Is the Case of Missing Person to be Reported Only After 24 hours? 

Is the Case of Missing Person to be Reported only after 24 hours?  Daily Law Tips (Tip 804) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:

The public view and knowledge in Nigeria is that a case of a missing person can only be reported to the Nigeria police after 24 hours of disappearance of the suspected missing person. Also, many police officers and law enforcement officers have been reported to reject complaints of missing person made within 24 hours.

A clear example is the case of Ms. Iniobong Uworen, who got missing in Akwa Ibom State, while on a job interview. The Nigerian Police allegedly refused to attend to the complaint on the disappearance of Ms. Iniobong Uworen, rather the Police ordered the complainant to return the next day. Upon the intervention of the police the following day, Ms. Iniobong Uworen was not only missing but was found dead. Many believe that Ms. Iniobong Uworen could have been rescued alive, if the police officers had accepted the complaint and intervened within 24 hours. This invoked the pubic call for thorough investigations via the hashtags; #JusticeForHinyUmoren and #JusticeForIniobongUworen.

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The believe that a complaint on a missing person should not be reported to the police until after 24 hours and that the police cannot investigate such cases until after 24 hours has caused many lives in Nigeria. This public view if unknown to all laws in Nigeria and as such wrong. Everyday Nigerians suffer from the huge gap in information between Nigerians and the Nigerian laws. This work reveals the true legal position on the time for reporting of cases of missing persons, the duty of police to assist every missing person and the punishment for police officers that fail to assist missing persons.

Complainant on Missing Persons; the Public Views Vs. the Law:

Nigeria is a democratic stated governed by written laws and not by personal beliefs, public views, public opinions, street gist and religious creeds. Nigerian laws are made by the legislature and not by gossipers. Public views are not laws, rather mere perceptions of the people. Public views do not affect laws rather public views bow to legal views and laws (although public views are considered in law making). Persons in Nigeria are bound by the laws in Nigeria and not by public views. When there is a law, there is no discretion.

The greatest of all laws in Nigeria is the Constitution of Nigeria and the Constitution creates the Nigeria Police Force. Furthermore, the federal legislature (the National Assembly) made a federal law (the Nigeria Police Act, 2020) to govern the Nigeria Police Force and its officers. It is the responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force to protect lives and properties in Nigeria. Where there is a case of a missing person, it is the duty of Nigeria Police Force to investigate and rescue the missing person. A copy of the Nigeria Police Act 2020, can be accessed for free via this link: https://learnnigerianlaws.com/free-copy-of-the-police-act-2020/

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Contrary to public opinion and views, every case of a missing person must be reported to the Nigeria Police Force within 24 hours and not after 24 hours. Section 90 of the Nigeria Police Act, creates a duty on every person in Nigeria, to report to the Nigeria police any case of a missing person within 24 hours. The person in charge of a missing person must report such case to the nearest police station within 24 hours. This means that immediately there is an information that a person is missing or may be missing, the case should be reported to the Nigeria Police Force.

There is no law that requires 24 hours to pass before a case of a missing person can be reported to the Nigeria Police Force. It is against the Nigeria Police Act for any person to delay, fail or refuse to report the case of a missing person to the Nigeria Police within 24 hours of such incidence. At this point, it is unlawful for any police officer to refuse or fail to receive a complaint on a missing person and to order that the complaint be postponed till after 24 hours.

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At all times, the Nigeria Police Force has the mandate to protect lives and properties. So, once there is complaint on a missing person, the Nigeria Police must get down to work to rescue the missing person, immediately. Specifically, section 31 of the Nigeria Police Act, provides that the Nigeria Police Force has a duty to investigate in accordance with due process, all allegations and complaints brought to it. Due processes of investigation cannot include the refusal of complaints brought to the Nigeria Police Force, without an investigation.

Punishment for Police Officers That Fail to Rescue Missing Persons:

Since it is not unusual to find unscrupulous police officers, the Nigeria Police Force went on to prescribe punishment for any police officer that fails to assist any person in distress, including missing persons. The failure of a police officer to investigate and to assist a person in distress (including a missing person) is an offence and the police officer is to be investigated, prosecuted and punished.

