The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, has issued an order to begin stop and search operation which will concentrate mainly on roads within and outside major cities in Nigeria.
This decree was set to improve the country’s security in fighting crime and ensure the safety of Nigerians. I would say the police so far has tried their possible best to ensure that criminals have been brought to book.
The Police Act in Section 29, states that a police officer ‘…may detain and search any person whom he reasonably suspects of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything which he has reason to believe to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.’
Therefore, the police have the power to search, however, it is not absolute. There has to be a reasonable suspicion that the person has stolen or unlawfully obtained property in his/her possession. That is the position of the law. The test to decide what is reasonable, is something referred to as the ‘objective test’ i.e. whether a reasonable man would have conducted the search of a person in the circumstances.
The stop and search operation has therefore given some hungry police men the right to extort money from people ranging from bus drivers to cab men even to personal car owners and so on across all states in Nigeria neglecting their main aim which is to catch criminals and protect the lives of other citizens not to extort money from them. It is no longer strange how police go through people’s phones, laptop and electronic device looking for evidence of internet fraud ‘yahoo yahoo’ on prospective citizens
The police have a right to search phones and laptops, however this search can only be performed if a search warrant has been issued. If the police officer does not have a warrant to search your phone or laptop or other electronic device then any search carried out is an illegal one.
Stop and search powers can be used by the police in better and worse ways. If stop and search are carefully targeted, there would be fewer stops. A well-targeted stop is also less likely to alienate the person involved; although there is plenty of evidence to show that stop and search is not been used in the right manner. However it is still necessary to ensure that the selection and treatment of those searched under these powers are based upon objective factors connecting with an incident; and the police also have to help to minimize the embarrassment that a person being searched may experience. For as long as the power of stop and search are in the hands of the police, it can be seen as a long term problem.
by Demilade Odujirin