#EndPoliceBrutality: How To Sue the Nigeria Police Force and Police Officers.

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#EndPoliceBrutality: How To Sue the Nigeria Police Force and Police Officers. Daily Law Tips (Tip 675 ) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction: 

Nigeria Police Force is a creation of the Constitution of Nigeria that can sue and be sued. Any police officer can be sued in Nigeria, from the Inspector General of Police to the most junior police officers (recruit constables). There is no immunity for any police officer in Nigeria, but even with the huge reported cases of police brutality there is little or no prosecution of police officers in courts across Nigeria. 

Silence, transfer of reckless  officers, disbandment of brutal units and forgiveness of police brutality will only cause more brutality. Ensuring that reckless police officers are penalised according to law will discourage police brutality. This work focuses on how to sue a police officer and the entire Nigerian Police Force for any violence, torture or violation of human right of any person in Nigeria.  

Who Is The Nigeria Police Force?:  

The Nigeria Police Force is a person (nonliving but legally constructed) created by the the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. It is created for internal security, protection of lives, property and other human rights. It is headed by the Inspector General of Police and to carry out the functions and duties that are provided in the Police Act of 2020 (formerly, the Police Act of 1943).  

Powers Of The Nigeria Police Force: 

The Police Act of 2020 seem to have gather together all the powers/functions of the Police Force in one place. So the powers are not new but ambled together in a new federal law; the Police Act 2020. It has listed the primary functions of the Nigeria Police Force, to include: 

(a) the prevention and detection of crime, protection of rights and freedom of persons in Nigeria as provided in the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and any other law. 

(b) maintain public safety, law and order; 

(c) protect the lives and property of all persons in Nigeria; 

(d) enforce all Laws and regulations without prejudice to the enabling Acts of other security agencies: 

(e) discharge such duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of it under law; 

(f) Collaborate with other agencies to take any necessary action and provide the required assistance or support to persons in distress, including victims of road accidents, fire disasters, earthquakes and flood

(g) facilitate the free passage and movement in highways, roads and streets open to the public; and

(h) adopt community partnership in the discharge of it’s responsibilities under this Bill or under any law; and

(i) to vet and approve the registration of private Detective schools and private Investigative outfits

Duties of the Nigeria Police Force:

By the new Police Act of 2020, there is a police duty that has been greatly emphasised and a section is specifically devoted to it, with the description; “Duty of Police Force to enforce certain constitutional provisions”. This duty is really not new, it has been there and reiterated countless times by the courts, although the Nigeria Police Force rarely complies with it. 

Now, the new Police Act of 2020, provides that the Police Force is responsible for promoting and protecting fundamental human rights of persons in police custody as protected in the constitution of Nigeria, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other international laws on human rights. It also requires the Police Force to work closely with government agencies and private organisations on increasing access to justice and promoting legal services and protection of rights of detainees and defendants. This seems like a step in the right direction, if there is a means to train the ordinary police man on the streets and constantly monitor conducts of police officers. 

Difference Between Police Torture and Lawful Punishment:

Many persons in Nigeria, believe that ordering/forcing people to perform frog jump is a lawful power of the Police Officers. Many also believe that the police officers have powers to assign punishments to suspects and to also demand (extort) fines (bribes) in place of arrest and prosecution. 

The laws of Nigeria prescribe lawful punishments for offenders and only a court of law can assign a lawful punishment to an offender after hearing the offender and his accuser. The lawful punishments include; death, fines, imprisonment, probation, canning, labour and community service. Torture is not a lawful punishment and lawful punishment does not include torture, in any part of Nigeria. 

Torture is illegal and can never be ordered by any court of law. It is a violation of fundamental human right. Torture is the intentional infliction/causing of mental or physical pain/suffering on a person in order to obtain information/confession, or to punish, intimidate and force him or a third party. 

Torture includes; beatings, food deprivation, rubbing of pepper/chemicals, assuming of stressful bodily positions, rape, exposure to cold/sunlight, use of drugs, blindfolding, threat, prolonged interrogation, unscheduled transfer of persons, secret detention, denial of sleep, shaming, stripping naked and parading in public places. 

