This article highlights the impropriety of seeking Justice through the mechanism of the Nigerian Police rather than through the Law Courts in civil matters. Here, I throw a beam of light on the Nigerian Police as a “Kangaroo Court.”
One of my first observations when I kickstarted my practice as a Legal Practitioner, was the incessant menace of the Nigerian Police, meddling into pure civil transactions.
The fundamental question I threw at myself was whether the Nigerian Police could act as an arbiter in civil transactions or whether it was a problem of striking a balance between Civil and Criminal actions.
It was no surprise that the Supreme Court in Kure v. COP (2020) 9 NWLR pt 1729, pg 296, held that the Police is not a debt recovery agency. It is thus not the business of the police to entertain and set itself as an arbiter in contractual and purely civil transactions.
The primary duty of the police as set out under Section 4 of the Police Act, is the prevention, detection, and investigation of crime, which ultimately leads to the prosecution of offenders if found culpable.
It is very common for people to resort to the police station or the use of the machinery of the police even on the slightest provocation or Breach of Contract. The Police on its own has set itself as an arbiter in Civil disputes in order that it can “smile to the bank” albeit on other sentimental inclinations. It is even more disturbing that the above is not even done surreptitiously but glaringly.
Most people are in fact inclined to going to the Police rather than approach the Law Court, including some Lawyers who resort to encouraging Clients to do the same. This is usually done in bad faith and under the auspices of being desperate and not being ready for the long duration, it will take to get justice in Court.
Antagonists of this misnomer can therefore arm themselves with the decision given in Kure v. COP cited above in ensuring that justice is only sought in the Court of Law. The Nigerian Police must ensure that its officers are given proper orientation and map out punitive measures for erring Officers. The Courts on their own must be ready to give such orders and ensure its enforceability against the Police in appropriate circumstances.
Lawyers, Civil societies, relevant NGOs, etc must also continue to be vocal against this eccentric and egregious behavior by the Nigerian Police.
Sadly, even though there is a recent Supreme Court Judgment on this topic, the Nigerian Police has continued to maintain the culture of nose-diving into and entertaining civil matters in its offices, setting itself as a Kangaroo Court, giving judgments, enforcing same and awarding costs. While the Court should be, and in fact is the last hope of the Common man, the Nigerian Police has turned Itself into the “last hope of the desperate common man.”