By Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.
A. Dealing with the Police :
When dealing with the Police, you have to be extra careful, else that issue you take for granted could land you in jail !
If you are arrested for any reason, before you take any action insist to call a Lawyer, a relative or a friend !You are entitled to it by the new Administration of Criminal Justice Law .
Insist to write your Statement your self !If you can not write, ensure you have a Lawyer with you !The easiest way to be convicted ,is to make a confessional statement. The Police can not force you to make a Statement and they can not harm you, except you a robber, kidnapper or you are found with guns .
Do not be forced for any reason to write what is not your voluntary statement .If the Police write your statement by themselves and they force you to sign ,do not sign under any circumstances If they threaten to throw you into the cell ,don’t be wary or be afraid ,it is better to go to the cell for one day ,than to spend years in prison ,based on a confessional statement that is not your will !
Do not sign as a Surety for some one on administrative bail ,except you can vouch for his character,else you are going to go through a harrowing experience ,if the person jumped bail .
When you approach a police check point ,be polite to the Police officers ,communicate in good English. If the Police Man is adamant ,look at his name tag and address him by his name ,he will be humbled .If he is in mufti ,politely ask him which unit ,he is from ,that will also humble him .
If a Police Man was to search your phone or laptop ask him to bring a search warrant .The Police Act ,Cap 19 ,LFN,2004,provides that the Police need a warrant signed by either a superior police officer (an Officer of the rank of ASP and above or a Magistrate) ,before they search your Chattel (Property). Your Phone and your Laptop are very private chattel ,where confidential information are stored and cannot be assessed by a Security Officer ,except with a Warrant.You also entitled to search a police officer ,before he searches you or your house or car !This is to ensure that you are not implicated and for the transparency of the process !
If a Police Officer misbehaves reach the Nigeria Police Complaint Response Unit in Abuja on 08057000001,08057000002,(for calls ) and 08057000003 for SMS and whatssap.Ensure you have salients details like the date ,time ,place the incidence took place or the registration or serial number of the patrol vehicle .With those details ,they will be fished out !
Police Officers do not go on a beat except they are booked out by the Station Officer !Any other other duty not booked is illegal duty !Google the Police Control Room number of your state and save it on your phone ,it could save your life or your property!
B. Application of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law . The Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of States of the Federation and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (The Federal Law ) contains some novel provisions aimed at improving the Criminal Justice System in Nigeria.
What the problem is, is that by the way things are, its applicability is likely to be jeopardized by the lack of critical facilities and funding of the Intervening Institutions.
The Law provides among others, that as soon as a suspect is arrested by the Police, the Arresting Officer shall call a relative or friend of the suspect immediately,on the phone, what if the suspect had no phone or credit on his phone,an apposite poser is, who will pay for this very important call?
The Law Stipulates that recording of Confessional Statements shall be recorded in an audio visual device, in the presence of the suspect’s lawyer or his representative! In the known cliche of the Police, that there is no file to commence people’s cases, who will finance the recording of the process enunciated above in an audio visual device! This seems like a cul de sac, if the suspect is impernicious! The Law makes it compulsory for a Lawyer or person connected with the suspect the be present ,if a Confessional Statement is to be taken. So, the Police can not ask a Lawyer or Relative to leave,when a Statement is about to be taken. A Lawyer or relative should reach out to a Superior Police Officer, preferably the Head of the Police Station or Section to ensure the Law is followed. You can Google the Law and Provisions will pop up .
The Law also provides that Magistrates who have jurisdictional control over Divisional Police Headquarters, are to visit the Police Stations every fortnight to ascertain whether or not persons are being detained indiscriminately and if yes to release them,forthwith! In Edo State, where there are no official cars for Magistrates ,who takes care of their transport and who pays for their fuel,to be used to visit the Police Stations! Government does not expect, Magistrates and Police Men to use their private properties to do public jobs! For a start, Edo State Government, should as a matter of urgent priority, give each Magistrate in the State Official Cars and provide materials for the Police to be able to apply the Law to the latter! Other heart warming provisions in the Law, is that you can approach, a Magistrate Court, by way of Motion, if a suspect is detained for more than 24 or 48 hours as the case may be and Court may Order that the Police produce the suspect in Court,immediately !The Law has provided for restitution for a crime victim, the Court can now Order for payment for money stolen, property taken or a wrong done! The Law also provide that you can sue a Police Officer or Police Officers personally if they carry out schewed investigations that leads to a malicious prosecution and you get monetary damages for such indiscretions.
The Law has stopped the obnoxious holden charge, if the Magistrate Courts have no jurisdiction to determine a Matter, The Police have to file the Charge in the Court that has jurisdiction to do so and Judge can only make a remand order for 14 days at first instance! This is now being abused as the Motion is Ex Parte .This is against the Provisions of Section 36 (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended, )which provides for Fair Hearing and that a person should be allowed to make representations to Court if his liberty, rights or interest will be affected in any way in any Court ,Tribunal or Forum where a decision will be made concerning him.
The Law has also made it Compulsory for Police Persecutors to be Lawyers. So, under the Law any Prosecution now carried out by a Prosecutor that is not a Lawyer is a nullity!The Law is now a Work in progress, we do hope, it will bring to a better administration of our complex Criminal Justice System!