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Friday, December 9, 2022

Can police collect debt?

Bamidele Kolawole

“The statutory duties of the Police under the Police Act are to maintain peace, law, and order in the society. Debt collection or loan recovery is not within the purview of the statutory duties and powers of the police.

David Ebriku Esq

It is illegal and unconstitutional to involve the Police in recovering debts. The Nigerian Police Act contains the duties of the police and at no point did it saddle them with the responsibility of arresting a debtor on the instruction of a creditor, when the debtor fails to liquidate his debts.

      The failure of a debtor to liquidate his debts is not a criminal offence under the law; it’s a civil offence and as such, the services of the Police and other security agents will not be required. They do not have the power to prosecute a debtor.

Fajulugbe Tomisin Esq.

It is no news again, that there is a fast-rising trend of people, organizations, and microfinance institutions leveraging on the Police to recover the debt.

As this might look simplistic, there is the need for a more focused examination of the legal analysis, as well as its proprietary, hence the question- can the police be an agent of debt recovery? The Police are governed by the Police Act, and it is apposite to state that Section 4 of the Act covers the extensive duties and functions of the Police Force, notably, imposing an obligation on the police to maintain peace and security and to protect the rights and freedom of every Nigerian by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and other applicable laws.

It is in line with this that Section 32(2) of the Police Act 2020 addresses the constant practice of the involvement of the police by individuals in simple civil disputes and for debt recovery, and thus prohibits the police from arresting anyone based on a civil wrong or breach of contract.

Examples of civil cases here include; disputes between landlords and tenants, property disputes, disputes over the sale of land, disagreements over matrimonial issues, and debt or loan recovery.

The Courts have restated their position on the Police as being agents of debt recovery in several cases, part of which is Skye Bank Plc v. Emerson Njoku & Ors. (2016) LPELR 40447 (CA) the court held thus; “We have deprecated, several times, the tendency of a creditor resulting to the police to force his debtor to settle simple debts or bank loans, and the willingness of the police to accept to do so, using their coercive power wrongly, to violate the fundamental right of the debtor.”

Similarly, in the case of A.C (O.A.O) Nigeria Limited V. Umanah (2013) 4 NWLR (PT. 1344) PAGE 323, the court also held that; “The statutory duties of the Police under the Police Act are to maintain peace, law, and order in the society.

Debt collection or loan recovery is not within the purview of the statutory duties and powers of the police.” However, there exist exceptions to this rule.

The exception is to the effect that the police shall have jurisdiction to recover the debt in instances where the indebted sum is characterized by clear proof of fraudulent ingredients such as; criminal intent to cheat, criminal breach of trust, or conversion, otherwise it would be seen as acting beyond their powers.

Generally, the rule is that the Police is not a debt collector. However, there are instances when the debt in question arises from Fraudulent or pretentious obtains, which constitutes an Offence punishable under the law, and at this point, the Police can act to the extent of the Power conferred under Sec.4 of the Police Act (as Amended).

In all these, complainants are fond of moving lawyers to do Petitions to report purely Civil monetary transactions as Obtained under Pretenses, just to move the Police to help them recover what could become bad debt. 

The Nigeria Police Force is a constitutional establishment to maintain law and order in society. Section 214. (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

It should be noted that section 4 of the Police Act spells out the duties of the police which include but are not limited to the maintenance of law and order, detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes, etc.

It should therefore be noted that *debt collection is not either expressly or impliedly part of the duties of the police.

It is therefore illegal for the Nigeria Police Force as a law enforcement agency or any of its officers and agents to allow itself (or themselves) to be used as debt collectors by an aggrieved creditor.

Debt recovery is undoubtedly within the purview of civil action and not within the powers of the police.

The Nigeria Police Force and its officers will be liable for any unlawful arrest and/or detention predicated upon debt recovery.

There is a plethora of decided cases on this issue. The Court of Appeal in the case of Skye Bank Plc v. Emerson Njoku & Ors. (2016) LPELR 40447 (CA)* held that:

“We have deprecated, several times, the tendency of a creditor resulting to the police to force his debtor to settle simple debts or bank loans, and the willingness of the police to accept to do so, using their coercive power wrongly, to violate the fundamental right of the debtor.”

