Friday, 28 August 2015

15 Informative Ways to Handle Abuse of Authority by Nigeria Police (Part II)


This article is in furtherance of the collaborative effort between myself and Mr. James Novak of The Law Office of James Novak which is based in Arizona, U.S.A.

Being a former US Marine Officer/Arizona’s former DUI & Criminal Attorney Prosecutor, Mr. Novak has acquired indepth knowledge and experience in Human Rights and Criminal Defense all of which he brought to bear in Part I of this Article. You may access Part 1 by visiting the link below:

Abuse of Authority by Nigeria Police:
“In a society that has justice as its goal, the police must be clean, just and respected. A corrupt police breeds a corrupt society. The vision of the court would be misty and the administration of justice murky in a corrupt atmosphere.  Detention for 3 years of prisoners awaiting trial, continuous complaints of extraction of a confession per vim, incessant preferment of what is commonly referred to as a “holding charge” could only create insecurity in the public and generate lack of confidence in the organs of justice.”
 - Justice Kayode Eso [Thoughts on Law & Jurisprudence]

I recently interviewed a client who had experienced some unpalatable moments with the police. Below is an extract from her complaint:
“I dread having any encounter with Police Officers particularly the armed ones. They say “bail is free”, “police are your friends”, but all these are lies! You cannot even go to their Station to report matters for fear of being robed in…”
As a member of the Nigerian society, I too share the sentiments of the client, and I assume that you might agree with her and even share your own encounter in the discussion box below this article, I have even had course to share comparative experiences with colleagues in other countries which clearly revealed that the mistrust that the public has against police institution is universal even though it is on different levels. 

I particularly followed events of police brutality in the United States of America; ranging from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9, 2014, to the story of 17-year-old Jessie Hernandez who was purportedly murdered by Denver Police officers in January 2015. 

A very unpopular one is the story of Olakunle Ajomale, a Nigerian Citizen who had accused men of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement of inserting a chip torture device in his body while in Maryland, United States. 

In the midst of the biases against global police institution, Officer Mark Engravalle of Roeland Park Police Unit showed how different the institution could be by an act of kindness expressed on duty to someone who was supposed to be a thief caught in the very act, the article reads “Cop Busts Thief, It’s What He Did Next That He Didn’t Want You To Know About” with such a heading you are guaranteed to want to check the story. 

In the words of James Novak, “[the story] is a ray of hope for all countries as an example of the type of world we should be living in, and deserve now and in the future”. 

I have enjoyed the benefit of sharing ideas on criminal law practices with Mr. James Novak and he has been of immense assistance to my exposure to comparative global practices each time we discussed. While he does not boast that the United States of America’s system is perfect, he has shared some of their practices with me and has therefore graciously presented the Part 1 of this Article.

Officer Engravalle’s story made me to reflect on events of police brutality in Nigeria, the corruption that limits the institution, and what is supposed to be the response of the public while dealing with the police. 

I have therefore identified 3 issues and 15 informative ways to handle abuse of authority by Nigeria police:

Handling Police Corruption

Have you ever had to tip a police officer during a stop and search situation? Have you ever had to pay the police to secure your bail or the bail of a loved one? 

Sometimes, you don’t want to pay the money but you are not sure of what is right again because of what seems to have become the accepted practice. Someone once suggested that police uniforms should be changed to white without pockets, but below are reasonable things you may consider doing depending on the situation at hand:

1.  It will do you a great deal of good to remind yourself that you MUST NOT argue with an armed          police officer come what may.
2.  Take note of the names of police officers on duty.
3.  Have at least one other person to witness your encounter with the police where it is possible.
4.  Invite your lawyer within the shortest possible time.

How to handle Situations of “Stop and Search”

The power of the police to stop and search is a function recognised by law, and a police officer need not give any reason for the search. 