Punishment For Police Torture: 

Earlier I wanted to list out the common torture being used by Police officers, but I found out I was merely reproducing the above list of torture. Hence, there is no form of torture that is uncommon to officers of Nigeria Police Force. Police torture is a crime, irrespective of the alleged offence of the victim of torture. There is no justification for torture, not even war, national security or high-profile case. Every police torture is a violation of fundamental human right. 

Where there is torture in any security agency, the immediate commanding officer officer in-charge of the unit/department that committed such offence of torture will be held liable as an accessory to the crime, for any act or omission or negligence on his part that may have led to the commission of torture by his subordinates/colleagues. Any person that witnesses or is present when torture is being conducted is as liable as the person that conducted torture. Such witness is deemed as having participated in the torture. This applies to any person; military, para-military or civilian! 

Suing the Nigeria Police Force:

It is the Nigeria Police Force that organises some Nigerians, train them and declare them Police Officers. It is the Nigeria Police Force that is responsible for the welfare, operations, credit and discredits of the police officers in Nigeria. Every Police Officer is a representative of the Nigeria Police Force. You cannot separate Police Officers from the Nigeria Police Force, they are like corn and pop-corn. So, the unlawful actions of a police officer is arguably the unlawful actions of the Nigeria Police Force. 

Nigeria Police Force is vicariously liable for the actions of police officers. A master is responsible for the actions and inactions of his servant. If there are good training, welfare and monitoring schemes in the Nigeria Police Force, police officers will be better. A master that employs and engages a servant with a defective tool and skill, is responsible for the harm brought on other persons by his servant. Nigeria Police Force owes a duty to all persons in Nigeria, to ensure that only the best of persons, with the best of training and welfare are offered uniforms and ammunitions. 

In an era where most police officers fail and refuse to wear their uniforms (to avoid showing their names and unique police force number) it is hard to pinpoint a defaulting police office. Hence, it is rather easy to hold the Nigeria Police Force liable for the conduct of its officers. With endless nationwide transfer of police officers, lack of records and evasion of court processes/documents by police officers, makes holding the Nigeria Police Force liable better. 

For quick response, enforcement of judgment, sack of reckless police officers and payment of compensation, it is advisable to sue the Nigeria Police Force for the actions of its officers. By the way, the Nigeria Police Force has powers to pay debts (including judgement debts) owed by a police officer from the salaries of the police officer. These are reasons why a victim of torture or any violation of human rights should not hesitate to sue the Nigeria Police Force. 

Suing the Inspector General of Police and Other Officers:

The Nigeria Police Force is headed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP). The IGP is responsible for the actions, inactions, credits and discredits of the Nigeria Police Force and the officers of the Nigeria Police Force. IGP has the Full command and operate control of all police departments, units and formations. The success and failure of the Nigeria Police Force rests on the IGP, after all he is the head and it is for a reason. Consequently, the IGP is responsible for all the road blocks, conducts of all police officers and the treatment of suspects and detainees by all police officers. 

It is not out of place to sue the Inspector General of Police for the conduct of any police officer, police team or unit. By the way, where there is a torture, the head of the Unit where the torture happened is to be held responsible. In the larger scale, the IGP is the head of all units, squads, teams and formations in the Nigeria Police Force and as such the IGP is responsible for any torture in or by any police groups. 

By the way, the IGP is responsible for the recruitment of recruit constables into the Nigeria Police Force and further periodic re-training of police officers, so any defect in recruitment and training is a defect caused by the IGP. The IGP also has a statutory duty under the Police Act of 2020, to ensure the access to legal assistance of all suspects, detainees and any person in police custody. So, it is the direct responsibility of the IGP to ensure police officers respect human rights, avoid torture, respect lawyers and allow suspects/detainees to access legal services. 

While many police officers may abandon case files where the IGP is sued, Nigeria Police Force will rarely abandon the case. Obtaining a judgment against the IGP is one sure and easy way to ensure that judgement will b enforced. It is a good way to attract the attention of the Nigeria Police Force from their Louis Edet House in Abuja. Aside, the IGP, the other officers; Deputy Inspector General, Assistant Inspector General, Commissioner of Police to the most junior officer in police can be sued. They can be sued for their direct conducts and for the conducts of the police officers under their supervision. None is above the law.

