The central duty of the Nigerian Police Force is to solve crime as well as maintain law and order. In the course of fulfilling this duty, the Police necessarily have to interview and even arrest suspects.
This leads us to the question under consideration in this article which is – what if the police come to arrest my father and cannot find him, do they have legal powers to arrest me; his son? Simply put – can the police arrest you in place of a suspect?
Our question bothers on arrest by proxy (also called arrest in lieu). Let’s simplify that. Arrest by proxy is a situation where the Police or any other law enforcement agency arrests one person for the offence of another person. A common example is where the relative or loved of a suspect is arrested instead of the suspect himself (or herself). This usually happens where the suspect cannot be found easily.
The justification often used for doing this is that the suspect would come out from his or her hiding once he gets to know that his loved one has been arrested by the Police. Situations like this are common around the country but let us give you an urgent example;
As reported by thecable.ng, on August 26, 2020, Johnson Kokumo, the then Edo state commissioner of police, paraded six suspects in connection with the rape and murder of Vera Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the University of Benin.
During the media interview session after Kokumo’s speech, one of the suspects, 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 the actual suspect.
Do the Police Have legal Powers to Arrest by Proxy in Nigeria?
So, what does the law say? Or like we asked before does the Police have legal powers to do this?
The simple answer is a sincere NO. To put that in a moderately long sentence – It is illegal for police or any security agency to arrest any person for an offence committed or suspected to have been committed by another person. No matter the offence. Criminal liabilities cannot be assumed, transferred, inherited or sexually transmitted.
Various provisions of the Law clearly make arrest by proxy illegal. They include –Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Section 36 of the Police Act 2020.
The Courts have ruled severally to uphold the law that the Police do not have the powers to arrest by proxy.
Pardon that we have to type it again; It is illegal for the Police to arrest you for an offence you did not commit in place of another person (the real suspect).
Nkobowo Frederick Nkobowo LLB