I did not plan to say anything about Maryam Sanda’s saga again. But comments and posts on social media about her bail and the birthday party she organized for her daughter have forced to write.
It will please you to know that, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended 2011 (the Constitution) is the highest law in Nigeria. It is the fountain head from where other laws draw their validity.
Section 1(1) of the Constitution states, “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Because the Constitution is the highest law in the country, any law that contradicts the Constitution automatically becomes invalid. This is written in Section 1 (3) of the Constitution;
“If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
The phrase ‘any other law’ in the sub-section means ANY OTHER LAW you can think of. Any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency.
What the Constitution is saying under section 1(3) is simple: the Constitution is above what you think or believe.
Now that we settle this. I would like to invite you to a particular section.
Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution states,
“Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.”
I cannot say what happened between Maryam Sanda and her husband. I was not there. May be she did it. May be she did not do it. Who knows? That is beside the point. Whatever may be the case, she is innocent until proved guilty.
Section 36(5) of the Constitution is a reverse version of the Napoleonic Code.
Under the Napoleonic Code, “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence is presumed guilty until he proved his innocence.”
Take this from me, if every person who is charged with an offence is expected to proof his innocence, there will be very few innocent persons in the world. This is the main reason why the English Common Law reversed it.
It is very sad and highly unfortunate that our society still holds on to Napoleonic Code of Presumption of Guilt. At any rate, the law is the law. It does not matter how one feels or what one believes. Maryam Sanda is still innocent until proved guilty by the prosecution, not social media lawyers.
By Section 341(1)&(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, a person charged with a capital offence can be admitted to bail where there are special circumstances. And above all, bail is a discretionary power of the court which ought to be exercised judiciously and judicially.
In Maryam Sanda’s case, she is pregnant and unhealthy. Whether pregnancy and ill-health are enough grounds to grant her bail or not, it is the court that will decide that. In the instant case it decided they are.
The question here is; is it wrong for an innocent person to organize a birthday party for her child? If others can do it, why can’t she?
Maryam Sanda can do whatever pleases her to do provided that she does not violate the terms and conditions of her bail.
Thank you for reading.
Sani Ammani Esq. is a Kano based legal practitioner.