B Bamidele Kolawole
Arrest is the first step towards Justice delivery in criminal matters. It is usually effected upon complaint or allegation of crime against someone or upon suspicion that someone is in the process of committing a crime.
Arrest is the first step towards Justice delivery in Criminal matters. It is usually effected upon Complaint or allegation of crime against someone or upon suspicion that someone is in the process of committing a crime.
Although, the usual Practice would be to first obtain a WARRANT for the arrest of the suspect or culprit as the case may be, however Warrant may not be required before effecting an Arrest in situation where there is Apprehension that the suspect might escape, nonetheless, it must be obtained and shown to the suspect as soon as he gets to the station, so that the suspect can be informed of the alleged offence.
As to whether a CIVILIAN can effect arrest of a suspect? The response is a conditional yes. This type of Arrest is known as Arrest by “Private Person” and it has to be according to Law.
This type of Arrest is unique, in that, it is an Arrest without WARRANT, because of the circumstances surrounding the Arrest.
The civilian or private person who effects the Arrest must bear in mind that; he must handover the suspect to a Police officer immediately after the Arrest without delay, take the suspect to the nearest Police station, if there is no Police officer around.
I must quickly add, that it may be necessary for a re-Arrest of the suspect depending on Jurisdictional consideration, as provided in the NIGERIAN Laws.
Under the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence, arrest can be carried out by private persons aside the police and other security personnel saddled with that responsibility, and this is provided under the various criminal procedure laws of the various states in Nigeria for example, Section 21 ACJL Lagos State and Section 24 Police Act provides that a private person may arrest without warrant in the following circumstances:
1. Any person who commits an indictable offence in his presence;
2. Any person whom he reasonably suspects of having committed a felony – Nweke v. The State.
3. Any person who commits a misdemeanour by night;
4. A property owner can arrest any person found committing an offence injurious to property;
5. If an arrested person escapes or is rescued from custody.
6. Any person whom he is directed to arrest by a Justice of Peace or a Superior Police Officer.
7. Any person who has escaped from his lawful custody;
8. Any person required to appear by public summons.
9. Any person who commits offence in his presence – Section 13 ACJL, Lagos State.
10. Any person he finds damaging public property.
These were stated in Nweke v State.
NOTE – a person who resists by force an attempt by a private person to arrest him in the exercise of his right cannot claim the benefit of self defence This was the position of the court in- Abdullahi v. Borno Native Authority.
Upon reasonable demand, every person is bound to assist a Judge, Magistrate or Police Officer in effecting an arrest or preventing the escape of any person whom such a Judge, Magistrate or Police Officer is authorized to arrest Failure to so assist without reasonable excuse and knowledge is a misdemeanour punishable by imprisonment for one year.
This is captured under the ACJL of various States in Nigeria and the ACJA .
It is trite law that private persons (which you referred to here as “civilians”) are empowered to lawfully arrest a suspect.
Our criminal jurisprudence permits arrests by private persons subject to certain conditions which includes not subjecting the arrested person to any form of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment.
Section 15 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ondo State, 2015 provides that: 15 (1) Any person may arrest any person in Ondo State who commits an indictable offence in his presence, or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence which is felony or having committed by night an offence which is misdemeanor in Ondo State; (2) Upon the arrest of any person under subsection (1), the private person shall not subject the arrested person to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment.
It should also be noted that in the Northern part of Nigeria Section 28 (d) of the Criminal Procedure Code makes similar provisions to the effect that private persons can effect the arrest of a suspect even without warrant.
Section 13 of the ACJL, Lagos State which is _impari materia_ with Section 16 (1) and (2), ACJL Ondo State, authorize a property owner, his servant or agent to arrest without warrant any person found committing an offence involving injury to property. Also, if an arrested person escapes or is rescued from lawful custody, the person from whose custody the arrested person escapes or is rescued can pursue and re-arrest the escapee or offender without a warrant of arrest.
Having exercised his power of arrest, a private person must proceed , without unnecessary delay, to hand over the arrested person to a police officer. Where the private person is unable to immediately hand over the arrested person to a police officer he must take the arrested person to the nearest police station. See Section 17 (1) of the ACJL Ondo State.