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Section 96 (1) (g) of the Nigeria Police Act, states that the offences of police officers, include; failure of a police officer to come to the aid or assistance of any person in need of assistance at the time of distress. It further provides that such a non-assisting police officer should be disciplined and dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force, as well as prosecuted thereafter in a court of law.

Conclusion:

There is a clear division of labour in Nigeria and it is the responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force to protect lives and properties. Delaying or refusing to rescue missing persons, is a failure of the Nigeria Police in its statutory duties. It is the duty of every police officer to quickly investigate all complaints and then intervene. It is unprofessional for a police officer to waive away any complaint (especially a complaint on a missing person) without an investigation. Consequently, the punishment -dismissal from the police force and subsequent prosecution- awaits any unprofessional police officer that fails to assist missing persons.

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There is no law in Nigeria that state that the case of a missing person cannot be reported to the Police within 24 hours from the time of the suspected disappearance. There is also no law that provides that such cases cannot be investigated by the police until after 24 hours. Rather, the Nigeria Police Act mandates all persons to report all cases of missing persons within 24 hours. Also, the same law compels the Police to immediately investigate and intervene. Any police officer that delays or refuses to assist any case of a missing person has committed an offence and could be dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force and then prosecuted in a court of law.

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 214, 215, 216, 318, 319 and 320 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
  2. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 31, 90, 96 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 and a copy is downloadable via https://learnnigerianlaws.com/free-copy-of-the-police-act-2020/
  3. BBC News, “#FindHinyHumoren: Iniobong Umoren wey disappear for Akwa Ibom no dey alive again” (BBC, 2 May 2021) <https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-56955222> accessed 3 June 2021
  4. Onyekachi Umah, “Is Nigerian Police to Investigate Cases of Missing Persons After 24 hours?” (com, 11 May 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/is-nigerian-police-to-investigate-cases-of-missing-persons-after-24-hours/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  5. Onyekachi Umah, “How to Report and Discipline Police Officers” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 25 May 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/how-to-report-and-discipline-police-officers/> accessed 27 May 2021
  6. Onyekachi Umah, “Warrant of Arrest: Contents and Issuance” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 19 April 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/warrant-of-arrest-contents-and-issuance/> accessed 3 June 2021
  7. Onyekachi Umah, “Warrant of Arrest: Contents and Issuance” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 19 April 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/warrant-of-arrest-contents-and-issuance/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  8. Onyekachi Umah, “12 Situations Where Police Officers Can Arrest Without Warrant” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 June 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/12-situations-where-police-officers-can-arrest-without-warrant/> accessed 19 April 2021
  9. Onyekachi Umah, “An Ordinary Person Can Arrest A Criminal Suspect Even Without A Warrant In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 17 July 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/an-ordinary-person-can-arrest-a-criminal-suspect-even-without-a-warrant-in-nigeria/> accessed 19 April 2021
  10. Onyekachi Umah, “When Can Police Search A House Without A Warrant” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 11 March 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/when-can-police-search-a-house-without-a-warrant/> accessed 19 April 2021.
  11. Onyekachi Umah, “The Right Of Police To Break/Damage Any House In Search Of Suspects Even Without Warrant To Search” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 February 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/the-right-of-police-to-break-damage-any-house-in-search-of-suspects-even-without-warrant-to-search/> accessed 19 April 2021
  12. Onyekachi Umah, “Contents of Police Monthly Reports To Magistrates” (coLearnNigerianLaws.com, 17 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/contents-of-police-monthly-reports-to-magistrates/> accessed 19 April 2021
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “Qualifications for an Inspector General of Police” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 4 February 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/qualifications-for-an-inspector-general-of-police/> accessed 19 April 2021
  14. Onyekachi Umah, “Can the Appointment of an Inspector General of Police be Extended?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 2 February 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/can-the-appointment-of-an-inspector-general-of-police-be-extended/> accessed 19 April 2021.
  15. Chris Admin, “Onyekachi Umah Speaks To ChannelsTv On SARS & The New Police Act” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 9 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/onyekachi-umah-speaks-to-channelstv-on-sars-the-new-police-act/> accessed 19 April 2021.