Where To Sue the Nigeria Police Force and its Officers:

There are multiple options to a person that wants to sue the Nigeria Police Force or any police officer. One major thing to consider is the offence of the Nigeria Police Force or its officer. The offence may determine the court to go to. Also, the offence and the court, will determine the kind (nature) of remedy/compensation a victim may get.  Among the common cases against the Nigeria Police Force and its officer will be:  violence/torture, extortion, bribery and violation of human right of any person in Nigeria. 

Where any fundamental human right is violated, the right court to go to is a State High Court or the Federal High Court. No other court can attend to a case for enforcement of fundamental human rights. Click this link to find the full list of fundamental human rights in Nigeria; https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endsarsnow-compensation-for-police-brutality/. Where there is a violation of fundamental human right, the court can award payment of huge monetary compensation against the violator. Read my earlier work on remedies/compensations for violation of human rights via this link; https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endsarsnow-compensation-for-police-brutality/.

Where there is violence/torture, the right court to approach is the Magistrate Court or State High Court. It is a criminal matter and with the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act and its equivalents across states, the could be imprisonment, death, probation or fine for an offender and also adequate compensation for a victim. Gone are the days that prosecuting an offender will not offer monetary compensation for a victim. A victim of Police brutality can enjoy remedies under the Anti-Torture Act of 2017, the Violence Against Persons Act of 2015 and its equivalents across states. 

By the Anti-Torture Act 2017, any form of torture is an offence and a court can punish an offender with imprisonment for not more than 25 years, without an option of fine. Where torture leads to death, the violator will be tried for murder. The punishment for murder is death. Also, with internal disciplinary measures, the concerned police officer may lose his/her job, too. There is obviously no gain in torture and violation of any human right.

Under the Violence Against Persons Act of 2015 and its equivalents across states, the punishment for physical injury is maximum of 5 years or fine of N100,000.00 or both. The punishments for attempting such offence or assisting and aiding such offence is a maximum of 3 years imprisonment and or fine of #200,000.00 or both. And the victim of physical injury is entitled to compensation. 

Who Can Sue the Nigerian Police Force and Its Officers:

The Nigeria Police Force and its officers can be sued by any person, association, group, club, family, community, company or centre for themselves or for another person. Where the fundamental human rights of a person is violated, the victim, his supporters, family, friends or any person, can sue the violator (in this case the Nigeria Police Force and its officers). 

Alternatives To Court: 

Where there is police brutality, there can be remedies without going to court. There are available options outside courts, that the victims of police brutality may embrace. A violation of fundamental human rights can be reported to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at the Abuja office (No 19 Aguyi Ironsi Street, Maitama, Abuja, FCT, Nigeria) or any of their offices across states in Nigeria. 

NHRC can also be easily contacted via 08006472428 (Toll Free), 092903746, 092908829, 09032192577, 07041678566, 07053529460, 09088864332, https://www.nhrc.gov.ng, info@nhrc.gov.ng. The full list of all the state offices of NHRC can be seen and contacted via this link; https://www.nigeriarights.gov.ng/map.html . The NHRC is as powerful as the courts and can make orders like a Court. In 2018, the NHRC Ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to Pay N135 Million to Relatives of Victims of extra judicial killing (Apo Killings); https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2018/04/26/fg-pays-n135m-compensation-to-victims-of-apo-8-killings-by-dss/  

Also, abuse by the Nigeria Police Force and police officers can be reported to the Public Complaints Commission (PCC). The is established as an Ombudsman, designed to redress complaints lodged by aggrieved citizens or residents in Nigeria against administrative injustice and abuse of law. It is located at 25 Aguyi Ironsi Street, Maitama, Abuja, Nigeria and in states across Nigeria. It can be reached via +234 700 342 5722, +234 80705021082,  info@pcc.gov.ng , complaint@pcc.gov.ng and https://pcc.gov.ng/contact-us/ . The full list of all the state offices of PCC can be seen and contacted  vis this link; https://pcc.gov.ng/state-offices/ .

