The Nigeria Police Force is a constitutional creation. It is saddled principally with maintenance of law and order and the prevention, detection and suppression of crimes in or society. It also has a principal role to play in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. From the complaint stage up to the point of trial and conviction, the police is involved.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
The Nigeria Police Force is a government agency whose sole responsibility is to enforce and maintain laws and orders. The Black’s Law Dictionary 6th Edition at p. 1156 defines the police as “The Branch of government which is charged with the preservation of public order and tranquility, the promotion of the public health, safety and morals, and the prevention, detection and punishment of crimes”. The Longman dictionary of Contemporary English defines the police as an official body of men and women whose duty is to protect people and property, to make everyone obey the law, to catch criminal etc.
The Nigeria Police has an antecedent that cannot be forgotten too soon. According to historical analysis, it is often said that even in the unrefined pre-colonial Nigeria, there existed institutions that played the roles of keeping the peace, preventing crimes.
This moved from the very unrefined era up to the twilight era. Writing in his book – Constitutional Law in Nigeria – particularly at p. 433 Professor Oluyele said it all thus “Although it is arguable, the tribes, individuals, communities and towns in the land area now known as Nigeria, had their own system of police force… the truth is that the Nigerian Police Force found in our statute books today, was introduced into this country by the British”. Therefore it is apt to opine that the origin, development and the role of the British inspired police system was shaped by the nature of European interest in this part of the world and the reactions of native communities. Thus when Mecoskry, the British Consul discovered that king Dosumu and his chiefs opposed the annexation of Lagos and situation was rather dangerous for his safety, he began to establish a police force. That exercise began the fist modern police force in the history of the colony of Lagos. It was also the first modern police force in the territories later designated as Nigeria.
The Nigeria Police Force is established by section 214 of the 1999 Constitution and that section provides thus “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provision of this section, no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof”.
organized and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
Against the background of the foregoing there is the Police Ac, Cap 359 LFN 1990. Section 4 of that Act has spelt out in detail the duties of the police. That section reads “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 without Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of this or any other Act.”
From the above provisions of section 4 of the Police Act, it is apposite to say that the police is an indispensable tool in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. The duties of the police are summarized as follows
This is the logical starting point in criminal proceedings. It is the act of securing the appearance of the offender before a court of competent jurisdiction. An arrest is effected by the police officer or officers making the arrest actually touching or confining the body of the person to be arrested, unless there is submission to the custody by words of mouth or action.
Except where the person to be arrested submits to the custody of the officer effecting the arrest when he is informed unequivocally that he is under arrest, an arrest cannot be effected by mere words of mouth. The person to be arrested must actually be touched or his body confined or whichever is suitable at any given circumstances. The case of Sadiq v. The State (1982) 2 NCR 142 graphically illustrate what constitute arrest in the eyes of the law. In that case, the accused was invited by a police officer to the police station for questioning over the commission of an alleged offence. The accused refused to accompany the police officer to the police station. Thereafter, other officers were sent to the accused and she was persuaded to accompany them to the police station. The accused was charged and convicted of the offence of resisting police arrest. On appeal against her conviction, the appellate court held that the appellant was never arrested by the police officers because there was no restraining of the appellant.
There are two ways by which an arrest can be made:
Arrest with Warrant and
Arrest without Warrant
A warrant of arrest is an authority issued by a court to a police officer to arrest an offender. It is directed to a police officer ordering such officer to arrest the offender and bring him before the court to answer the allegations made against him. It is usually issued by a magistrate or a judge of a High Court after receiving complaint on oath that a person has committed and offence. A warrant may be executed on any day including Sunday or a public holiday, at any time and in any part of the State other than within the actual court room in which the court is sitting. See section 28(1) and (2) of CPA cap80 LFN 1990, and section 63 of CPC, cap 81 LFN 1990.
This is the commonest method of bringing an offender before the court. In order to avoid any ugly situation of allowing offenders to escape arrest, powers to instant arrest are necessary for the effective administration of criminal justice. The police are generally and generously endowed with three powers by the CPA, CPC and the Police Act.
Furthermore, sections 10, 11 and 55 of the CPA, section 24 of the Police Act, section 26 of the CPC and column 3 of Appendix A to the CPC, collectively empowers a police officer or officers to arrest a suspect without a warrant of arrest.
Under section 10(1) of the CPA, any police officer may without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant arrest:
Any person whom he suspects upon reasonable grounds of having committed an indictable offence against a federal law against the law of a state unless a written law creating the offences provides that an offender cannot be arrested without a warrant.
Any person who commits any offence in hi presence (I hold the view that in view of (a) above, (b) there should be properly re-couched in order to take care of the exception provided in (a) above).
Any person who obstructs a police officer while in the execution of his duty or who has escaped or attempt to escape from lawful custody.
Any person in whose possession anything is found which may reasonably be suspected of having committed an offence with reference to such a thing.
Any person whom he suspects upon reasonable grounds of being a deserter from any of the armed forces in Nigeria. See further sections, f, g, h, I, j of the CPA.
The power conferred on a police under section 10 (1)(b) of the CPA and section 26(a) of the CPC to arrest any person who commits an offence in his presence is an absolute power and therefore it is not subject to any limitation contemplated in section 10(1)(a) of the CPA. Thus even where the statute creating the offence provides that a person who commits the offence cannot be arrested without a warrant, that limitation is ineffective if the offence is committed in the presence of a police officer. See section 10(1) (b) of the CPA.
