The Nigerian Courts and Condemnation of Nigerian Security Agents.

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The Nigerian courts have consistently condemned in strong terms conducts of security agents. The following are the few holdings of the courts for public consumption.

ON NEED TO PREVENT POLICE FROM TURNING PURELY CIVIL MATTERS INTO CRIMES

THEOPHILUS KURE V, COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (2020) 9 NWLR (PT. 1729) 296 at 307, ABBA’ AJI, JSC at Page 326
“As I went through the facts of this case, I was wondering how a purely civil matter could easily metamorphose and transubstantiate into a pure criminal case. The end result now is that the appellant has suffered irreparable damage, disgrace, shame, odiousness and untold hardship in the hand of the Police that is constitutionally and legally saddled with prosecution of criminal offences.
The police have muzzled the rights and freedom of Nigerian even where cases are clearly outside their jurisdiction, power or corridor. If this is not curbed, everybody including the judicial officers will suffer always from floodgates of civil matters being hijacked by the police and transmitted into crimes. If this is not tackled, everybody would have suffered in the mercies hand of the police which has become a law unto itself in this country

POLICE CANNOT COLLECT FOR PARTIES

The position of the law, it is submitted, is that the institution of the police is not for the recovery of debts. We were referred to McLaren v. Jennings (2003) FWLR (Pt. 154) 537-358 and Onagoruwa v. State (1998) 1 ACLR 435 at 483, Nkpa v. Nkume (2001) 6 NWLR (Pt. 710) 543 at 549-550, Afribank (Nig.) Plc v. Onyima (2004) 2 NWLR (Pt. 858) 654 at 679 S.P.D.C. (Nig) Ltd v. Olarewaju (2002) 76 NWLR (Pt. 792) 38 at 46 – 47 and Fawehinmi v. I.G.P. (2002) FWLR (Pt. 108) 1355 at 1378 and 1385. Abdullahi v. Buhari (2004) 17 NWLR (Pt. 902) 278 at 303 para. A; Afribank (Nig) Plc v. Onyima (2004) 2 NWLR (Pt. 858) 654 at 679-680, paras. H-A

ON NEED FOR SECURITY AGENCIES TO OPERATE WITHIN BOUNDS OF THEIR STATUTORY DUTIES

SARAKI V. FRN (2018) 16 NWLR (PT 1646) 405 at 462 paras B-C, OKoro JSC held thus, –

“I need to emphasize that security agencies in this country must operate within the bounds of their calling. A situation where the EFCC and DSS took over the functions of the Code of Conduct Bureau leaves much to be desired. Although security agencies can collaborate in the performance of their functions, it makes nonsense of the law where the main agency entitle to act is sidelined only to be invited to testify”

ON NEED FOR POLICE TO RESIST BEING USED TO VIOLATE CITIZEN’S RIGHTS. –

Nwadiogbu v. A.I.R.B.D.A. (2010) 19 NWLR (Pt. 1226) 364 Rhodes- Vivour, J.S.C;

“This suit was instituted by the applicants/appellants because the respondents (Agents of the Federal Government) used their connections with the Police to arrest and lock up to the appellants for over two weeks. This brings into focus the strongman prevailing over weak institutions. The role played the Police using their powers of arrest and detention was totally unnecessary. It underscores the urgent need for building and returning strong institutions it is a must especially where the strong, influential man is still very much around, such a man should no longer be relevant.”

ON NEED FOR THE IN¬SPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE TO CHECK POLICE OFFICERS FROM DRINKING ALCOHOL BEFORE AND DURING DUTY.

