The Nigerian Police is currently ranked as the worst in the world and has a chequered record of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings.
It is common for the police to arrest a member of the public for probable or non-probable cause, reasonable or non-reasonable suspicion, with or without investigation. However, as a citizen, it is your responsibility to know your rights and guard them jealously against any infringements.
The following is a guide on how to manage physical engagement with the police and other law enforcement agents.
If Accosted by a Security Agent –
- Do not attempt to run as that may raise suspicion against you.
- Identify yourself.
- Ask to know the reason for the arrest or detention.
- If you are not arrested at the scene of the crime, ask to be shown the arrest warrant signed by the magistrate or a senior police officer. Any arrest without a duly endorsed warrant is illegal.
- Do not engage the security agent in a heated argument.
- Understand you have the right to remain silent and to ask to see a lawyer.
- Try and memorize the officer’s name, badge number & the patrol vehicle number.
- If they are in mufti, ask the arresting persons to identify themselves.
- If you are assaulted and wounded by the security agent, take photographs of the wounds and request the first aid.
- Try and identify witnesses at the scene of arrest or crime
- Reach out to family, friends and your lawyer at the place of detention.
- Anything you tell the police or security agent can be used against you and could land you in prison.
- Remain silent and do not volunteer any information, ask to make or sign a statement in the presence of your lawyer.
- Understand that you are presumed innocent of a crime until the contrary is proven at the court of law.
- If the police or security agent wants to conduct a search at your home/office, ask to see the search warrant signed by a magistrate or a senior police officer. Any search conducted without a warrant is illegal.
Involve A Lawyer
- You should only make or sign a statement in the presence of your lawyer.
- Your lawyer may covertly record your interview session with the police to obtain any firsthand evidence of professional malpractice against the police officer.
- Where the offense alleged is not a capital offense (i.e. not punishable with life imprisonment or death), and you have already been detained for more than 48 hours, your lawyer should ask for your unconditional release or demand that you be granted bail.
- Where the police or security agency refuses to grant bail, but rather elect to charge you to court, your lawyer can enter an appearance in court and make a written or oral application for you to be granted bail.
- Where the police or security agency refuses to grant bail, refuses to charge you to court and sustains your detention in their custody indefinitely, your lawyer should immediately commence an action for the enforcement of your Fundamental (Human) Rights in court and seek order for your immediate release from detention and restraining order from further arrest; and pray the court for compensatory monetary damages for the assault, battery, unlawful detention, human rights abuse meted against you by the security agency; and also ask for apology.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.