Take notice that the authority of a private person to make arrest without warrant was approved by the Supreme Court in the case of Nweke v The State (1965) 1 All NLR 114 where the Apex Court held that a private person can arrest without warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects of having committed a felony.
Furthermore, where a private person is empowered to arrest without warrant, any threat by him to make the arrest is not unlawful. He is therefore not liable for assault and such threat cannot amount to provocation.
A private person can arrest a suspect under the laws of Nigeria. The Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ondo State, 2015, just like the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 provides for arrest of a suspect by a private person.
Section 15 of the Law provides that any private person may arrest any person who commits an offence in his presence or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence.
The law also provides that persons found committing an offence involving damage to his property or a public property may be arrested by the owner of the property or persons authorized by him.
By virtue of section 17 of the same law, a private person who arrests, shall handover the arrested person to the law enforcement officer or a law enforcement agency.
Upon the arrest of such person, the private person shall not subject the arrested person to torture or degrading treatment.
Private persons just the like the law enforcement agencies can with or without a warrant arrest any person who commits an indictable offence in his presence.
He/She can equally arrest an offender whom he/she reasonably suspects of having committed an offence either a felony or misdemeanor (simple offences) See Section 15(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ondo State, 2015.
However, a rider to the aforementioned provisions is to the effect that such suspect shall not be subjected to torture, inhumane or degrading treatment by the arrester.
This of course is line with Section 34(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) which protects the right of an individual from inhumane and degrading treatment. For example, the rampant lynching and killings of individuals suspect to be offenders is a clear violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of such suspect.
As part of the civic duties and obligations to the nation, the private persons who arrest without warrant shall in assisting the Police immediately hand over the person to the Police Officer or take such person to the nearest Police Station.
Furthermore, the police shall upon the arrest of the suspect, take the particulars and/or information of the Private Person who effect the arrest. See Section 17 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ondo State, 2015.
The inference to be drawn from the above quoted provisions of the law shows the law promotes civility in the dispensation of justice as opposed to the Jungle Justice punishment meted out by the members of the Public or by private persons when dealing with offenders.
Unfortunately, several innocent persons get killed during the process and that could bring about a serious nightmare
Nigerians with no fault of theirs now take the laws into their own hands all in the name of wanting to get “quick” justice.
A clarion call is therefore made to the relevant government agencies to constantly remind and/or sensitize members of the public on dangers inherent in jungle justice via the various media platforms.
Secondly, Security outfits should also ensure that they discharge their duties effectively, without fear or favour so that private persons could repose confidence in them, and not resort to Jungle justice for the fear of not getting the desired result from the Police as a result of corruption.
When this is put in place, private persons would have increased trust in the police in the dispensation of justice.
An arrest can be described as a taking or keeping of a person in custody by legal authority especially in response to a criminal charge or the apprehension of someone to secure the administration of the law of bringing that person before a court.
There are two types of arrest;
a) arrest with warrant
b) arrest without warrant
A warrant of rest is an order directed to the police or any other person to arrest an offender and bring him before the court to answer a complaint made against him. See Part VIll of the Police Act 2020 for Warrants
There is a need for powers of instant arrest of offenders without obtaining a warrant of arrest. This is to forestall many suspects escaping after committing a crime before they are arrested by law enforcement agents. This is referred to as arrest without warrant.
By law, the following persons may arrest without a warrant:
) the Police See S. 3 ACJA, 2015, S. 10,11& 55 CPA, 26 CPC.
2) a Judge, Magistrate or Justice of the Peace. See S. 18 ACJA, S. 16 CPA, S. 30 CPC,
3) A Private Person. See S. 20, ACJA, S. 12 CPA, S. 28(d) CPC, See also, R v Ogunbodede (1959) WRNLR 27, Abdallah v Borno N.A. (1963) 2 NSCC 132
A private person implies a civilian in layman’s language. A private person can arrest anyone who in his view commits an indictable offence or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed a felony or a misdemeanour by night.
The power of the private person to effect an arrest without warrant received judicial approval in NWEKE v THE STATE (1965)1 ALL NLR 144 where the Supreme Court held that a private person may arrest where he reasonably suspects somebody of having committed a felony. It must also be noted that under the ACJL, the private person who affects an arrest must make a statement of the circumstances of the arrest.