Other than the power to stop and search, or inquire into issues that involves crime, a police officer does not have the requisite authority to inquire into the expiration or otherwise of your car particulars and your driver’s licence because those duties are within the exclusive purview of administrative agencies particularly the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). If you are however stopped by the police, the points below may be helpful:

5.  Do not run away or ignore a stop and search by the police (cases of imposture of police by                  criminals have been reported over time so avoid night movement as much as you can).

6.  Be firm in answering introductory questions, but insist on remaining silent when a question                  suggestive of your involvement in a crime is asked.

7. Take note of the names of the police officers on duty where a bribe is demanded and report the           situation to your lawyer as soon as practicable (names are usually engraved near the chest pocket         of their uniforms).

8. Supervise the search by giving the police any document they demand for, and showing them all the    corners they intend to search. Do not make any unsolicited move otherwise the police officers            might begin to suspect you.  

The summation of the above points as rightly noted by Orlando Consumer Rights Lawyer Donald E. Petersen of the Law Office of Donald E. Peterson is that “you talk to the police as little as possible (but identify yourself) then invoke your right to Counsel (simply say “I want to see my lawyer before I say anything”)and remain silent”.

How to deal with an abusive police officer

Many cases of misuse/abuse of guns and ammunitions by police officers have been recorded over time, some of those cases resulted in the death of the victims while some victims were lucky to survive but had some parts of their bodies amputated. 

How do you deal with situations involving recklessness or the release of the trigger by a police officer? How do you deal with police manhandling at police station? The following points may be of help:

9. Do not argue or get involved in a duel with a police officer.

10. Do not write a statement or talk until you see your lawyer, simply tell the police that “you wish to       see your lawyer before you say anything”.

11. If necessary, request to see a doctor immediately and do so in the most polite manner.

12. Take note of the full names of officers and each person’s role in the event in question.

In recognition of the need to curb incidences of bribery, extortion, and other forms of indiscipline by the police, the office of the Inspector General of Police launched the next point that I will share with you therefore originates from the website.

13. You may report an abusive police by filling and submitting the compliant form on the website   
  • You may report a police through a telephone call to any of the following numbers: 08131234567, 09035200933, 08060023936, 07067899368, 01-7612479
  • You may send an electronic mail to
  • You may tweet your report with the hash tag #stopthebribes
  • You may download the “StopTheBribe” App via the link below:
  • You may add the office of the police designated for the StopTheBribes campaign through either of the following BBM Pin: 2A4A45FA, 2B0BB42E

2 ways in which a lawyer may be of assistance to you in dealing with an erring/abusive police officer:

Now that you have some hints on how to relate with the police, you may want to know further steps that you can take. Below are some of the possible steps that a competent legal practitioner might take on your behalf:

14.  Commence a suit in the court of law on your behalf: In my blog article titled Enforcement of Fundamental Rights in Nigeria (For Laymen) a short narrative on how to prepare and apply for the enforcement of fundamental rights is well explained. 

It is however yet to be settled whether a person who dies as a result of police violence can maintain an action for the protection of his right to life having lost it already. The case of Bello v Attorney General of Oyo State [1986] 5NWLR (Pt. 45) seems to suggest that the only action that will lie is in Tort and not Enforcement of Fundamental Right to Life. 

However, that cannot be said to be the position of the law considering that the ratio was decided per incuriam and Paragraph 3 (e) of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 embraces public interest litigations.    

15. Another step that I often enjoin lawyers to take is to report any case of abuse of authority by any member of the Nigeria Police to the Police Service Commission. 

Apart from being the agency in charge of employing police officers, the commission is also empowered to discipline erring police officers (except the Inspector General of Police who is an appointee of the Federal Government of Nigeria). 

Remembering the Example of Officer Mark Engravalle:

Upon reading the story of Officer Engravalle and with the help of Mr. James Novak, I reached to his brother on Google Plus and I also tried to reach him via Facebook. Asides nominating him as a worthy ambassador of the global police institution, I humbly encourage you to re-share this post with the hope that it will go a long way in sensitising the public on simple ways to hold the police institution to account and also create the much sort after change that we desire.