*POLICE AND ARBITRARY ARREST*

By The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi
   
In a clime like ours, where notable criminal activities hold sway, conscious efforts at ridding the society of bad eggs ought to be the business of every responsible and responsive government. Although government reserves the right to adopt strategies it deems fit to combat its peculiar societal malaise, I am afraid if arbitrary arrest and detention with heavy fines is any option in the list of the possible strategies.

Of late, several complaints of arrest and detention of individuals in which there is no likelihood or evidence of crimes committed have continued to trail the operations of the men of the Nigerian Police Force. Sadly, this is gradually becoming a norm in our country.

Apart from the fact that victims are denied explanation as to why they are being arrested, they are, in most cases, subjected to physical or psychological torture during interrogation as well as extra-judicial punishment and other abuses. Even where victims are proven to be innocent after all, they are still not given the privilege to go without paying huge amount of fines.
This violates the United Nations’ declaration on human rights which strictly prohibits the act of depriving an individual of his or her liberty.

Article 9 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”.
By this singular provision, no individual, regardless of circumstances, is to be deprived of his liberty without having first committed an actual offence against a legal statute. This also means that not even the government can deprive an individual of his liberty without due process of law.

Suffice it to say that anyone who is deprived of his liberty by unlawful arrest or detention, shall be entitled to challenge it before a court of competent jurisdiction. This also means that victims of unlawful arrest and detention have an enforceable right to compensation.
If, therefore, all these information about arbitrary arrest and detention are anything to go by, it is still not clear why any police officer should clamp down on unsuspecting persons in the guise of ridding the environs of criminals through indiscriminate or mass arrest only to release them later on payment of huge sums of money. It becomes worrisome when security agents hide under the cloak of securing a place to harass and embarrass innocent and law-abiding citizens just for pecuniary gains.

Unfortunately, the security challenges in country in recent time have made the intervention of the police inevitable even when the citizenry have complaints about their mode of operation which is usually in excess. But for how long would this be allowed to thrive? Must every person be harassed in a bid to fish out the bad elements? The recent method of combing communities through indiscriminate or mass arrest is viewed by many Nigerians as a money–making strategy, usually embarked upon by the police when they run out of cash, rather than efforts to sanitise the society of criminal elements.

As a matter of urgent public importance, i condemn in strong terms, incessant intimidation and arrest of innocent citizens by officers of Nigerian Police Command.
I wondered why the police who are supposed to be state instrument for the protection of lives and property of citizens now embark on arbitrary harassment, arrest and detention of innocent citizens.

For me, the police have rather become an instrument of political strife, witch-hunting and vendetta in the hands of government officials. I know, however, that am just one voice among many who could not be heard but are troubled and pained by this ugly development. These activities of the police tend to criminalise persons who are no longer free to gather and hold meetings or discuss on matters of mutual interest without the police raiding and arresting them for reasons known only to the security agents.

This trend, if allowed unchecked, might enthrone impunity and turn the police against the people they are supposed to protect and secure. Law-abiding Nigerians should be allowed to enjoy their fundamental human rights instead of subjecting them to unnecessary arrest and harassment.

Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice is the Best way to Go Raising Anti Corruption Crusaders fighting Injustices in a Violent and Immoral Society of Nigeria for a Better Nigeria come 2019.

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