Also in the case of A.C (O.A.O) NIGERIA LIMITED V. UMANAH (2013) 4 NWLR (PT. 1344) PAGE 323, the court also held that;

“The statutory duties of the Police under the Police Act are to maintain peace, law, and order in the society. Debt collection or loan recovery is not within the purview of the statutory duties and powers of the police.”

It is based on the above-decided judicial authorities and many others that I humbly submit that it is illegal for the police to recover debt for any creditor.

Olubunmi Akinseye

Generally, the rule is that the Police is not a debt collector. However, there are instances when the debt in question arises from Fraudulent or pretentious obtains, which constitutes an Offence punishable under the law, and at this point, the Police can act to the extent of the Power conferred under Sec.4 of the Police Act (as Amended).

In all these, complainants are fond of moving lawyers to do Petitions to report purely Civil monetary transactions as Obtained under Pretenses, just to move the Police to help them recover what could become bad debt. 

The Nigeria Police Force is a constitutional establishment to maintain law and order in society. Section 214. (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

It should be noted that section 4 of the Police Act spells out the duties of the police which include but are not limited to the maintenance of law and order, detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes, etc.

It should therefore be noted that *debt collection is not either expressly or impliedly part of the duties of the police.

It is therefore illegal for the Nigeria Police Force as a law enforcement agency or any of its officers and agents to allow itself (or themselves) to be used as debt collectors by an aggrieved creditor.

Segun Oni, Esq

Debt recovery is undoubtedly within the purview of civil action and not within the powers of the police.

The Nigeria Police Force and its officers will be liable for any unlawful arrest and/or detention predicated upon debt recovery.

There is a plethora of decided cases on this issue. The Court of Appeal in the case of Skye Bank Plc v. Emerson Njoku & Ors. (2016) LPELR 40447 (CA)* held that:

“We have deprecated, several times, the tendency of a creditor resulting to the police to force his debtor to settle simple debts or bank loans, and the willingness of the police to accept to do so, using their coercive power wrongly, to violate the fundamental right of the debtor.”

Also in the case of A.C (O.A.O) NIGERIA LIMITED V. UMANAH (2013) 4 NWLR (PT. 1344) PAGE 323, the court also held that;

“The statutory duties of the Police under the Police Act are to maintain peace, law, and order in the society. Debt collection or loan recovery is not within the purview of the statutory duties and powers of the police.”

It is based on the above-decided judicial authorities and many others that I humbly submit that it is illegal for the police to recover debt for any creditor.

Debt is a state of being under an obligation to pay or repay someone or something in return for something received. It is an obligation that requires a party known as the debtor, to pay money or any valuable property to the other party referred to as the creditor.

    The Legislation is meant to guide the operation of every sector, therefore, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is governed and regulated by the Police Act which spells out the modus operandi of the NPF, Section 4 of this very Act talks about the General Duties of the Police:

The Police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime

The apprehension of offenders,

The preservation of law and order

The protection of life and property,

The due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged

And shall perform such military duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.

These are the statutory duties of the NPF, any other function not stated here, is an act of illegality, therefore, the NPF is not or never is a debt recovery agent in Nigeria, going to them is tantamount to resorting to self-help which the law does not recognize. They can only come in if the transaction involves a fraudulent act.

Adetoro Awojobi Esq

Police is not a debt collector. It is a settled law that the police is not debt collector or debt recovery agent. In the case of ABAH v. UBN PLC & ORS (2015) LPELR-24758(CA), the question was whether the powers of the police extend to the enforcement of private contracts and the Court of Appeal held thus:

The learned Counsel for the Appellant has rightly submitted and cited the case of Augustine Ahka V. COP (1999) 2 LRCN 54; where the Supreme Court reasoned that: A person cannot therefore in the absence of a Court order be deprived of his liberty for so failing. The general tenor of the Police Act and, in particular, Section 4 shows that the Police have not been given any powers to handle matters of civil nature between private citizens.

They are only concerned with the prevention, detection, and prosecution of criminal offenses. In the circumstances, the Applicant is quite justified in his complaint that the police acted unconstitutional in arresting him.

