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Have you noticed that the Police are our default go –to – persons whenever we have anyone of the myriad of issues we deal with on a daily basis. One act which I find most absurd is when we make them our debt collectors, this means the police in a way serve as contract enforcers, which I believe is not right. A friend once recounted his experience with the police to me and explained how he had entered into a contract which did not work out so well, thus finding himself liable to his partner to the tune of a few millions.
The creditor had become inpatient and reported my friend to the police, who in turn arrested my friend at his place of business but released him on bail. Though my friend has long paid his debt, I remember wondering if the police also had a duty to act as debt collectors or contract enforcers for the general public.
A look at section 4 of the Police Act spells out the duty of the police. It states that:-
“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, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act”.
From the foregoing, I do not see the words debt collector stated in the Police Act, do you? So why do Nigerians call the police for such. I will rather recommend you call a debt recovery agent.
The courts also frown on the practice of using the Police as debt collectors. This is illustrated in the case of A.C (O.A.O) Nig Ltd V. Umanah (2013) 4 NWLR (Pt 1344) Page 323 where the Court of Appeal held that:
“The statutory duties of the police under the Police Act is to maintain peace, law and order in the society. Debt collection or loan recovery is not within the purview of the statutory duties and powers of the police”.
In conclusion, I will suggest that the police focus on its primary duties rather than allow distractions from matters such as debts or loan recovery. Moreover, Nigerians have to understand that a lawyer is someone you must have on speed dial all the time before you enter into contractual agreements.