Recommendation And Conclusion: 

Above all things, the Nigeria Police Force is established to protect lives, property and all other human rights of persons in Nigeria. The Nigeria Police Force is not permitted to punish any person in Nigeria. The police is rather empowered to arrest, detain and bring to court any person suspected of committing an offence. It is only a court of law that can punish an offender. Also, police and law enforcement agencies are not allowed to collect fines for any offence. Any money demanded by a police officer is a bribe and the request (no matter how polite) is an extortion. Extortion is a crime and you have a duty to report the police officer and his team/office. 

The silence of victims of torture and their families seem to be emboldening police torture and unprofessionalism. One should never be shy or too religious to report and sue any police officer involved in any form of torture or misconduct. Do this to discourage the surge in police brutality and national decay. The Nigeria Police Force must ensure that its budget (tax payers fund) is not used to pay damages on behalf of police officers found liable by courts for their misconducts, rather the concerned violators/police officers must be made to pay for any damages/liabilities from their salaries and retirement benefits. 

Contact your lawyer and sue any police officer or law enforcement agent that has ever tortured you or any other person. There is no expiration date for the investigation and prosecution of any police officer or person involved in torture or any form of illegal punishment. Nigeria Police Force cannot punish.  

Kindly note that the Violence Against Persons Act of 2015 (VAPP Act) is operational in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Similar laws are now operational in Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Benue, Cross River, Kaduna, FCT, and Plateau states. Soon, more States will enact similar laws as we encourage states to do so and condemn violence. The punishments stated in the VAPP Act should be made to be minimum punishments instead of maximum punishments to avoid the release of offenders with mere slaps on wrists. 

My authorities, are:

1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 33 to 46, 214, 215 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

2. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 18, 20 of the Police Act, 2020

3. Sections 2, 8 and 14 of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017.

4. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on meaning and nature of fundamental human rights) in the case of RANSOME-KUTI & ORS v. AG FEDERATION & ORS (1985) LPELR-2940(SC)

5. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on meaning and nature of fundamental human rights) in the case of AGBAI & ORS v. OKOGBUE (1991) LPELR-225(SC)

6. “Nigeria: Special police squad ‘get rich’ torturing detainees and demanding bribes in exchange for freedom” (Amnesty International, 21 September 2016) <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/09/nigeria-special-police-squad-get-rich-torturing-detainees/> accessed 5 October 2020. 

7. “Special Anti-Robbery Squad” (Wikimedia Foundation, 5 October 2020) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Anti-Robbery_Squad> accessed 5 October 2020.

8. “End SARS” <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_SARS> (Wikimedia Foundation, 5 October 2020) accessed 5 October 2020

9. “Demand justice for Police Brutality in Nigeria” (Amnesty International) <https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/nigeria-end-impunity-for-police-brutality-end-sars/> accessed 5 October 2020

10. “Nigerians want police’s SARS force scrapped”, Aisha Salaudeen (Aljazeera, 17 December 2017) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/15/nigerians-want-polices-sars-force-scrapped/?gb=true> accessed 5 October 2020

11. “Any Security Agency’s Manual/Protocol That Allows Torture Even For National Security Cases Is Unlawful And Its Officers Are Liable”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tip [Tip 412] <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/any-security-agency-s-manual-protocol-that-allows-torture-even-for-national-security-cases-is-unlawful-and-its-officers-are-liable-daily-law-tips-tip-412-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 5 October 2020. 

12. “What Is The Punishment For Any Person Including Police Officers That Tortures Another Person”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tip [251]) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-251-what-is-the-punishment-for-any-person-including-police-officers-that-tortures-another-person/> accessed 5 October 2020.

13. “Is Obeying “Orders From Above” A Defence For Torture In Nigeria”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tip 409]) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/is-obeying-orders-from-above-a-defence-for-torture-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-409-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 5 October 2020. 

14. Direct access to previous works on Torture in Nigeria <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/?s=torture+>  

15. Direct access to previous works on Nigeria Police Force <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/?s=police+>

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