HOW LONG CAN A LAW ENFORCEMENT VALIDLY DETAIN YOU IN NIGERIA

Know how long detainment can be valid in Nigeria.

CHAMAN LAW FIRM

2/11/2022 2 min read

HOW LONG CAN A LAW ENFORCEMENT VALIDLY DETAIN YOU IN NIGERIA

Despite the constitutional provision that limits the duration of detention of suspects without court orders, violation of suspects’ rights in this regard still litter pages of the media.

The 1999 Nigerian constitution clearly states that persons arrested or detained shall be brought before a court within a “reasonable time”. According to the constitution, the reasonable time means a period of 24 hours when a court of competent jurisdiction is within a radius of 40 kilometres to the police station or a period of two days in any other case.

Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time, and if he is not tried within a period of – (a) two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail; or (b) three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date.”[1]

“In subsection (4) of this section, the expression “a reasonable time” means – (a) in the case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of forty kilometres, a period of one day; and (b) in any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable.”[2]

This implies that the detention of arrested suspects for more than 48 hours without being charged to court is against the provisions of the constitution. The Nigeria Police Act 2020[3] agrees with the provisions of the constitution while stating that a suspect arrested without a court warrant, other than a capital offence, should be granted bail, where it is impracticable to charge to court within 24 hours.

The Nigerian 1999 Constitution provides that that an accused person who has been arrested on the allegation of having committed an offence must be charged to court within 24 hours where a court of competent jurisdiction is located within a radius of forty kilometers from the police station and where a court is located within a radius above forty kilometers from the police station, the accused person must be charged to court within 48 hours or such longer period as a court might consider reasonable.

In conclusion, it is illegal and unconstitutional for a suspect to be detained for more than 48 hours by the police (or government agency) without ball or without charging the individual to court Covernment agencies include agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) etc.

REFERENCE:

1. Section 35(4) of the 1999 constitution.

2. Section 35(5) of the 1999 constitution.

3. Section 6(1).

 

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