Thursday, September 29, 2022



You are entitled to a lawyer free of charge

You are entitled to a lawyer free of charge
September 18
09:44 2022


You must have heard the rhythmic cliche which is always recited by law enforcement agents whenever they are making an arrest or detaining a suspected criminal: “You have the right to remain silent because anything you say will be used against you in the court of law and you have a right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one, the government will provide one for you”.

This phrase got its root in the United States as it was provided in the 5th and 6th amendments of the constitution of the United States and it was first applied judicially in 1963 in the landmark case of Clarence E Gideon V. Louie L. WainWright (popularly cited as Gideon v.Wainwright) 372 U.S. 335 (1963).

In this case, Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested and charged in court on the count of robbing a bar in Florida, USA. He was unable to afford a lawyer to represent him in court during the trial. He wrote to the state requesting to be provided with a lawyer at no cost to represent him in court since he cannot afford one but his request was turned down.


The case went up to the United States Supreme Court and the supreme court ruled that every individual is entitled to a lawyer, it’s part of the fundamental human rights a person enjoys for being a citizen of the state as it has been provided for in the 5th and 6th amendments of the United States constitution.

This principle of a citizen being entitled to a legal representation at no cost if that citizen cannot afford one especially when the person is facing trial for criminal charges has been adopted in Nigeria.

Under Section 36(6(c) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is provided that a person who is facing criminal trial is entitled to either represent himself or be represented by a legal practitioner.


Subsequently, if an accused lacks the legal expertise to represent himself in a criminal trial and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the state is obligated to provide him with a lawyer at no cost to him.

Alieke, a Nigerian legal practitioner, can be reached via [email protected]

Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.


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