  16. Onyekachi Umah, “Minimum Information That Must Be In Database Of All Arrested Persons At Federal And State Levels In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 16 September 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/minimum-information-that-must-be-in-database-of-all-arrested-persons-at-federal-and-state-levels-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-415-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk> accessed 19 April 2021.
  17. Onyekachi Umah, “Head of a Police Station Must Make Monthly Report of Arrests to a Magistrate” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 24 August 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/head-of-police-station-must-make-monthly-report-of-arrests/> accessed 19 April 2021.
  18. Onyekachi Umah, “Police Stations Now Have Supervising Magistrates” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 9 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/police-stations-now-have-supervising-magistrates/> accessed 19 April 2021
  19. Onyekachi Umah, “12 Situations Where Police Officers Can Arrest Without Warrant” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 June 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/12-situations-where-police-officers-can-arrest-without-warrant/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  20. Onyekachi Umah, “An Ordinary Person Can Arrest A Criminal Suspect Even Without A Warrant In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 17 July 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/an-ordinary-person-can-arrest-a-criminal-suspect-even-without-a-warrant-in-nigeria/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  21. Onyekachi Umah, “When Can Police Search A House Without A Warrant” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 11 March 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/when-can-police-search-a-house-without-a-warrant/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  22. Onyekachi Umah, “The Right Of Police To Break/Damage Any House In Search Of Suspects Even Without Warrant To Search” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 February 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/the-right-of-police-to-break-damage-any-house-in-search-of-suspects-even-without-warrant-to-search/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  23. Onyekachi Umah, “Contents of Police Monthly Reports To Magistrates” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 17 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/contents-of-police-monthly-reports-to-magistrates/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  24. Onyekachi Umah, “Qualifications for an Inspector General of Police” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 4 February 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/qualifications-for-an-inspector-general-of-police/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  25. Onyekachi Umah, “Can the Appointment of an Inspector General of Police be Extended?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 2 February 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/can-the-appointment-of-an-inspector-general-of-police-be-extended/> accessed 19 April 2021.
  26. Chris Admin, “Onyekachi Umah Speaks To ChannelsTv On SARS & The New Police Act” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 9 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/onyekachi-umah-speaks-to-channelstv-on-sars-the-new-police-act/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  27. Onyekachi Umah, “Minimum Information That Must Be In Database Of All Arrested Persons At Federal And State Levels In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 16 September 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/minimum-information-that-must-be-in-database-of-all-arrested-persons-at-federal-and-state-levels-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-415-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk> accessed 25 May 2021.
  28. Onyekachi Umah, “Head of a Police Station Must Make Monthly Report of Arrests to a Magistrate” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 24 August 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/head-of-police-station-must-make-monthly-report-of-arrests/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  29. Onyekachi Umah, “Police Stations Now Have Supervising Magistrates” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 9 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/police-stations-now-have-supervising-magistrates/> accessed 25 May 2021.
  30. Onyekachi Umah, “Stripping Suspects Naked is Torture and it’s a Crime” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 16 February 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/stripping-suspects-naked-is-torture-and-its-a-crime/> accessed 23 May 2021
  31. Onyekachi Umah, “Can Police Punish Unlawful Protesters?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 15 February 2021) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/can-police-punish-unlawful-protesters/> accessed 23 May 2021
  32. Onyekachi Umah, “When Can A Protest Become A Riot?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 6 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/when-can-a-protest-become-a-riot/> 23 May 2021
  33. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndSarsNow: Punishment For Police (SARS) Torture” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 6 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endsarsnow-punishment-for-police-sars-torture/> accessed 23 May 2021
  34. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndSarsNow: Nigeria Police Lacks Power To Punish” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 7 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endsarsnow-nigeria-police-lacks-power-to-punish/> accessed 23 May 2021
