Whether The Police Can Arrest A Person If Their Relatives Committed A Crime?
By Simeon Akala
In Nigeria there have been a consistent reportage over the news concerning the incessant unprofessional manner in which the police unlawfully arrest innocent citizens for crimes supposedly committed by their relatives, the rationale for this gross violation of their fundamental human rights, is the escape of the offender.
Against this backdrop, it is worthy to note that Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, provides that:
“A person shall not be arrested in place of a suspect”
This was emphasized in the case of
SUNDAY ODOGWU V. STATE (2013) LPELR-220391 (CA), where the Court of Appeal held that:
“It is beyond doubt that an accused person cannot be held responsible for an act he did not commit…”
Albeit, the police has the statutory power to carry out an arrest but this must be done decently in lieu of violating the fundamentall rights of citizens.
In the case of AKPAN V. STATE (2008) 14 NWLR (pt 1106) 72, the Court further enthused:
“There is no law that where the offender is unable to be arrested, his relative should be arrested”
Furthermore, in ACB V. OKONKWO (1997 ) 1 NWLR (pt 480) 194, the Court, per Niki Tobi, JCA (as he then was) said metaphorically:
“I know of no law which authorizes the police to arrest a mother for an offence committed by the son. Criminal responsibility is personal and cannot be transferred…A police officer who arrests “A” for the offence of “B” should realize that he has acted against the law. Such a police officer should, in addition to liability in civil action, be punished by the police authority”
It is therefore, an affront on innocent citizens rights as provided in section 35 (1) of the CFRN as follows:
“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law…”
In the case of DOKUBO ASARI V. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2007)12 NWLR (PT.1048) 320 held that:
“The powers of arrest of suspected offenders is vested in the police and no one can take that away from them. This general powers invested in the police to arrest and detain suspected criminals is statutory. Section 4 of the Police Act Cap 339, LFN, 1990 provides thus:- “The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged…”Section 29 of the Police Act specifically empower the Police to arrest and detain suspected persons whom the police reasonably suspect to have stolen item in his possession. Decisions such as Alameyesisegha Vs. Igoloiwari (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt. ) 524; Shola Abu Vs. COP CHR 18, all go to confirm the powers of arrest and detention vested in the Police.?However in the exercise of those powers of arrest and detention, the Police need to be cautious in their approach given the provision of Section 35 (1) (c) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The Section provides that: “35 (1) Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law- (a) … (b) … (c) for the purpose of bringing him before a Court in execution of the order of a Court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or a such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence; (d) ……… (e) ……… (f) ……… The personal liberty of the citizen is guaranteed under Section 35 (1) the Constitution and same is held as sacrosanct like every other right enshrined in Chapter iv of the Constitution. These rights are sacred and inalienable and that is why they are fundamental, the violation of which should be viewed as sacrilegious save in the manner the Constitution has recognized. In other words, the right to personal liberty and indeed all other rights enshrined under part IV of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) is not absolute. (It admits of some exceptions.) Circumstances under which a person can be lawfully arrested and detained”
In conclusion, the Court will be swift to do justice when it is obvious that the Police violate the rights of innocent citizens, this is given credence to in FALADE V. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF LAGOS (1980) 2 NCLR 771, where the Court stated that:
“The court is always ready and will be quick to give reliefs against any improper use of power of the police”
500Lev, Law Student at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State.
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