justice that every rule in favour of an accused person is meticulously observed and that no rule is broken to his prejudice. The least that the trial court could have done for the appellant whose life was at stake, (he was standing trial for his very life) was to inform him of his rights under S.287(1) and it should be apparent on the record that each alternative was explained to the appellant since he was not represented by a legal practitioner.

— Oputa, JSC. G. Josiah v. The State (1985) – SC.59/1984

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