Many a time, the Nigerian Police have announced to the public to declare a person as wanted. The question that comes to mind is what ways can the general public relate with the person so declared and what should the public do to help the Nigerian Police as regards the person.
This work shall expose the legal implication of declaring a person as wanted by the Nigerian Police to wit, how should the members of the public relate with the person and what should they do to help the authority that declares the person as wanted.
What does it mean to be Wanted by the Nigerian Police?
A person becomes wanted after a reasonable suspicion has been noted about him and all the opportunities given to him by the Police for questioning about the suspicious act have been exhausted, and the person flees from where he could be apprehended by the Nigerian Police.
The Police will approach a Court that has the power to hear the matter with Application for Warrant of Arrest. This application must be accompanied with a statement of oath by the Complainant that reported the suspicious action to the Police or a Material witness (1). However, unless another law has clearly state contrary, the face of the Warrant that is issued by the Court must shall contain the followings.
The date that the warrant is issued
All necessary particulars
Signature of a Judge or Magistrate that issued the warrant (2)
On the face of the Warrant of Arrest, the name or the description of the person to whom the warrant is issued must be contained alongside the offence for which it is issued as contained under Section 36 (2) ACJA. This warrant can be issued on any day including Sunday and Public Holiday. (3).
After the warrant of Arrest has been issued by the Court, the Police can then publicize it to the public so that the members of the public can know that the person is wanted by the Police.
The Warrant of Arrest gives power to any Policeman to arrest the Suspect in any place, on any day. The only place where the Suspect can not be arrested is inside a Court, when the Court is sitting (4). It is not compulsory that the Police that is executing a warrant of arrest to provide the warrant of arrest to the suspect at the spot of arrest, but same must be provided to the suspect as soon as practicable after the arrest on request of the Suspect.
During this time the person remains a Suspect who needs to be questioned by the Police. He is not yet an Accused or a Criminal. He can only be an Accused after he has been properly arraigned in a Court of Competent jurisdiction and if the Court finds him guilty, he becomes a Criminal.
Duty of the members of the public regarding a wanted person.
Once the public has been put on notice that somebody needs to be arrested by the Police by declaring the person wanted for doing something which is an offence, nobody should receive him in his custody or render him any assistance in order to make him escape being apprehended by the Police.
Members of the public has moral obligation to inform the Police of his whereabouts or whenever they come in contact with him. They have the moral responsibility to help the police to give any information about him which may lead to his arrest.
Rights of a declared Wanted Suspect
Although the Police may have a business to do with him, he is still an innocent person, he is just a Suspect. The law wants us to believe that he is so, Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution says that;
“Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.”
Before the person can be pronounced to be guilty of an offence, he must firstly be given the opportunity to say his own side of the story which is known as fair hearing.
The Constitution of Nigeria says:
A person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
However, Anyone that address a Suspect as a Criminal may be liable to the offence of Defamation and may subsequently be punished, both at a Civil and Criminal Courts.
Section 37 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015
Section 36 (1) (a) (b) (c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015
Section 38 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015
Section 43 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015
Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Abdullahi Adebayo Abdulrauf SMCIArb (UK), writes from LLB2, Faculty of Law, Bayero University Kano. He is a Certified Teacher, Writer and a Content Creator. He is the founder of Abdullahi Legal Academy where he teaches Legal Awareness to the general public and result driven law tutorial to law students.
He can be reached at Abdulraufabdullahia@gmail.com and WhatsApp via 09034904883.
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