There is a pledge to the entire Nigerian Society that our police, our prosecuting officials and our courts will do that which is right and just in obedience to the rules of law which have been evolved out of years of experience. All people are equal before the law. Every person has a right to be fairly tried.
The Nigerian police are characterised by serious violations of due process of law; this has tarnished the image of the police force and they have lost respect with the people. No one trusts the police in the protection of the rights of the people, because the police themselves often do not obey the law. This bad attitude of the police is encouraged by the fact that most citizens of Nigeria do not know their rights. Those that do, decide not to do anything and have resigned to thinking that nothing can be done. You can only defend your rights, if you know you have them and if you do not fight for your rights, things will never get better. It is high time we stopped allowing the police to infringe basic human rights. We need to take action! That’s why you are advised to always consult a lawyer.
These are some of the ways in which the Nigerian police force unlawfully detain suspects:
- Failure to inform a person of the grounds of his/her arrest: Any arrest made without informing the person involved about what they are being arrested for is an unlawful arrest. The only exceptions are when a person is caught in the act or if they escape from police custody.
- Obtaining confession by the use of force: According to the law, a person should neither be assaulted nor tortured in police custody. These acts are criminal and no one is above the law, not even the police. Confessions are only admissible in court if the police came about it lawfully i.e. voluntary. This means that a confessional statement obtained by the use of threat or use of actual violence to the body of the accused will be inadmissible in court.
- Arresting a person for the crime of another: it is against the law and unconstitutional for police to arrest a person for the crime of another. The Nigerian police often do this to compel the real suspect of the crime to give in. i.e. arresting the wife for the crime of the husband. Criminal responsibility is not transferable.
- Detaining a suspect for more than 48 hours: According to the Nigerian law, the police has no power to detain a suspect for more than 48 hours without charging them for the offence for which they are being accused of. The onus falls on the court and not the police to determine whether or not a suspect should be held in police custody for more than 48 hours. By virtue of the provisions of section 35(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), section 483 of the criminal procedure Act and section 42 of the criminal procedure Code, the police ought not to detain any person for more than 24 hours without a warrant from a magistrate.
- Excessive use of force during arrest: Although the law permits the police to use force in certain circumstances when arresting a suspect, the force used should not be more than is necessary to arrest the suspect. If a suspect does not resist arrest or tries to escape arrest, it is unconstitutional for the police to apply force while arresting such a suspect.
- Preventing a suspect from consulting his or her lawyer: According to the law, a person arrested has the right to remain silent until after consulting with their lawyer. The Police are aware that the presence of a lawyer can prevent a suspect from implicating themselves when asked questions by the police, so they often prevent suspects from calling their lawyers until after they have been interrogated. This is against the law. The police should always inform suspects of their rights to contact their lawyer.
- Charging suspects for bail: The definition of bail is the temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes on condition that a sum of money is lodged to guarantee their appearance in court. Money for bail is security to ensure that the person being released will appear before the police at any given time. Bail is free because this money paid to the police as bail should be returned to the accused once they are released after the conclusion of the investigation.
Indeed the courts have played very active roles in matters of unlawful detention, going through Nigerian case law, there is a basis for hope for all those who have been or who are still victims of unlawful detention. It has been observed that the incessant jailbreaks experienced in Nigerian prisons are caused by unlawful detention of inmates. However, the senate has begun the process to put to an end to unlawful detention of persons.
This began through the sponsored bill by Senator Babajide Omoworare (Osun East). According to the Senator, human rights and dignity are part and parcel of any democracy and democracy would lose its value when the people are denied their basic human rights. Part of the lawmakers’ proposal to amend the criminal justice Act, is to make it mandatory for the controller of Prisons to send a monthly roster of Prison inmates to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chief Justice of each state. According to them, when the chief law officer receives the roster, he will then release inmates who have been unlawfully detained without trail beyond the required two or three months in line with the constitution from the date of arrest.
Indeed, if this bill is passed, it will deal with the issue of prison congestion and Nigerians will no longer have to suffer as a result of unlawful detention. For the time being, to prevent your basic human rights being infringed and to avoid being mistreated by the very people that are supposed to protect your rights, make sure you always have a lawyer to stand in for you in these situations. Getting yourself a lawyer has never been easier, if you do not know what I mean by that, visit www.paradelaw.com and see for yourself.
Making Nigeria better, one day at a time.