David Alunyo v. Inspector General Police & Ors – Suit No. FCT/HC/M/5449/09, per Belgore, J.:
But was the detention beyond the prescribed limit and was the injury inflicted right in law? The answer is in the negative. The applicant was detained for 3 days. This is unconstitutional. By the provisions of Section 35(5) of the 1999 constitution as amended, arrest and detention of a citizen should only be for ONE DAY. The point must be made clearly that any violation of a citizen’s guaranteed fundamental right, for however short a period, must attract penalty under the law. See Alabo v. Boyes (1984) 5 NCLR 830; Jimoh v. A. G. Federation (1988) 4 RLRA 513. To make the matter worse, the applicant was subjected to grave inhuman condition, indignity and brutality which is not expected of any civilized police force. The conduct of the affected police officers who handled the investigation left much to be desired. It is roundly condemnable. A person or state agents who are called upon to deprive other citizens or persons of their personal liberties in the discharge of what they consider to be their duty should strictly observe the civilized forms and rule of law.
This was a fundamental rights suit filed by the Applicant against the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, FCT and SARS. The facts of the case accepted by the Court are that the applicant was accused of stealing a car. The applicant was arrested and detained by the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) for 3 days -i.e., from 1/7/09 to 4/7/09. Consequent upon the arrest and detention of the Applicant, he was thoroughly beaten, stripped naked, handcuffed, tied with a rubber as a result of which his health rapidly deteriorated. The Applicant’s vehicle that was taken from him was later released to him. On the 2nd day of his detention, he was taken to hospital. The Applicant was on the 4th day of his detention granted police bail. The Court found the conduct of SARS in the process as condemnable and delivered Judgment in favour of the Applicant, awarding him 2 Million Naira as damages.
The above case represent one of the numerous fundamental rights cases hanging over the Nigeria Police and SARS following several cases of fundamental rights breaches. In view of the unlawful activities of some members of the Squad nationwide in fairly recent years, one can reasonably liken SARS to a “terror group”. Currently, the public has raised alarm over the excesses of SARS, pressing for the scrapping of the Squad. In a swift reaction, the IGP has indicated that SARS would undergo some form of reorganisation and that all the allegations levelled against them would be investigated. It is to be recalled that SARS (which is one of the sections in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Nigeria Police, headed by a Commissioner of Police) was actually formed to specially battle the menace of armed robbery plaguing the nation.
Image credit: The Guardian.
Our suggestion is that the reorganisation should involve a total re-orientation, re-education and re-training of the Squad members. At present, even the dress code of the Squad members sometimes while on patrol makes it difficult to differentiate them from real armed robbers. This leaves much to be desired, and should also be looked into. The Nigeria’s SARS should, for instance, appear like the United States’ SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics).
It is our hope that this exercise by the IGP would be decisive and effective, yielding the desired profits so that the Squad can focus on the primary reason for its formation.
Read the Judgment here.
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