4 ESSENTIAL RIGHTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW YOU HAVE

You know about Miranda rights, right? (Pun intended.) You’ve probably watched hundreds of cop movies and heard these words recited to people on arrest. (You know, when the police finally catch the bad guy in the end and put him in handcuffs?) Here they are:

“You have the right to remain silent.

Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

You have the right to an attorney.

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

It’s not news that Nigeria is a country where knowledge of human rights is lacking. Many, if not most Nigerians do not know enough when it comes to their basic human rights, rights that are our privileges. It’s like having a gift but not enjoying it because you do not know you have it. The thing is, Miranda rights aren’t called so in Nigeria but they are still present and clear in our Constitution (See Chapter 4 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution). We still have them to be enjoyed, protected and enforced. These are 4 essential rights you may not know you have:

1. You have the right to remain silent. Surprised? You actually do have a right to remain silent or avoid answering any questions when you have been arrested or detained until you speak with your lawyer or any person of your choice. Yes, this does mean what you are thinking. If you are arrested and asked questions, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER until you have spoken to your lawyer or any other person you choose.

2. You have the right to an interpreter without payment. The fact that you’re reading this means that you may not need to exercise this right but there are people who could be arrested and may not understand the language in which they are told that they have been arrested. The sight of the black uniform makes them quiver and they could end up being detained for reasons they do not even understand. Unfair circumstances could be avoided if people actually know that they can rightfully request for an interpreter to translate their criminal charges.

3. You have the right to be defended by a lawyer. As common as this may sound, you do have the right to defend yourself in person or by a legal practitioner of your choice. If you have been accused of a crime, you can defend yourself or get a lawyer to defend you. It is your right.

4. You have the right to some compensation and a public apology if unlawfully arrested or detained. I cringe really hard as I write this because it seems like such a longshot. With the Nigerian status quo, it seems like this right may not even be enforced (Probably even because barely anyone knows this right). But you do know now that if you have been unlawfully arrested or detained you should be compensated and apologised to by the appropriate authority. It makes one wonder: “Is this even possible in Nigeria?” I wonder myself.

As they say, ignorance is the cause of fear. Daily confidence is more certain knowing the rights you are entitled to. A right is like a gift. You wouldn’t unwrap it and use it if you do not know you have this gift. Knowledge really can be a strong shield of defence sometimes.

Talk about this. Spread the word. Let’s kill the ignorance. You’ve been armed.