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Duty of Government to Pay Compensation for Damages Caused By Riot.

Duty of Government to Pay Compensation for Damages Caused By Riot

Duty of Government to Pay Compensation for Damages Caused By Riot. Daily Law Tips (Tip 689) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)


Incessant police brutality across Nigeria, led to peaceful protest across Nigeria. Among other things, the peaceful protesters sought for the disbandment of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police. At some point, hoodlums attacked the protesters and led riots in major cities in Nigeria. This has led to loss of lives and property across Nigeria. This work examines the statutory duty of government to pay compensation to people for damages caused by riots.  

Duty of Government: 

Every person in Nigeria has submitted and donated his powers and rights to the government of Nigeria, through the Constitution of Nigeria. In turn, the government of Nigeria, now protects and provides for every person in Nigeria. 

This ensures common peace and rule of law. The constitution of Nigeria has given fundamental human rights to persons in Nigeria. In line with the Constitution of Nigeria, the government of Nigeria, acts through its arms and agencies. 

The Government of Nigeria through the Nigeria Police Force, protects and promotes all the fundamental human rights of all persons in Nigeria. This is the single duty of the Nigeria Police Force, which ever lens one looks at this. 

Difference Between Riot and Protest: 

What is Riot? Is Riot different from a Protest? Under the Criminal Code (a criminal offences law that operates in the Southern part of Nigeria) “Riot” is loud, confusing and disorderly gathering of three (3) or more persons that are disturbing the peace and safety of others. 

Under the Penal Code (a criminal offences law that operates in the Northern Nigeria), “Riot” is where force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly (a group of 5 or more persons with a common desire to intimidate government, public officer, law and to commit crime). 

Protest is simply the expression of disapproval and objection. It can come in different forms; verbal, written, physical, gesture, social media and others. Both under the constitution of Nigeria and under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, persons in any part of Nigeria have the fundamental human rights to privately or publicly protest over any issue, any time and any day. 

There is no need for clearance, approval or permit for any person to protest in any part of Nigeria. Where a protest becomes violent, it is a riot and fundamental human rights may be suspended in line with the constitutional processes for restriction and suspension of the constitution. 

Duty of Government During Riot: 

The big man that has the powers to maintain law and order in any part of Nigeria, is the government of Nigeria. It is managing all the powers of all other persons in Nigeria; those powers having been submitted to it through the constitution of Nigeria. So, the government of Nigeria has the duty for using its agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force to quench and control any riot in any part of Nigeria. 

It is the duty of government, through its agencies, including the State Security Services (popularly known as Department of State Services [DSS]) to gather intelligence and prevent crimes, including riots. Government has a duty to investigate, arrest and prosecute rioters.

The welfare of Nigerians and persons in Nigeria rests on the shoulders of the government of Nigeria. It is a duty and not favour or grace. Government must protect, promote and provide for its citizens. The vision and mission of Nigeria, crafted in the constitution of Nigeria as the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy” covers the economic, social and environmental objectives of Nigeria, among other things. It also mandates the government of Nigeria (including the all organs of government, authorities and persons in the executive, legislative and judicial arms) to conform, observe and apply the provisions of the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy” of Nigeria. 

Compensation for Damages Caused By Riot: 

Since the responsibility of keeping Nigeria safe is on the government, then the presence of insecurity or riot is the fault of the government. Hence, government takes responsibility for any losses and damages resulting from riots. This is logical. 

Aside logic, both federal government and some state governments have made federal and state laws respectively, that allows governments to take responsibilities for damages caused by riot and to pay compensation for such damages. At the federal level, there is a federal law (the Riot [Damages] Act of 1963), which mandates federal government to compensate people, where their property is destroyed, damaged or stolen by reason of any riot in then Federal Capital Territory (present day, Lagos State). 

Also, the Federal Government made a similar law for the present-day Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), the law is known as the Riot Damage Act of 1958. By that law, any person in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja that suffers any loss, as a result of damage caused by riot, is entitled to compensation. Any area where there is riot after an assessment will have a Riot Damage Fund created and funded by government, directly from the Consolidate Revenue Fund. Compensations are to be made from the Riot Damage Fund. 

Similar Riot Damage Laws exist in some states across Nigeria to protect and compensate persons in Nigeria from the damages caused by riots. This creates opportunities that may offer recovery options to insurances companies that insured property that were damaged by riot.

Conclusion and Recommendation:  

Government has a duty to protect and provide a safe environment for every person in Nigeria. Government has the responsibility and powers to prevent riots and prosecute rioters. Also, where government fails to prevent riot, and riot leads to damage of property, it is the responsibility of government to pay compensation to affected persons. 

The owners of property damaged by riot and rioters have a duty to request for compensation, especially where government fails to do the needful. We have good laws in Nigeria and I pray someday, Nigerians will be aware of their rights and be bold to enforce them, under a dependable system. 


  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20, 34, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Sections 1, 2, 3, 7, 9 and 10 of the Riot (Damages) Act, 1963.
  3. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 18, 19 and 20 of the Riot Damage Act, 1958.
  4. Onyekachi Umah, “Who Pays For Properties Damaged or Lost In A Riot In Nigeria” (, 6 August 2018) < > accessed 3 November 2020. 
  5. Onyekachi Umah, “Who Can Be Lawfully Killed In Nigeria?” (, 26 October 2020) < > accessed 3 November 2020.
  6. Danielle Paquette, “Nigerian protesters say security forces fired on them, fueling global outrage” (Washington Post, 21 October 2020)<> accessed 3 November 2020
  7. Onyekachi Umah, “Can A Person With A Nigerian Flag Be Shot Or Killed?” (,23 October 2020) < > accessed 3 November 2020
  8. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: When & How Can Government Prohibit Protest In Nigeria?” (, 19 October 2020) < > accessed 3 November 2020.
  9. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: The Right To Protest Is A Human Right.” (, 15 October 2020) < > accessed 3 November 2020. 
  10. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: Do You Need A Police Permit To Protest?” (, 16 October 2020) <> accessed 3 November 2020.
  11. Onyekachi Umah, “Flying Nigerian Flag and Its Implication” (, 20 October 2020) < > accessed 3 November 2020. 
  12. October 2020. 1 Onyekachi Umah, “Does The President/Governors Have Powers To Lockdown Any Part Of Nigeria Or Restrict Human Rights?” (Daily Law Tips [Tip 537]) < > accessed 18 October 2020.
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “Human Rights That Can Never Be Restricted Even In War, Pandemic or State of Emergency (Daily Law Tips [Tip 539]) <> accessed 18 October 2020










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