Know the things that can make an arrest valid.


2/10/2022 5 min read


The law requires that an accused person must be present in court before he can be tried on the allegation made against him. Where an accused failed to be present in court at any adjourned date, the court may order for his arrest. However, where an accused is charged with an offence, the penalty of which does not exceed N100.00 fine or six months imprisonment and he has pleaded guilty in writing or so pleads through his legal practitioner, his absence in court may be allowed. Under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the fine is N10,000.00 or six months imprisonment or both. Also, where an accused person misconduct himself by interrupting the proceedings in such a way as to render the continuation of the proceedings impracticable or where the court is conducting an investigation as to whether the accused person is of unsound mind and thus incapable of making his defense, then the court may conduct the proceedings in his absence. Under the Criminal Procedure Code Laws, before an accused is sentenced, it is mandatory that he is present in court. A judge or magistrate may issue summons or warrant of arrest to compel the appearance before him of any person alleged to have committed any offence that may be tried within the State. Where such suspect has been arrested, he may be searched in order to discover evidence that may be used against him in court. For a deep understanding of what constitutes summons, arrest and searches and its uses in criminal trials, a consideration of the following scenario may be necessary.


At the time of arrest, the warrant will be shown by the officer arresting the offender to the person to be arrested thereby disclosing the reason for the arrest unless there is a reason to the contrary. This requirement is however not necessary where the suspect is in the actual course of commission of the offence or is being pursued after the commission of the offence or is escaping from lawful custody.

If the officer is not with the warrant at the time of making the arrest, he may proceed to arrest the offender and if the suspect being apprehended so demands, show him the warrant immediately he gets to the station.

An arrest can be made by not only using words of mouth "you are under arrest" but by touching or confining the body of the person to be arrested. In the course of making an arrest, the police shall P not handcuff. Leg chain, beat or maltreat the suspect unless there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect wants to resist arrest. Where force is to be used to arrest a suspect, the force must be reasonable as a force that will cause death or grievous harm to a suspect is not permissible unless the suspect himself is armed with dangerous weapons.

A person who is arrested in connection with an offence must be taken with reasonable dispatch to the police station and thereafter arraigned before the court where the warrant of arrest was issued except there is an endorsement at the back of the warrant stating otherwise.

The powers of the police to arrest without warrant are contained in section 3 Administration of Criminal Justice Act, sections 10. 11, and 55 Criminal Procedure Law, section 26 Criminal Procedure Code Law, section 10 Administration of Criminal Justice Law, Lagos State, 2011, section 24 Police Act and section 18 Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

Cases where the police can arrest without warrant are:

i.) Any person reasonably suspected of committing an indictable offence;

ii.) Any person who commits an offence in his presence;

iii.) Any person who obstructs the police in the execution of his duties;

iv.) Any person who escapes from lawful custody;

v.) Any person in possession of goods reasonably suspected to be stolen or unlawfully obtained:

vi.) Any person reasonably suspected to be a deserter from the Armed Forces;

vii.) Any person suspected to have committed an offence outside Nigeria which offence if committed in Nigeria, would have been an offence and liable to be arrested:

viii.)Any person having in his custody an implement of house breaking without a lawful excuse:

ix.) Any person whom he reasonably believes a warrant of arrest has been issued by a court of competent jurisdiction in the state;

x.) Any person who has no ostensible means of income and who cannot give a satisfactory answer about himself;

xi.) Any person who is concealing himself with a view to committing an offence which is a felony or a misdemeanor;

Where an Act provides that an offender cannot be arrested except with warrant, the police cannot arrest such offender except if the offence is committed in his presence. The police will therefore need to first obtain a warrant of arrest before arresting the suspect.

If the police on a reasonable suspicion arrest a suspect under the belief that an offence has been committed tut no offence was in fact committed, the police may not be held liable in damages for the arrest because the arrest was based on a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed. However, if the arrest is not based on reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed, or the arrest was made maliciously, the police may be held liable in damages for unlawful arrest. In the case of Commissioner of Police V Obola the suspect sued the police for the enforcement of his fundamental rights and damages. He also complained that each time there was a case of armed robbery in his area, the police as a matter of routine would pick him up, pat him in custody and subject him to treatments that berated his dignity. The court held that the suspicion of the police was unreasonable and that the arrest was unlawful. The court awarded the sum of N17,500.00 as damages in favor of the suspect for the humiliation, anxiety, deprivation, time lost and the mental agony which the police subjected him to while in custody.

In Conclusion, the police may arrest and detain suspects in order to verify facts of defenses or in further investigation of the offence. For instance, if a suspect is arrested and he raises a defense of alibi, the police have a duty to investigate such facts to know whether there is merit in such defense.



1. Section 352(1) ACJA; Section 210 CPL; Section 153 CPCL; Section 208 ACJL; Adeoye V State [1999] 6 NWLR (pt.605) 74 at 86-87 SC.

2. Section 100 CPL.

3. Section 135(1) ACJA.

4. Section 223(1) and (2) CPL; Section 217 (1) and (2) ACJL and Section 278 (2) ACJA.

5. section 154 (3) CPCL.

6. Section 79 and 80 ACJL; Section 113 ACJA and Section 81 CPL.

7. Section 5(1) ACJL.

8. Section 3(1) and Section 27(3) ACJL and Section 43(3) ACJA.

9. Section 29 CPL; Section 28 ACJL and Section 44 ACJA.

10. Section 3 CPL; Section 1 ACJL and Section 4 ACJA, Sadiq V The State (1982) 2NCR. 142.

11. Section 28(3) CPL; Section 37 CPCL; Section 2 ACJL, Section 5 ACJA and Section 35(4) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

12. Queen V Agbochi FSC. 167/63 (Unreported).

13. Section 28(4) CPL; Section 62 CPCL; Section 9(1) ACJL and Section 46(1) ACJA.

14. Section 10(2) CPL; Section 26(a) CPCL.

15. Jackson V Omokoruwa (1981) 1 NCR. 283.

16. (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt. 120) 130 at 135, C.A.

17. Dogo V The State [2001] FWLR (Pt. 39) 1388, S.C; Odu V The State [2001] FWLR (Pt. 54) 271 S.C.


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