  • Oludamilola v. State (2010) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1197) 565, Ogbuagu, J.S.C. “TOBI, J.S.C. I have read in draft the judgment of my learned brother, Ogbe, JSC and I agree entirely with him that the appeal lacks merit and should be dismissed. This a bizarre case of murder of an innocent citizens by a police officer, visiting the police station in not an offence. Visiting the police state in sympathy with an arrested person is not also an offence. And so the appellant had no right to shoot Solomon to death. There is evidence that the appellant was drunk at the time he shot the deceased. This brings to the fore the need to check police officers immediately before and during duty of drinking alcohol. I am sure there was the possibility of dropping him from the beat. In recent time, there are cases of drunken police officers shooting innocent citizens to death. This is very serious and the Inspector General of police should so something about it. Like my learned brother the police are employed to protect the persons not to kill them. This is one barbaric murder that the family of the Solomon Omo will not forget for a life time. The murder is one big shame to the Police. I totally condemn it”

ON NEED TO FLUSH TRIGGER-HAPPY POLICEMEN OUT OF THE POLICE FORCE.

  • State v. Rabiu (2013) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1357) 585, NGWUTA, J.S.C. at pages 623-624, paras. F-A:

“I will not end this judgment without a word to the police, the proverbial friend of the ordinary man. Police brutality is on the rise notwithstanding the warning “to start the process of salvaging their steadily warning image in the country”, per Chukwuma-Eneh in Yaki v. State (2008) 7 SC 177. Maybe it is the principle of replication setting in. The duty of the police is to curb crime to safeguard lives and property. It appears they now compete with criminals in the commission of the very crimes they should check, otherwise how could Divisional police Officer abandon his duties to moonlight as a one man torture squad, making target practice of a man the law presumes innocent as an assessed person. See s. 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Trigger happy policemen with itching fingers, irrespective of rank, should be flushed out of the Police Force to maintain sanity in the Force and the protection of citizens of this country and those within our borders.”
“Men in Police uniform takes bribes openly and with singing guns in their hands, they have turned themselves in the highways to legalized armed robbers”

ON DANGER POSED BY POLICE CHECK POINTS ON HIGHWAYS TO LIVES OF INNOCENT CITIZENS.

  • Oyakhire v. State (2006) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1001) 157 S.C. Per TABAI, J.S.C. at page 177, paras. C-D;

“This case represents the height of man’s inhumanity to man. The appellant and his co-accused police constables employed by the nation to protect the lives and properties of its citizenry embarked on this unlawful mission and in their brazen brutality terminated the lives of these five innocent and defenceless victims, with unimaginable damages to their loved ones and families back at their various homes. The case demonstrates the regrettable reality that the numerous police check points along out highways only give the citizenry a false sense of security”.

ON NEED TO CURB RECKLESS USE OF GUNS BY POLICEMEN.

  • Agbo v. State (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt.977) 545 S.C.

Per MUKHTAR, J.S.C.;

“Situations like this whereby policemen rashly bring out their guns (albeit to merely threaten or frighten citizen) is rapidly becoming rampant. They are meant to use the guns to safeguard the lives of the citizenry they are paid to protect, but the reverse is the case. A policeman will not hesitate to pull the trigger of his gun at the slightest provocation, and would indeed do that with relish and reckless abandon, not caring whether the consequence of his act will be fatal. The incident in the instant case is a locus classicus. A law enforcement agent who is supposed to bring sanity and order on the road brings out his gun and fires it just because a driver obstructs his right or passage (that is even if there was an obstruction, as the evidence in court is that there wasn’t.) in fact the mere fact that he deemed it necessary to bring out a gun form wherever he had kept it is enough act of recklessness, even if no shot was fired, and in this case there is ample evidence that it was. I believe such rash acts must be stopped to prevent innocent human lives from being wasted.”

TRANSPARENCY IN POLICE INVESTIGATION OF CRIMES.

  • Owhoruke v. C.O.P. (2015) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1483) 557 S.C.

