Can Police Officers Arrest An Individual For Civil Wrong?

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By Sani Bello Hamza

Nowadays, police officers go outside the purview of the Act that establish them to entertain and settle civil matters in their offices, disregarding the procedures laid down by the law and the Act that establish them. People are also fun of reporting civil matters to the police for settlement. Whereas, the police will invite the suspect/accused to their office for “investigation” or go extra mile to apprehend and detain the person thereby setting aside the provisions of section 8(2) of the ACJA 2015 and section 32(2) of the police Act. which provides thus; “A suspect shall not be arrested merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract”.

The Nigeria Police is not a debt recovery agency; they are not Arbitrators and they do not have the right and Jurisdiction to dabble into civil matters with no element of criminality in it. Their primary duty is detection and prevention of crime; investigation and prosecution of offenders. The police are not expected to entertain or meddle into civil matters which may constitute; marital issues, breach of contract, land issues etc. [ See MCLAREN V. JENNINGS (2003) FWLR (pt. 154) 528 and section 4 of Police Act 2020 ]

Civil matters are expected to be instituted or filed in a competent court and not the police station.

Police officers are enlightened individuals, they are expected to direct or refer whoever report a purely civil matter to them to a court to pursue his civil claims or enforcement of a contractual agreement. People should also beware of using the instrument of Police force to pursue their civil claims as that will amount to irreparable damage and wickedness. (See OKAFOR & ANOR V. AIG ZONE II 2019 LPELR-46505)

Now, If I may advise you, whenever a Police officer or other law enforcement agent try arrest you for breach of contract or civil wrong, do not panic. Consult your lawyer and seek for his guidance on the steps you should follow. Or, feel free to approach the court to seek for damages or compensation. Do not give anyone the room to violate your fundamental rights.

Sani Bello Hamza is a Law student at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, he writes from Zaria and can be reached through his email; or 09013506168


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