Just as the EFCC has no powers to arrest and detain the Appellant for inability to repay a loan legitimately secured from the 1st Respondent, so did the police and any threat of the latter to be used to apprehend the Appellant by the 1st Respondent as in Exhibit ‘F’ was enough for the Appellant to seek the protection of the law from his rights to liberty, freedom of movement and privacy being violated and he did not have to wait for the 1st Respondent to carry out his threat before he could seek redress in the Court.

 As had been seen from the cases I had earlier cited, pre-emptive applications are allowed by the Constitution in genuine circumstances like the one we have found in this case.

The Appellant’s Application was therefore not a deliberate design to forestall or evade the repayment or recovery of the loan granted him by the 1st Respondent as purported by the learned trial Judge.

The Learned Counsel for the Appellant was on a very sound pedestal when he referred to the cases of Ezeadukwa V. Maduka (1997) 8 NWLR (pt. 518) 635 at 660 – 661 and in particular the dictum in Mclaren Vs.

Jennings (2003) 3 NWLR (pt. 808) 470 at 484 paras. E – G; were like this case, the Respondent was the Managing Director of a Company which was indebted to the 1st Appellant, and the 1st Appellant engaged the services of the Police to recover the debt.

In the Appeal against the decision of the trial Court which held the Appellant liable for false imprisonment, the Emeritus Salami J.C.A (as he was then) in his analysis of Section 4 of the Police Act held that he had scrutinized the provisions of the Section and was unable to see anything empowering the Police to enforce a contract or collect debts. He further held that: “The Court has not been told of the laws or regulations the group went to enforce in Kano.

In short, the Appellants and the Policemen they took to Kano were there to collect debt which is not one of the several duties assigned to the Police under the provisions of the Police Act to which the Court was directed and the Court has not been able to find another provision of the Act empowering or constituting the Nigeria Police Force to one of debt or rent collector.” Per IGNATIUS IGWE AGUBE, JCA (Pp 90 – 92 Paras A – D).

Olaleye Akintububo Esq

The Nigeria Police Force is a constitutional establishment to maintain law and order in society. Section 214. (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended provides that: “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.”

The same Constitution empowers the National Assembly to make laws for the smooth operation and effectiveness of the Nigeria Police Force while carrying out its constitutional duties of maintaining law and order and other matters incidental thereto.

It should be noted that section 4 of the Police Act spells out the duties of the police which include but are not limited to the maintenance of law and order, detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes, etc.

It should therefore be noted that debt collection is not either expressly or impliedly part of the duties of the police.

It is therefore illegal for the Nigeria Police Force as a law enforcement agency or any of its officers and agents to allow itself (or themselves) to be used as debt collectors by an aggrieved creditor.

Debt recovery is undoubtedly within the purview of civil action and not within the powers of the police. The Nigeria Police Force and its officers will be liable for any unlawful arrest and/or detention predicated upon debt recovery.

There is a plethora of decided cases on this issue. The Court of Appeal in the case of Skye Bank Plc v. Emerson Njoku & Ors. (2016) LPELR 40447 (CA) held that:

“We have deprecated, several times, the tendency of a creditor resulting to the police to force his debtor to settle simple debts or bank loans, and the willingness of the police to accept to do so, using their coercive power wrongly, to violate their fundamental right of the debtor.”

Also in the case of A.C (O.A.O) NIGERIA LIMITED V. UMANAH (2013) 4 NWLR (PT. 1344) PAGE 323, the court also held that;

“The statutory duties of the Police under the Police Act are to maintain peace, law, and order in the society. Debt collection or loan recovery is not within the purview of the statutory duties and powers of the police.”It is based on the above-decided judicial authorities and many others that I humbly submit that it is illegal for the police to recover debt for any creditor.

Adedeji O.Adetula Esq

Adedeji O.Adetula Esq

It is illegal and unconstitutional to involve the Police in recovering debts. The Nigerian Police Act contains the duties of the police and at no point did it saddle them with the responsibility of arresting a debtor on the instruction of a creditor, when the debtor fails to liquidate his debts.
The police is not a debt recovery agency and have no business to dabble in contractual disputes between parties arising from purely civil transactions. See McLaren v. Jennings (2003) FWLR (Pt. 154) 528; (2003)3 NWLR (Pt.5 Aug.

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