Where a private person makes an arrest, he must hand over the suspect to the police or to the nearest police station immediately. If a private person unreasonable delays in handing over the arrested suspect to the police, he may be sued for damages for false imprisonment.
In a nutshell, a civilian can make an arrest where there is reasonable suspicion that a suspect has committed an indictable offence(s) and the suspect must be handed over to police or taken to a police station.
The power to arrest is not only within the confines of security agents. Just like Police Officers, a private person can arrest any person without a warrant. Where a private person has a reasonable suspicion of a person in the commission of an offence, he can arrest and handover the suspect to the Police or take him to the police station.
The Nigeria Police Act 2020 and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) gives private citizens the power of arrest. Section 20 ACJA provides “A private person may arrest a suspect in Nigeria who in his presence commits an offence, or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence for which the police is entitled to arrest without a warrant”.
Section 23 ACJA 2015 further provides “A private person who arrests a suspect without a warrant shall immediately hand over the suspect so arrested to a police officer, or, in the absence of a police officer, shall take the suspect to the nearest police station, and the police officer shall make a note of the name, address and other particulars of the private person making the arrest”.
Similarly, Section 30 of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 states that “a private person may arrest a suspect in Nigeria who in his presence commits an offence or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence for which the police is entitled to arrest without warrant”. Section 40 Police Act equally provides same as section 23 ACJA.
Conclusively, after an arrest by a private person, the person so arrested is expected to be handed over to the Police officer and the police would thereby initiate an investigation into the alleged crime.
It must be noted that the person so arrested is still a suspect. Citizens should not take laws into their hands and more so, jungle justice should be carried out.
The appropriate road map to justice is to allow investigations to be done by the police and for the suspect to be possibly charged to court.
Arrest is the confinement of a person suspected to have committed a criminal offence. It is the touching of the body of the person so arrested by pronouncing the magic words: “You are under Arrest”.
The law empowers a person other than a security agency to arrest a person seen to have committed a crime or trying to commit an offence of whatever nature.
The law only allows a civilian to effect arrest on an offender and immediately the arrest is made, such an offender must be handed over to the police or the security agency saddled with the power to investigate the crime for which such an offender is arrested.
The bottom line is that, where a civilian arrests an offender, he is expected to immediately, handover the offender to the security agency.
Similarly, if a civilian sees a person committing an offence, especially a felony, he must act immediately. Where he fails to act by preventing the commission of a crime, he or she shall be guilty of an omission to act.
Omission to act generally, is where the law imposes certain legal duty on a person and failure to discharge that duty, is an omission which the law forbids.
“Arrest” means a seizure or forcible restraint or the taking or keeping of a person in custody by legal authority, especially in response to a criminal charge; specifically, the apprehension of someone for the purpose of securing the administration of the law, especially of bringing that person before a Court” See Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition, p.124.”
The Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and The Nigerian Police Act 2020 empowers a private citizen to arrest someone who commits an offence recognised by the law or is suspected of having committed an offence.
Section 20 of the ACJA provides that ” A private person may arrest a suspect in Nigeria who in his presence commits an offence, or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence for which the police is entitled to arrest without a warrant.” This position was established in the case of Nweke V. State where the Supreme Court held that a private person may arrest where he reasonably suspects somebody of having committed a felony.
Section 39 of the Nigeria Police Act of 2020 states that “a private person may arrest a suspect in Nigeria who in his presence commits an offence or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence for which the police is entitled to arrest without a warrant”.
This implies that citizens are allowed by the law to arrest suspects of a crime without the presence of the police.
However, after the arrest has been made by the private citizen, he or she shall, without unnecessary delay, handover such a suspect to a police officer or take the suspect to the nearest police station. Failure to comply with the above procedure, may render such a citizen liable in damages. See John Lewis V. Tims (1952) 1 All E.R. 1203.
The Nigeria Police Act 2020 also provides that “a private person who arrest a suspect shall immediately hand over the suspect so arrested to a police officer or in the absence of a police officer, shall take the suspect to the nearest police station and the police officer shall make a note of the name, address and other particulars of the private person making the arrest”. See Section 20 of the Act.
To conclude, it is important to re-iterate that the private citizen who made the arrest is not expected to take the law into his or her hands by way of jungle justice but hand over the suspect to the police.
After the suspect has been handed over to the police, the police will then investigate to determine if the suspect has committed an offence.