  35. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: How To Sue the Nigeria Police Force and Police Officers” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 14 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endpolicebrutality-how-to-sue-the-nigeria-police-force-and-police-officers/> accessed 23 May 2021
  36. “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 23 May 2021
  37. Onyekachi Umah, “Who Can Be Lawfully Killed In Nigeria?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 26 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/who-can-be-lawfully-killed-in-nigeria/> accessed 23 May 2021
  38. Femi Falana, “Police Permit Not Required For Rallies in Nigeria” (Premium Times, 23 January 2014) <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/153860-police-permit-required-rallies-nigeria.html> accessed 23 May 2021
  39. Onyekachi Umah, “Can A Person With A Nigerian Flag Be Shot Or Killed?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 23 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/can-a-person-with-a-nigerian-flag-be-shot-or-killed/> accessed 23 May 2021
  40. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: When & How Can Government Prohibit Protest In Nigeria?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 19 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/when-and-how-can-government-prohibit-protest-in-nigeria/> accessed 23 May 2021
  41. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: The Right To Protest Is A Human Right.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 15 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endpolicebrutality-the-right-to-protest-is-a-human-right/> accessed 23 May 2021
  42. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndPoliceBrutality: Do You Need A Police Permit To Protest?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 16 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endpolicebrutality-do-you-need-a-police-permit-to-protest/> accessed 23 May 2021
  43. Onyekachi Umah, “Does The President/Governors Have Powers To Lockdown Any Part Of Nigeria Or Restrict Human Rights?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 31 March 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/does-the-president-governors-have-powers-to-lockdown-any-part-of-nigeria-or-restrict-human-rights-daily-law-tips-tip-537-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/> accessed 23 May 2021
  44. Onyekachi Umah, “Human Rights That Can Never Be Restricted Even In War, Pandemic or State of Emergency (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 2 April 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/human-rights-that-can-never-be-restricted-even-in-war-pandemic-or-state-of-emergency-daily-law-tips-tip-539-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarbuk/> accessed 23 May 2021
  45. Onyekachi Umah, “Duty of Government to Pay Compensation for Damages Caused By Riot.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 4 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/duty-of-government-to-pay-compensation-for-damages-caused-by-riot/> accessed 23 May 2021
  46. Onyekachi Umah, “Who Pays For Properties Damaged or Lost In A Riot In Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 6 August 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-157-who-pays-for-properties-damaged-or-lost-in-a-riot-in-nigeria/> accessed 23 May 2021
  47. Onyekachi Umah, “List of Fundamental Human Rights In Nigeria.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 22 October 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/list-of-fundamental-human-rights-in-nigeria/> accessed 23 May 2021
  48. Chris Admin, “Onyekachi Umah Speaks To ChannelsTv On SARS & The New Police Act” (com, 9 November 2020) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/onyekachi-umah-speaks-to-channelstv-on-sars-the-new-police-act/> accessed 3 June 2021
  49. Onyekachi Umah, “What Is The Punishment For Any Person Including Police Officers That Tortures Another Person” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 18 December 2018) <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 23 May 2021
  50. Onyekachi Umah, “Is Obeying “Orders From Above” a Defence for Torture in Nigeria” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 7 September 2019) <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 3 June 2021
  51. Onyekachi Umah, “Being Present During Torture Without Participating In It, Is A Crime” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 25 November 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/being-present-during-torture-without-participating-in-it-is-a-crime-daily-law-tips-tip-464-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 3 June 2021
  52. Onyekachi Umah, “New Punishment for Security Officers Involved in Torture in Nigeria.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 27 August 2017) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/new-punishment-for-security-officers-involved-in-torture-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-401-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 3 June 2021
  53. Onyekachi Umah, “Watching Torture but not Participating in it, is Torture.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 19 November 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/watching-torture-but-not-participating-in-it-is-torture-daily-law-tips-tip-460-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 3 June 2021
  54. Onyekachi Umah, “Any Security Agency’s Manual/Protocol that Allows Torture Even for National Security Cases is Unlawful and its Officers are Liable.” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 11 September 2019) <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 3 June 2021
  55. Pic credit: dreamstime.com

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