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Do police have rights to beat or injure a suspect in any form?

By Okechukwu Onuegbu
A suspect is any person arrested or been investigated by the police or any other law enforcement agent for committing a criminal offence. When a suspect is charged to court for a criminal offence, the suspect becomes a defendant. 
In the past, he or she could also be addressed as the accused. In court, the police (or other law enforcement agents) especially the lawyers among them and lawyers working in the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) of either the state or federal ministry of Justice are usually classified as Prosecutor or Prosecutors as the case may be.
Prosecutors are seen as administrators of justice, advocates or officers of the court.
The suspects and police brutality
It’s no more news in Nigeria that suspects often pass through punishment, trauma and brutalisation by the police mostly at point of arrest. These include slap, hitting with barter or gun, gunshot, torture, etc. even while in handcuff.
In the process, they usually sustain injury; some bone fracture, maimed or even die. In Anambra state alone, there had never been a time some crime suspects are paraded without you seen majority of them with degrees of injury.
Unfortunately, after parading these suspects, police would tell you that a very good number of them have been set free for not committing the crime accused of, etc. Don’t you wonder what would happen to any of them released with injury sustained during the period of being with the police?
The Question is; is it right for the police to injure, beat or punish a suspect in any form before trial?
Answer or answers to this question (s) are contained in Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA 2015). In section 3 of ACJA (Part II: Arrest, Bail and Preventive Justice),  it is stated that “A suspect or defendant alleged or charged with committing an offence established by the Act of the National Assembly shall be arrested, investigated, inquired into, tried or dealt with according to provision of this Act, except otherwise provided under this Act.”
It is section 4 of the Act that provides that in making arrest, “officer or other persons making the arrest shall actually touch or confine the body of the suspect unless there is a submission to the custody by word or action.” What it means is that a suspect can actually be punished if he/she tries to struggle with the police at point of arrest.
Section 5 further explains it by saying that “A suspect or defendant may not be handcuffed, bound or be subjected to restraint except (A) there is a reasonable apprehension or violence or an attempt to escape. (B) the restraint is considered necessary for the safety of the suspect or defendant or by order of court.”
Similarly, Section 33 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended empowers the Police to use force to arrest a suspect. The section says “A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, or such force as is reasonably necessary:
“(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of the property; (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained or (c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.”
The Police Force Order 237 (Rules of Guidance in the Use of Firearm by the Police) also empowered the police to use firearms under the following circumstances: “(a) when attacked and his life is in danger and there is no other way of saving his life; (b) when defending a person who is attacked and he believes on reasonable grounds that he cannot otherwise protect that person attacked from death; (c) when necessary to disperse rioters or to prevent them from committing serious offences against life and property.
“(c) if he cannot by any other means arrest a person who being in lawful custody escapes and takes to flight in order to avoid re-arrest; providing the offence with which he is charged or has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor; and (e) if he cannot by any other means arrest a person who takes to flight in order to avoid arrest, provided the offence is such that the accused may be punished with death or imprisonment for 7 years and above.”
Considering the above, it is necessary for a suspect to remain silent when arrested, avoid running or struggling with the police at point of arrest because they have several laws to capitalised on to punish a suspect or suspects in any way. Citizens should also avoid arguing with the police in any event they are with guns, avoid offering them bribe for any reason but follow them to the station if they insist.
At the station, insists on getting a lawyer before you can talk, and when speaking also make sure it is recorded as stated in Administration of Criminal Justice Act which provides your right.
Meanwhile, there is an urgent need for a review of the relevant laws that empowered police to use force in arresting or dealing with suspects due to their abuse by ‘power drunk’ officers. Training is also needed to both law enforcement agents and civilians (the citizenry) to know, understand and utilise their rights and responsibilities without undermining others own.
Okechukwu Onuegbu writes from Awka

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