A BRAZEN AFFRONT TO THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT OF NIGERIANS
All over the world, the police is known to be the agency of the Executive arm of Government with the responsibility of protecting lives and property, as well as maintaining law and order.
The Nigerian Police was established, pursuant to The Police Act (herein called the Act) and virtue of Section 4 of the Act; which provided for the duties of the Nigerian Police, “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…”
Having seen the duties of the police, the lawyer’s question now is, from where did the Nigerian police derive its power to brutalize and torture innocent Nigerian citizens? A thorough reading of the Act reveals that the Nigerian police force was not vested with such powers, thus, an act of assault or torture by the Nigerian police is ultra vires.
Conversely, assuming but not conceding that the Act conferred the Nigerian police the power to so assault or torture anybody they deem fit, it is still unconstitutional and void. A community reading of the provisions of section 1 (1) & (3) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, (hereinafter called the 1999 constitution) provides that “the constitution is supreme and if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”.
The court, over the years, has established that everyone has a right to dignity of human person, and any police brutality or torture is, therefore, a gross violation of such fundamental human right. Section 34 of the 1999 constitution provides as follows;
- Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly.
- No person shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
From the foregoing provisions, it is evident that any Nigerian citizen has a right not to be harassed, assaulted or tortured by the police as this will amount to the violation of the fundamental human right of such individual. I am strengthened on this point by a plethora of judicial decisions affirming the above position. In case of Alaboh v Boyles &Anor (1984)3 NCLR 830; “the beating, bushing, and submersion with the applicant’s head in the pool of water by the first respondent was held to constitute inhuman and degrading treatment”.
Also in the case of Mr. Kingsley Ikonna v Commissioner of Police Lagos State & 4 Ors (2010) 12 NWLR (pt 1) 365; the court stated “the fundamental rights of citizens are constitutionally guaranteed in chapter iv of the constitution, the court has a duty to protect these constitutionally guaranteed rights… The arrest and detention of the applicant as well as his torture and shooting while in detention are flagrant violations of the fundamental rights of the applicant as protected by the provisions of section 34 and 35 of the constitution and are therefore illegal and unlawful”
The above judicial decisions print to the face that any act of the police brutality and torture are not only unconstitutional but illegal and therefore should be discouraged. It is worrisome that the police saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives, now take glory in melting out inhuman and degrading treatment to the lives which they are meant to protect. More worrisome is the fact that citizens have not only relinquished their rights but also acquiesced to the culture of the police force.
This is, therefore, a wake up to the Nigerian police, on the one hand, which is now rated the second worst police force in the world, to put its house in order and stop police brutality in order to salvage what is legal, if any, of its image. On the other hand, it is an an eye opener to Nigerians, to take advantage of the law courts whenever such incidents occur and apply for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.