PROCESS AND PROCEDURE IN REMAND PROCEEDINGS
The legal framework that provides for remand proceedings in Nigeria is chiefly the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. Although about 29 states have domesticated this act, this paper shall examine remand proceedings and procedures under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act with similar provisions under the domestic laws.
Prior to the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015, remand procedures in Nigeria lacked clear definitions and contained significant gaps that were susceptible to manipulation by legal practitioners and law enforcement agencies. Consequently, an individual could be remanded under the order of a Magistrate without a return date.
The remand proceeding as provided in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 is designed to establish effective judicial oversight for detainees of law enforcement agencies. While it permits prosecutors to have sufficient time to prepare for arraignment, it also ensures adherence to the constitutional requirement of prompt arraignment of suspects before a competent court within a reasonable timeframe.
Section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 provides specifically as follows:
(1) A suspect arrested for an offence which a magistrate court has no jurisdiction to try shall, within a reasonable time of arrest, be brought before a magistrate court for remand.
This Section is the legal basis for remand proceedings and orders. It should however be noted that the magistrate can grant remand orders in matters it ordinarily lacks jurisdiction, making a remand proceeding appear as an exception to the rule that mandates jurisdiction as a pre-condition for every matter instituted.
The Act further provides that an application for remand order is made ex parte and is to:
(a) be made in the prescribed “Report and Request for Remand Form” as contained in Form 8, in the First Schedule to this Act; and
(b) be verified on oath and contain reasons for the remand request.
The grant of this order is however dependent on whether the court believes that probable cause has been established. The factors the court would consider to determine probable cause include:
(a) the nature and seriousness of the alleged offence;
(b) reasonable grounds to suspect that the suspect has been involved in the
commission of the alleged offence;
(c) reasonable grounds for believing that the suspect may abscond or
commit further offence where he is not committed to custody; and
(d) any other circumstance of the case that justifies the request for remand.
This provision implies that where an application is brought ex parte in the prescribed form and upon consideration of the conditions, the court finds that there is probable cause, the application would be granted and the suspect would be remanded for a reasonable time.
A careful examination of the Act reveals the legal standpoint of what connotes reasonable time for the remand of a suspect. The need for these comprehensive time constraints and procedural guidelines for remand orders is to thoroughly address the historical challenges associated with unnecessarily prolonged detention.
Section 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 stipulates that when a remand order is granted, it has a maximum duration of 14 days, after which it automatically expires unless a written application is made to the court justifying the need for renewal based on ‘good cause.’
In the event of renewal, the extended remand period still cannot exceed 14 days, as in the initial order. In both scenarios, the case must be scheduled for a court appearance during the remand period. Consequently, the agency or officer requesting the remand order must appear in court to provide the court with updates on the continued detention of the suspect or to inform the court if the suspect has been formally charged.
In the event that the suspect, who has been under remand for the initial two periods, remains neither released nor formally charged in court. The court is required to either grant bail to the suspect upon their application, or it can issue a hearing notice to the relevant authority responsible for the suspect’s custody or remand, in order to investigate the status of the case and to provide valid reasons why the remanded suspect should not be released without conditions. Following this, the court is obliged to adjourn the matter, ensuring that this adjournment does not exceed 14 days from the conclusion of the previous remand period as specified in the first two instances.
In situations where the relevant authority can demonstrate valid reasons for why the suspect hasn’t been charged or brought before a court with jurisdiction, the court has the discretion to prolong the suspect’s remand for a final period of no more than 14 days, with the aim of ensuring that the suspect is presented for trial in an appropriate court. Furthermore, the court must schedule the case for a hearing within that 14-day window, beginning from the issuance date of the hearing notice.
Conversely, if a compelling justification for the continued remand of the suspect isn’t presented, or if the suspect remains in remand custody even after the extended period has elapsed, the court has the authority, whether or not a formal application is made, to release the suspect from custody without delay.
The Act decisively provides that no further application for remand shall be entertained by any court after the court has ordered that the suspect be released.