By Sani Bello Hamza
It as not a new norm in most Nigeria Police stations that after the arrest of a suspect for an alleged crime, the suspect will be handed over to a police officer who will obtain a statement from him under duress or an unfavorable atmosphere. Upon arraignment, the police will proceed to tender the statement as evidence before the court.
Police officers under the umbrella of the Nigerian Police force are not allowed by Law to “obtain” a statement from a suspect or an accused person charged with a criminal offense. Their duty is to simply take or record the statement of the accused–if he made any or if he wishes to. The accused can however decide to remain quite or request that the statement should be taken in the presence of his lawyer or any other person of his choice. The police are also not allowed to forcefully extract a statement from the suspect if he choose to remain quite. (See Onuba v IG 1957 NNLPR, 17. and section 17 of the ACJA)
The cumulative effect of this is that; If a police officer “obtain” a statement involuntarily or through oppression of the person that give the statement and the statement is tendered as evidence before the trial court, the confessional statement will not be admitted on ground of involuntariness, vel non. (See section 29 of the evidence Act 2011)
There are several statutory and judicial authorities in relation to this. The supreme court has ruled severally that a confessional statement must be made voluntarily without any form of oppression or intimidation. The confessional statement must also be direct positive and not equivocal. Simply put, there should be no any form of intimidation or oppression at the time of giving the statement. (See State v. Abdullahi Sani 2018 NWLR SC)
Police officers should stop acting arbitrarily outside the canons of the Law. Adequate facilities should also be provided to security agents to ensure they perform their duties effectively.
Sani Bello Hamza is a Law student at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, he writes from Zaria and can be reached through his email; email@example.com or 09013506168