As a citizen of Nigeria, it is important to know the powers, functions and duties of the Nigerian Police Force. The reason is because, the police is an executive organ of the government. This simply means that they are more closer to the citizens than any other organ of government. Now, since the executive is more closer to the citizens, there is every likelihood that, in performing their legal duties, they will breach the rights of citizens. Coupled with this, it is apparent that the executive is the strongest organ of government in Nigeria.
In light of the above, it is evident that knowing the functions and duties of a police officer in the Nigerian Police Force is not only important. It is in fact, a prerequisite to avoid any breach of fundamental human rights from that particular arm of government. As one of the biggest legal and education blogger in Nigeria, I have been able to list and explain some of the duties of the Nigerian Police Force.
If you have been searching the internet to know the legal powers, functions or duties of the Nigerian Police Force, this is the best article for you. Trust me; this article contains all the legal duties of a police officer according to the police Act. Without wasting much time, lets quickly look at a brief history of the Nigerian Police Force before discussing the duties of the Nigerian Police.
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Brief history of the Nigerian Police Force
The police force in Nigeria dates back to colonial era. On the conquest of Lagos by the British Empire, Lagos became a colony of Britain and as such the colonial official in London granted permission to the British consul in charge of Lagos colony to establish a Consular Guard comprising the thirty (30) men in 1861. The formation was under the control of an English inspector of police. Recruits were mainly natives of Hausa land. They were called “Hausa Guard” and “Hausa Constabulary” at different times.
The reason why 1861 Lagos Consular Guard was entirely made up of Hausa natives is not obvious but it seems their usual willingness to serve as professional security guards could account for that.
The Lagos Police Force was commissioned on 1st January, 1896, for the whole of Lagos and suburb. Members of the 1896 police force were kitted like the “Hausa Constabulary”. It was commanded by a resident English Commissioner of police who also carried out the duties of a sheriff, Inspector of Weight and Measures and functioned at the same time as the office-in-charge of prisons.
In 1891, the Delta Area declared as the Oil River Protectorate with headquarters in Calabar had an armed Constabulary which was later renamed “Coastal Constabulary”. The force in 1896 features prominently in the British expeditions to Benin. They operated only for six (6) years.
In 1886, the Royal Niger Company was granted Royal Charter to operate in the Northern Nigeria, where it set up the Royal Constabulary in 1888 with headquarters in Lokoja to protect its installations along the banks of the River Niger. This unit of the Constabulary played an important role in the British invasion against Bida and Ilorin.
In the south, in 1906, the Lagos Police force and a part of the Niger Coastal Constabulary unit became known as the southern Nigeria Police Force while the other bulk of the Niger Coastal Constabulary unit formed the southern Nigeria Regiment.
Despite the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914, both police forces continued to operate separately unit 1st April, 1930, when they were merged to form the Nigerian Police Force with Headquarters in Lagos and Commanded by Commissioner of Police which was the same as the present Inspector General of Police.
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Functions and Duties of the Nigerian Police Force
1. Conduct prosecutions
The Police Act confers on police officers the duty to conduct, in person, all prosecutions before any court whether or not the information or complaint is laid in his name. The power to prosecute given to the police is exercised in all criminal matters. In fact, all criminal cases are initiated by the police. It is the duty of the police to file criminal cases in court after the preliminary investigation and start legal proceedings against the accused person(s).
However, this duty of the police is subject to the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999, which relates to the power of the Attorney General of the federation and of state to institute and undertake, take over, and continue or discontinue criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria.
The police officer in conducting prosecution serve as an intermediary between the citizens who are the victim of offence and the state against which the crime is committed. Merely forbidden the doing of certain acts is ineffective if breaches cannot be followed by panel sanctions.
Accordingly punishment is aimed at security compliance with the norms of right conduct which are necessary for the smooth running of the society. Fear of punishment in this regard is highly respected for a community which is too ready to forgive crime may end up Condoning it.
In Andrew v C.O.P W/2CA/74 (Unreported), the lower court sentenced the accused to one year imprisonment for burglary, on appeal to the high Court, the court viewed the sentence as derisively law and as such it would make a mockery of the administration of justice. This is an evidence of a successful prosecution of a criminal case by the police.
The ultimate goal of police prosecution is to achieve the disablement or deterrence of the offender. For the prosecution of the society, the offender should be disabled from commission of further crimes. The police prosecution at any given event is aimed at securing maximum punishment for the offence committed.
2. Maintenance of law and order
One of the legal duties of the Nigerian Police Force is the maintenance of law and order in the Nation. The police is the only public officer charged with this responsibility in Nigeria. For this reason, whenever there is a disorder or dispute in any part of Nigeria, the police is by law, obliged by law to take care of the situation. It should also be noted that the is an executed organ and government and as such, it has the constitutional power to implement laws passed by the National Assembly and other policies of the government.
Take for instance, if the government makes a policy that stops the selling to certain goods by the road side, it is on the police as an executive organization of the government to execute that policy. That is, to make sure that the policy is enforced.
