POLICE – DUTY OF POLICE – Whether the duty of the police includes the settlement of civil dispute or debt collection


“As I went through the facts of this case, I was wondering how a purely civil matter could easily metamorphose and transubstantiate into a purely criminal case. The end result now is that the Appellant has suffered irreparable damage, disgrace, shame, odiousness and untold hardship in the hand of the Police that is constitutionally and legally saddled with prosecution of criminal offences. The police have muzzled the rights and freedom of Nigerians even where cases are clearly outside their jurisdiction, power or corridor. If this is not curbed, everybody including the judicial officers will suffer always from floodgates of civil matters being hijacked by the police and transmuted into crimes. If this is not tackled, everybody would have suffered in the merciless hand of the police who has become a law unto itself in this country. The primary duty of the Police by Section 4 of the police Act is the prevention of crime, investigation and detection of crime and the prosecution of offenders. See IBIYEYE V. GOLD (2012) ALL FWLR (PT 659) 1074. The Police is not a debt recovery agency and has no business to dabble into contractual disputes between parties arising from purely civil transactions. See MCLAREN V. JENNINGS (2003) FWLR (PT 154) 528. When, as in the circumstances of this action, a purely civil matter is reported to the Police, such a person cannot go scot-free as the report ought not to have been made at all since it is not within the purview of Police duties. It is a report made malafide and he will be equally liable for the action taken by the Police irrespective of whether he actively instigated them or not, since he had no business involving the Police in a purely civil matter in the first place. Such conduct which portrays disregard of the law and is aimed at using the coercive powers of the State to punish a contracting party in a purely civil matter ought to be mulcted in exemplary damages. See OKAFOR & ANOR V. AIG POLICE ZONE II ONIKAN & ORS (2019) LPELR- 46505.” per AJI, J.S.C. at p. 32 – p. 33

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