By Salihu Woru Mohammed
My dear reader, the rule of law is not a respecter of person or group of persons. Every soul and institutions is equal before the law. Hence, no one is above the law. In any criminal trial, the onus of proving the guilt against an accused person arraigned before a court of law beyond reasonable doubt rest squarely on the prosecution unless, in some special cases when the prosecution closes its case having called witnesses to testify against an accused person. The trial judge will thereafter, having painstakingly gone through the evidence of prosecution witnesses, decide if a prime-facie case has been made against the accused person. In other word, the court shall decide if the accused has a case to answer or not.
At this stage, the judge can amend or retain the charges against the accused person as presented by the prosecution. However, where the defence made a no case submission, the court can decide to discharge the accused or call him (accuse) to defend himself. Let me say that an accused person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by the prosecution. Where an accused person is prepared to enter into his defence, he will be allowed to enter into the witness box and state his own side of the story. He may be asked to swear with the Glorious Quran or Bible or as his religion dictates by the court before giving evidence.
The accused person is required to be given fair hearing by the court. He has the right to obtain the services of defence counsel of his choice, who is expected to lead him in evidence. The accused has the constitutional right of calling witness or witnesses to defend him and tender exhibits in support of his evidence or claimed innocence. It should be noted that it is not compellable for an accused person to swear or affirm before his testimony in court, or compel to give evidence as his defence has to undergo three stages, the examination in chief, cross examination and re-examination as applicable to the prosecution witnesses. Any accused person giving evidence in court must listen attentively to his counsel (defence counsel), and to remember that it is a serious offence to lie or attempt to mislead the court. He should also endeavour to watch the judge particularly writing in long hand, and not engage in any act capable or portraying him as an unreliable person or does things capable of influencing the cause of justice, i.e. offering gratification to the judge or court staff. The witness box is not a hell; hence you are required by law to enter confidently without entertaining any fear of molestation, and with determination to state the truth and nothing but the truth. Frantic efforts must be made by you to produce your defence witnesses and exhibits. Nothing must be done to cause delay of justice by you or by your witnesses or counsel, as justice delayed may be justice denied.