“Surety known to me” does not exist in Nigerian Law

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By Douglas Ogbankwa

In the course of my job as a lawyer ,I have come across several cases , where Law Enforcement Officers arrest people because they signed a purported commitment called ,”Surety Known To Me”., which is not a crime encapsulated in any written law Any where in Nigeria.


To situate the issues better , one of the components of the Rule of Law, is legality : that is to say Enforcement of the law must be contingent on the existence of a crime in a codified law .It is codification of a crime ,that establishes same.

What does the word “know” mean?

Meaning of the Word “Know”:

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To have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.Example is “He knew and respected Laura”.

How can it possibly be that ” to have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with” possibly be a crime known to Law in Nigeria?

To know a person is not a crime , it is a social skill .Let us not turn Law Enforcement into a joke or some thing that occurs according to our whims and caprices .It will dimish the respect that individuals and institutions have for Law Enforcement in Nigeria.

The Leadership of Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria, should therefore give instructions to all their formations to stop this very embarrassing occurence .The grant of Bail is as provided for by Law and that Law does not even give Agencies the powers to impose Conditions .

The Administration of Criminal Justice Law ,(2015 ) on the grant or refusal of Bail provides thus :

*Section 158 Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015
When a person who is suspected to have committed an offence or is accused of an offence is arrested or detained, or appears or is brought before a court, he shall, subject to the provisions of this Part, be entitled to bail*.

The provision of the Law as indicated above ,is the only thing that the Law allows Law enforcement agencies to do .

Bail is not a privilege , it is a Constitutional Right .It is provided for in Section 36 , Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).

As earlier indicated , for a person to be arrested, you must have committed a crime provided for by Law .In a Particular Case , Romanus Okafor Esq., of the NBA Benin Branch , got damages against some Law Enforcement Agents for him being held for about 2 hours for the non existent crime of “Surety Known to Me”.The Court granted him 200 thousand naira as damages , 100 thousand Naira per hour.While executing the garnishe order granted later in the case , the court granted him an additional one million Naira for Enforcement of the Judgment, which was now to be borne by the Respondents.This will now be the case in Nigeria , if Law Enforcement Agencies , do not clean up their houses .

On the illegality of Surety Known to me , Section 36 (8) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended ), provides thus :

(8) No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed.

From the analysis espoused above , it is obvious that there is no crime in the Nigerian Jurisprudence with the appellation “Surety Known To Me”.This Practice must stop immediately and this can only be done by way of a circular by the Heads of Agencies to their subordinate .This will help stem the tide and stop the illegal harassment and intimidation of innocent citizens.

● About the Author: Douglas Ogbankwa Esq., @douglasogbankwa@gmail.com , is the Convener of the Intellectual Hub, Security Situation Room and President , Benin Writers’ Society.

Call Bridget Edokwe Esq on 08060798767 or send your email to ngbarrister@gmail.com

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