To every government agency there are laws binding on their activities and duties in the nation. The Nigerian police force, a security agency saddled with law enforcement and protection of citizens also have laws binding on their activities in the nation.
There have been several reports of the abuse and violation of citizens rights by Nigerian police officers. Most of these officers go unpunished because the citizens involved do not have a good understanding of their rights and the knowledge that certain activities carried out by police officers are unlawful.
As a citizen of this country it is important you know some of your fundamental human rights and the lawful duties of the Nigerian police force. This is in order for you to know what is expected of you when you come in contact with the Nigerian police force, the conducts of the force permitted under the law, your rights and how to know when it is being violated and lawful ways of seeking redress.
Discussed in this article are 5 rights you should know when dealing with the Nigerian police.
1. Nigerian police officers have no right to search your phone or gadgets without a search warrant
It is often the custom of some police officers to search through the phones and gadgets of citizens in a bid to confirm their assumptions or suspicions either as a result of the citizen’s appearance, ride, haircut, dress sense, and so on. The reason for this search, especially on young guys, is to find out if they are into illegal business such as Yahoo or just to find a means of extorting them.
While the police have a right to search phones and other gadgets, however this search can only be performed if a search warrant has been issued.
Thus, if the police officer does not have a warrant to search your phone or other gadgets then any search carried out is an illegal one.
2. They are not permitted to detain you for more than 48hours
In section 35 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, any person who is arrested by the law enforcement agency for commission of crime must be brought before court within “24-48 hours”.
This means that a Police officer can detain you for a maximum of 24 hours. After that, they must charge you to court but if it is not possible to bring you to court within 24 hours because no court is close by or the following day is a weekend, they must bring you to court within a maximum of 48 hours.
After this 24 or 48 hour limit, only a court can order that you be detained further. The Police cannot detain you further on their own.
Therefore, it is illegal and unlawful, unconstitutional for you to be detained in police custody for more than 48hours
3. Bail is free
It is surprising how the popular saying by the police force that “bail is free” is an ironical statement in the country most times. Bail is indeed meant to be free, but the question is how many police officers abide by this statement.
Getting a bail for free is provided for in the section 62(2) of the police act and section 35(4) of the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria as it is not stated that a suspect should pay any amount before bail is granted.
Thus, been asked to pay before bail is granted is illegal.
4. Arrest warrant must be presented before an arrest is made although there are some exceptions to this
It is important for you to know that the Police need a warrant of arrest in order for them to make an arrest in accordance with the law of the land although there are some exceptional cases.
Read up exceptional situations where police officers are permitted to make an arrest without an arrest warrant.
If you are not arrested at the scene of a crime, or any of the exceptional situations, then it is lawful for you to ask to be shown the arrest warrant signed by a magistrate or a senior police officer before an arrest is made.
5. Writing or giving statements in police custody is not a matter of compulsion but choice
It should be noted that writing or giving of statements in police custody should be a matter of free will and not compulsion.
Instances where suspects are being forced to write or give a statement while in police custody especially under duress or coercion is unlawful.
According to the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 and the Administration Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, suspects actually have the right to decide whether they want to write statements or not.
Section 60 of the Nigeria Police Act and section 17 of the ACJA state that writing statements by a suspect should be voluntary. The Police Act states that “where a suspect is arrested on allegation of having committed an offence, his statement shall be taken, “If he so wishes to make a statement”.
It is also provided for in the law that if you wish to give or write a statement it must be done before a legal practitioner, a member of the civil society organisation or any other person of your choosing.
In addition to all that has been discussed in this article with regards to your rights when dealing with the Nigerian police, you are advised to be as careful and cautious as possible when dealing with the Nigerian police force.
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