OPINION: What To Do When Confronted With Police Brutality

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By Samuel Okolie

There is a growing trend of police brutality and harassment in our society today, with little or nothing, being done to curb this incidence of human rights abuses by the police.

Former South African Leader Nelson Mandela once said that to deny people their human right is to challenge their very humanity.
In Nigeria today, there is a humongous difference between knowing and understanding ones right, and the implementation and usage of such right.

Some Nigerians fully understand and know their right but lack the testicular fortitude to exercise and implement such rights, when such right is been infringed upon, especially by a government agency like the police.

It is based on this premise, that the writer will explain the options available to persons who suffer from police brutality, and thereafter the concomitant remedies available to such persons.

The first option available to a person who suffers police brutality and intimidation is to do nothing. Such a person reserve the right to go home, fold his arm and brood over his misfortune, or as it is the usually the practice, go on any social media platform and rain expletives and abuses on the Nigerian police, without more.

The second option is available to persons who are tired of the status quo, who are willingly and ready to protest the injustice meted out to them. To these set of person, the word of ELILI WIESEL is apt and invaluable, where he stated that; there may be times, when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time, when we fail to protest.

The best way to protest in this type of situation, is to make a written petition to the police authority to investigate the brutality and harassment.

In the petition, it is best to accompany it with any evidence garnered at the scene of the brutality, to lend better credibility to the petition, examples of such evidence are; names of the police officer, pictures of the police officers, audio record, eye witness testimony and in some cases medical report of the injury sustained.

After the petition has been served, a thorough follow up of the petition would be necessary to avoid any cover up, after this is done, the outcome of the petition with subsequent investigation will determine whether the said police officer will be queried disciplined or dismissed.

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A person who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the petition would have to resort to the third option to get proper redress.

The third and final option is to make an application to the court to get a final and proper redress. The constitution which is the supreme law of the land makes adequate provision for these. Section 34 subsection (1) state that; every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of person, and accordingly; (a) no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment (b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

The above section is simply saying that no person shall be brutalized, tortured or subjected to any form of degrading treatment. Furthermore, no person is allowed to be detained more than the constitution requirement of forty eight hours except with court orders.

Thus, any person whose right has been infringed upon has the option to go to the court and seek a redress as adequately provided for him section 46 subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution.

Moreso, it is the collective duty of members of the society to fight for one another’s right, irrespective of which persons right is been infringed upon. John F Kennedy once said that the right of every man are diminished when the right of one man is threatened.

Finally, there are plethora of Nigerians that are gutsy and doughty, they have decided to take the bull by the horn , and fight against the incidence of police brutality and harassment.

Example of such brave Nigerian is a certain Mr Yekeen Abass, who filed a fundamental rights suit against the police at the federal high court.

The Federal High Court in Osun awarded N2 million damages against the police and two others in favour of one Yekeen Abass over his unlawful arrest and prolonged detention.

Peter Lifu, the judge, delivered the judgment in a fundamental human rights suit brought by Mr Abass against the state’s Commissioner of police.

The Applicant had sued the respondents following his unlawful detention and human rights violation sometimes in 2017 at the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Osogbo.

The judge held that the police unlawfully detained the plaintiff for more than 48 hours, as required by law, without finding any fault against him or charging him to court.

Furthermore, an Owerri-based lawyer, Chukwuemeka Amaghiro was awarded the sum of 20 million naira when he filed a fundamental human rights suit against the police for assaulting him.

In his judgment, Justice K.A Orjiako, said the respondents were found guilty of gross violation of the applicant’s fundamental human rights.

The list of such brave Nigerians are endless, but to effectively tackle this ugly scourge of police intimidation and harassment, more Nigerians should do more and take more actions.

Samuel Okolie is a Lagos based legal practitioner. He can be reached via mailto:[email protected]


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