Aug 4, 2017

3 things you can do when the police breach your legal rights | Adedunmade Onibokun

That “Police is your friend” or “bail is free’, a Nigerian will tell you is one of the biggest lies ever told in our nation. If you doubt me, stop and ask any random person on the road or conduct a poll. Daily, the news is filled with stories of police officers boldly collecting bribes, demanding that bail be paid and even unlawfully extorting citizens. This coming from a police that is employed to protect the citizenry and enforce our laws is a big blow to democracy and life in Nigeria.

Sadly, the police hierarchy pays only lip service to this problem that has bedeviled the police force for years. The police condones such behavior from its officers else how can an officer have the courage to stand in a police station and demand for bail, it is because he or she knows that fellow colleagues in the station will not castigate the act neither will the superiors punish it. Rather, other police officers will cover up their law breaking colleague and even bear false witness against the victim. But for how long will Nigerians tolerate these illegal and unscrupulous acts from the Nigerian police. When will Nigerians be able to beat their chest and credibly expect justice from the police. Our police officers have turned to the job to a cartel of sorts and have succeeded in ridiculing the institution both locally and internationally.

As active and responsible citizens, it is important we raise our voice against the despicable acts. Due to fear, many Nigerians have kept quiet and allowed these unruly behavior to go unchecked. Below are steps a Nigerian or anyone visiting the country can take when faced with a policeman who seeks to breach your legal rights or take advantage of you.

1.     Make an official complaint

The police in a bid to clean up its ranks has established a procedure for reporting officers for unethical acts or behaviours. The police has created the police complaints unit dedicated to handling complaints against police officers. Via, you can register a complaint against any police officer. The Complaints unit can also be reached via phone on 08057000001 or 08057000002. You may also send SMS via 08057000003 or via twitter and email on @policeNG_PCRRU and respectively.

According to the Police Complaints website on 4/8/2017, in the 1st quarter of 2017, there have been over 498 total complaints received, out of which over 355 have been closed or treated. The poor numbers of reports shows that not many Nigerians are using the complaints unit to make complaints against the police. It is recommended that more people do same.

2.     Institute Legal Proceedings against the police

The court is described as the last hope for the common man to get justice. Hence it is important for persons to approach the courts if their fundamental human rights have been breached by members of the police force. The Nigerian Constitution even provides in Section 35(6) that “ any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology”. In instituting legal action against the police it is important that the victim approaches a good lawyer who will present the matter before the courts.

3.     Use social media
The power of social media can never be overemphasized. If you have the opportunity to record the police officer in the act of extortion  or committing an offence, post same on social media and crucify such officer on the altar of public opinion.

Bad people prevail when good people do nothing.

Adedunmade Onibokun Esq

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