In exercising the power given in section 10(1)(a) of the CPA, the grounds for reasonable suspicion may be either a police officer’s own knowledge or facts stated to him by another person – see the case of IGP vs. Ogbomor (1957) WRNLR 200 where it was held that under section 10(1)(a) of the CPA, a police officer could arrest without a warrant a person on whom he knows there is a pending charge for an indictable offence, and for whom the police are looking, such knowledge affording the ground for reasonable suspicion.
Section 11 of the CPA and section 26 of the CPC gives the police the power to arrest any person suspected of having committed an offence who refused to give his name and address and may eventually give information that is false.
Section 55 of the CPA and section 26(e) of the CPC gives the police power to arrest any person known to be designing to commit any offence, it is appears to the officer that the commission of the offence cannot otherwise be prevented.
A warrant of arrest once issued remains in force until the offender is arrested or the judge or magistrate vacates it or cancel it – see section 25(2) of the CPA and section56(2) of the CPC. It therefore does not cease to be valid after any period of time before its execution.
However, if any arrest has been made on its authority and the person arrested is later released, the warrant is no more a valid authority for re- arresting him. A new warrant has to be issued.
When a person is arrested by the police for having committed an offence, it may be necessary for the police to conduct a search of the person depending on the nature of the offence alleged against him. The search may be necessary in order to obtain evidence to be used at the trial of the offender.
A search may be conducted on persons and on things. With regard to search of a person, see section 29 of the Police Act provides “A police officer may detain and search any person whom he reasonably suspects of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything which he has reason to believe to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained”.
In conducting search, the police has the authority to remove everything with the accused apart from the apparel he was wearing – see section 6(1) of CPA and section 44(2) of he CPC.
Whenever it is necessary to cause a woman to be searched, the search shall be made by another woman. Further, the search of female suspect shall be with strict regard to decency. In other words, it is the female officers who should search female suspects.
The general rule is that for a premise to be searched, a warrant must be obtained by the police. However, if a person to be arrested under a warrant of arrest is suspected of being in a premise, a search of the premise may be conducted for the persons being sought without a search warrant. See section 7 of the CPA and section 34 of the CPC. Thus, a warrant of arrest is also an authority to search a premise. A search warrant may be issued by a magistrate when he is satisfied upon oath and in writing that there is a reasonable ground for believing that any building, ship, carriage, receptacle or place is being used for the commission of an offence – see section 107(1) of the CPA.
A police officer of the rank of cadet ASP can issue a search warrant but this power is not wide as that of a magistrate. The reason is that he can only issue search warrants on any shop, warehouse or other premises which within the proceeding of 12 months was in occupation of any person convicted of receiving stolen property or harbouring thieves or fraud or dishonesty and is liable to be imprisoned – see section 24 of the Police Act.
On the time for execution of a search warrant, I refer you to section 111 of the CPA and for the execution of search warrant generally, see section 112 of the CPA and sections 78(1), 79 and 81(1) of the CPC. 3.5 Prevention of Crime
In order to play their role in the administration of criminal justice, the police is conferred with certain powers in relation to prevention of crimes by some statutes. Let us now examine them thus:
Section 4 of the Police Act provides inter alia that the police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crimes, the apprehension of offenders and the preservation of law and order.
Also, section 53 of the CPA provides that a police officer may intervene for the purpose of preventing and shall to the best of his ability prevent the commission of an offence.
For more see also sections 54 and 55 of the CPA.
Again, section 275 of the criminal code particularly in its 2nd limb says that is lawful for a peace officer or police officer who witnessed a breach of the peace, and for any person lawfully assisting him, to arrest any person whom he finds committing it, or whom he believes on reasonable grounds to be about to join in or renew the breach of the peace.
Any person arrested by the police without a warrant on suspicion of having committed an offence must be taken to court by the police within one day (24 hours) if there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometers of the place of the alleged commission of the offence. In any other cases, a period of two days (48 hours) or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable – see section 35(5) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution and section —- of the CPA.
The issue of police bail arises after a person arrested without a warrant of arrest is taken to the police station. The officer in charge of the police station may admit the suspect to bail pending subsequent investigation into the matter. The suspect is usually granted bail upon his entering into a bond or recognisance with or without sureties to appear at the police station at such time as are named in the bond. See section 17 and 18 of the CPA. The bail granted by the police while investigations are continuing into the allegation against the accused is to enable him to secure his release on condition that he will return to or appear at the police station at the specified time in the bond.
But in practice where a capital offence i.e. murder is alleged against a person detained by the police, the police has certainly be detaining the person longer than 24 or48 hours as the case may be but this is against the provisions of the constitution (1999) and there should be a refrain by the police.
This duty of the police is contained in section 35 of the Police Act which states “Subject to the provisions of section 150 and section 195 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (which relates to the power of AG of the Federation and AG of a state to institute and undertake, take over and continue or discontinue criminal proceedings against any person before any court of laws in Nigeria) any police officer may conduct in person all prosecutions before any court whether or not the information is laid in his name.
From the foregoing, a police officer can institute proceedings against any person in all courts of law in Nigeria, thereby undertaking his duty of due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which he is charged. But in practice, a police officer’s duty to institute criminal proceedings in the superior courts and sometimes in magistrate courts in serious cases.
This unit has stressed the importance of the Nigeria Police in the criminal justice system in Nigeria. It also stresses the reason behind the numerous statutory powers conferred on the Police i.e. power of arrest, search, prosecution, detain, grant bail, prevention of crime and the centrality of the Police to good governance and accountability.
The Nigeria Police Force is created by law to maintain law and order in the society.
Section 24 creates the Nigeria Police Force.
The Police has authority to arrest suspected criminals.
It also has the power to search.
It prevents crimes in the society.
It can also grant bail whenever the need arises.
It has the power to institute and conduct criminal proceedings.