Per RHODES-VIVOUR, J.S.C. at pages 576, paras. A-D:
“The Court of Appeal described the defence of appellant as confused. This is true. The reason is simple. The appellant did not have service of a legal practitioner when he wrote exhibits E. a day after the incident. It must be noted than most crimes are committed by people with little or no education, consequently they are easily led along by the Investigating Police Officer to write incriminating statements are most times beaten out of suspects, and the courts usually admit such statements as counsel and the accused are unable to prove that the statements was not made voluntarily. A fair trial presupposes that police investigation of crime for which the accused person stands trial was transparent. In that regard it is time for safeguards to be put in place to guarantee transparency. It is seriously recommended that confessional statement should only be taken from suspect if, and only if his counsel is present, or in the presence of a legal practitioner. Where this is not done such a confessional statement should be rejected by the court.”

ON NEED TO RID POLICE FORCE OF TRIGGER-HAPPY AND CRIMINALLY INCLINED OFFICERS.

  • Achuku v. State (2015) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1456) 425 C.A.

Per OGBUINYA, J.C.A. at pages 465-466, paras. F-A

“Before the final verdict, let me observe by way of obiter that this case, like others of its ilk, presents a paradox. The harmless deceased was a tax-payer whose income was used to paLy for the gun and the services of the appellant for the letter’s preservation of his priceless life and property against assailants and trespassers respectively. Regrettably, the helpless deceased, an innocent and a law-abiding citizens, became a prey to the trigger-happy appellant for failing to commit, postponing the commission of, a crime-graft or gratification. This is a barbaric act which has become endemic in the Nigeria police force. There is crying need, therefore, for the appropriate authority to rid it of officers of the appellant’s class in order to conserve its fast-waning public image and the precious lives of the Nigerian citizenry.”

ON NEED FOR POLICE TO DESIST FORM NEEDLESS EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLING OF CITIZENS

  • Ugwu v. State (2013) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1374) 257 Per ONNOGHEN, J.S.C. at page 280, paras. A-C;

“The killing of the deceased in the circumstances in which it was done is regrettable and unfortunate. It was a needless waste of human life.
Appellant is however lucky, in my opinion that the respondent has not appealed against the reduction of the sentence of death to a term of twenty (20) years imprisonment by the lower Court. The needles killing of citizens by Police officers whose primary responsibility is to protect the people and their property in unjustifiable circumstances as obtained in this case is very painful. Extra judicial execution/killing of suspects by the Police must stop”.

POLICE AND CASE OF SIMPLE CONTRACTS OR CIVIL TRANSACTIONS

DIAMOND BANK PLC. V. OPARA (2018) 7 NWLR (PT. 1617) 114, PARA. B-C, Bage, J.S.C gladly stated thus;
“As if that was not enough, the appellant again reported the matter to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission EFCC (3rd respondent). This amounted to an abuse of process. It is important for me to pause and say here that the power conferred on the 3rd respondent, i.e. the EFCC to receive complaints and prevent and/or fight the commission of Financial Crime in Nigeria pursuant to section 6(b) of the EFCC Act (supra) does not extent to the investigation and/or resolution of dispute arising or resulting from simple contracts or civil transactions in this case”.

EFCC IS NOT A DEBT RECOVERY AGENCY

In DIAMOND BANK PLC. V. OPARA (2018) 7 NWLR (PT. 1617) P.114, PARAS. D Bage, J.S.C held,
“The EFCC has an inherent duty to scrutinize all complaints that it receive carefully, no matter how carefully by the complaining party, and be bold enough to counsel such complainants to seek appropriate/lawful means to resolve their dispute. Alas! The EFCC is not a debt recovery agency and should refrain from being used as such”

A counsel can appear for himself robed in a matter in which he is a party. It is safe and proper for the legal practitioner/litigant who appears in person to remain at the Bar fully robed when taking motions and legal arguments, thus enjoying the full privilege reserve for legal practitioners at the Bar including access to facilities like table, law reports and books and the free and conducive atmosphere allowed every counsel, including of the opponent, to address the court.

By Agu V. Ezenwa & Anor. (2020) NWLR (Pt. 1732) 233 @ 259-260 CA

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