Know Your Rights: It’s illegal for police to arrest you in place of another person.

BY BRIDGET EDOKWE.

The police are legally backed to maintain law and order, case in point, arrest persons that flout the law, or in other cases, persons that obstruct an officer during the discharge of duty.

 

 

 

The law also states that those arrested must be accorded humane treatment and that the officer(s) should have regard for the fundamental human rights of the arrested person.

Section 7 of the erstwhile Police Act supports the arrest of persons “in lieu” of the alleged suspect of the crime. … This means that a family member or relations of a suspect can no longer be arrested and only the alleged suspect may be arrested.

However, there have been cases where the police tend to abuse their power of making arrests. One of such abuses of power is the arrest of someone in place of another person, which is known as ‘arrest by proxy‘ or ‘arrest in lieu‘.

 

On August 26, 2020, Johnson Kokumo, the then Edo state commissioner of police, had paraded six suspects in connection with the rape and murder of Vera Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the University of Benin.

Parading the suspects at the police headquarters in Benin, Edo state capital, Kokumo gave their names as Nelson Ogbebor, Akato Valentine, Tina Samuel, Mary Ade, Nosa Osabohien and Collins Ulegbe.

He noted that the police intensified efforts to arrest the suspects, owing to the public outcry generated by the incident and the interest of the inspector-general of police in the case.

During the media interview session after Kokumo’s speech, one of the suspects, a middle-aged woman, said she was arrested in the village after the police were unable to find her son.

“They (referring to police officers) said madam, “where is your child?” I told them I did not know his whereabouts. I was in the village and my son was in Benin. That is how I ended up in the cell,” the woman said.

Her testimony attracted public attention, especially on social media, as it appeared that she was arrested in place of her son who was suspected of the crime.

WHAT IS THE POSITION OF THE LAW?

What does the law say about the trend of ‘arresting by proxy‘ or ‘arresting in lieu‘?

Are criminal responsibilities transferrable?

Section 7 of the Administrative Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and section 36 of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 explicitly prohibits arrest by proxy.

Section 7 of ACJA 2015 states “a person shall not be arrested in a place of a suspect”.

This implies that it is illegal for the police to arrest a father in the place of his son or a mother in the place of the father, especially in criminal cases.

The court had ruled on several cases that a person cannot be arrested in lieu of another person.

For instance: In the case of Sunday Odogwu v. The State (2013), the court of appeal ruled that an accused person cannot be arrested and held responsible for an offense he or she did not commit.

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