The Nigerian police force also has the responsibility of protecting the lives of citizens in the country. Take for instance, where a particular crime which is capable of taking the life anybody is committed, it is the legal obligation of the Nigerian Police Force to stop such crime as fast as it can.
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3. Make an arrest
Undoubtedly, another obvious duty of the Nigerian Police Force is to make an arrest when necessary. This is a very important duty in the police act because, If the law did not make provision for arrest, criminals would have gone unpunished each time they are caught. There would have been liberty for criminals.
To deal squarely with criminals, the law allows derogation of certain fundamental human rights in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons, in so far as the derogation is for the welfare of the society and is within the ambit of the law. This is corroborated in section 45 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999.
The power of the Nigerian Police to arrest is treated in two perspectives for the purpose or effecting the arrest of suspects. Arrest is either with warrant or without warrant. Section 10 of the criminal procedure Act, provides that arrest can be made without a warrant. This authority is exercisable in respect of offences committed in such officers presence.
Ths Act also provides that notwithstanding the provisions of this or any other written law in relation to arrest, a police officer knowing of a design to commit any offence may arrest, without order from a magistrate, and without any warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officers that the commission of offence cannot otherwise be prevented.
In addition to power to arrest without warrant, conferred upon a police officer by section 10 of the Criminal Procedure Act, a police officer can call any persons to his assistance to arrest any other person committing a crime.
4. Conduct a search
Although the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guaranteed and protected the right of private and family life, this right notwithstanding is not absolute, a superior police officer may be authorized under his hand, authorize any police officer to enter any house, shop warehouse or other premises in search of stolen property and search therein and seize and secure any property he may believe to have been stolen, in the same manner as he would be authorized to do if he had a search warrant, and the properly seized, if any, corresponded to the property described in such search warrant.
It is argued that the major reason why the law gave the Nigerian police force this duty is to aid them in performing their duty to ensure safety and protection of the lives of citizens.
In law, the ordinary law of tresses to land applies to a police officer unless his conduct is justifiable under the law. If a police officer is discharging a lawful duty, any person who disturbs him, will be charged for serious assault and obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty.
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5. Power to grant bail
The police act also makes it incumbent on the Nigerian Police Force to grant bail under certain circumstances. Take for instance, If a person is arrested without warrant for an offence which is not punishable with death, any officer in charge of the police station may, in any case, and shall, if it will not be practicable to bring such person before a magistrate or justice of peace having jurisdiction with respect to the offence charged within twenty four (24) hours after he was taken in to custody, inquire into the case, and, unless the offence appear to such officer to be of a serious nature, discharge the person upon his entering into a recognizance with or without sureties for a reasonable amount to appear before the court at the time and place named in the recognizance.
But where such a person is retained in custody he should be brought before a court or justice of peace having jurisdiction with respect to the offence or empowered to deal with such person as soon a practicable, whether or not the police inquiries are completed.
If the officer believes that inquiry into the case cannot be completed forthwith, he may discharge the arrested person on his entry into a recognizance with or without sureties for a reasonable amount to appear at the police station at the time stated in the recognizance.
6. Power to take fingerprints
Lastly, The Police Act conferred on the Nigerian Police Force the duty and power to identify any citizen of Nigeria either by taking his/her measurement, photograph, and fingerprints impression.
The Act provides that it shall be lawful for any police officer to take and record for the purpose of identification the measurement, photograph, and fingerprints impression of all persons who may from time to time be in lawful custody; provided that if such measurements, photographs and fingerprints are taken of a person who has not previously been convicted of any criminal offence, and if such, person is discharged and acquitted by a court, all records relating to such measurements, photographs and fingerprints impressions shall forthwith be destroyed or handed over to such person.
The Act also provides that any person who shall refuse to submit to the taking and recording of his measurements, photographs or fingerprints impressions shall be taken before a magistrate who on being satisfied that such person is in lawful custody, shall make an order as he thinks fit authorizing a police officer to take the measurements, photographs and fingerprints impression of the such person.
Problems facing the Nigerian Police Force
1. One of the problems facing the Police Force is inadequate funding.
2. The force is under staffed in relation to the population of the country.
3. The force is also ill-equipped compared with sophisticated nature of crimes and criminals in the society.
4. The Nigerian Police Force is also contributed with lack of well educated personnel.
5. The training facilities at the reach of the police force are inadequate.
6. High level of bribery and corruption of police officials.
7. The problem of aiding and abetting of crime by some bad members of the police force.
8. Frequent government interference into the activities of the police force is another problem.
9. Politicization of the Nigerian Police Force.
10.Poor condition of service within the police force like unattractive salaries, poor housing etc.
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Above are the legal duties of a police officer in Nigeria. Apparently, where there is any form of obstruction by any person, in the course of carrying out these duties, the law will punish that person for obstructing a police officer of law. Nonetheless, just like I have said already, this article is to educate you on the various duties of the Nigerian Police Force, so that you will be able to know when they are acting outside the provisions of the law.
Hope this article was helpful? If you still have any question or reaction to the content of this work, kindly send your opinion using the comment section below. I will be glad to hear from you!
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.