Police cautioned against trump up charges

By Sunmola Olowookere
Nigerian police has been cautioned not to get carried away by the dire security situation in the nation and thereby trump up charges against accused persons.

Making this charge was the Akure Branch Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr Daniel Olagbenga, while speaking with The Hope in Akure.

He said this while reacting to the controversial comment made by the Lagos state Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmus, that pant thieves would soon be charged with attempted murder.

The Zonal police spokesman while making the comment had claimed that most pant thieves arrested usually confessed that the motive was to use the pants for rituals and that most of their victims die shortly after the ritual.

In spite of this, the NBA chairman argued that before a person can be charged and convicted of an offence, two basic criminal elements must co-exist.

Olagbenga stated that the mental element of a person’s intention to commit a crime; or knowledge that one’s action or lack of action would cause a crime to be committed is a necessary element of many crimes.

 He explained further that the external element or the objective element of a crime has a Latin term for the “guilty act” which, when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in combination with the first aspect “guilty mind”, produces criminal liability in law.

“Hence, a man can only be successfully charged for an offence where the ‘intention’ and ‘action’ coincide.

“By virtue of the provisions of section 36 (8) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, no person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed.

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“Subsection 12 of the same section 36 of the 1999 Constitution provides thus:  “Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefore is prescribed in a written law, and in this subsection, a written law refers to an Act of the National Assembly or a Law of a State, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law.” He said.

The legal practitioner stated further that combined reading of subsections 8 and 12 of section 36 of 1999 Constitution therefore postulates that a man who stole an underwear cannot be charged for murder.

Olagbenga argued that there is no connection between the criminal offence of stealing and murder.

He expounded that though the intention is present, the (action) of killing is absent. And the law does not provide for such an offence as “murder” by mere act of stealing an underwear.

In this vein, he advised that men of the Nigerian Police would therefore be showing overzealousness in charging suspects for the offence of murder in place of stealing.

“It is a gross abuse and violation of fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens,” he stressed.

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