Can relatives be arrested in place of a suspect?

can relatives be arrested in place of a suspect

There are instances where suspects’ relatives have reportedly been arrested. This often raises the question: can relatives be arrested in place of a suspect?

It is illegal to arrest someone else in place of a suspect

In Nigeria, by virtue of section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015,1Note that by virtue of section 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, its provisions do not apply to Court Martial (i.e. military proceedings). no one else can be arrested in place of a suspect.

For example, where someone is wanted on suspicion of commission of a crime, it is illegal to arrest such person’s brother, mother, wife, etc, pending the arrest of the suspect.

The right to personal liberty is guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, except in exceptional cases provided by law. Examples of such exceptional cases are where a person is being arrested pursuant to a Court order or on suspicion of commission of a criminal offence.

In essence, someone can be arrested on reasonable suspicion of a crime but arresting someone simply as a substitute for an actual suspect (arrest in lieu) would constitute an unlawful arrest. Such unlawful arrests could be calculated to force the actual suspect to give himself/herself up. Regardless of the motive, it is unlawful.

Compensation for unlawful arrest in Nigeria

Section 35(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides that ‘[a]ny person who is unlawfully arrested or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or person’ specified by law.2See the case of Jim Jaja v COP Rivers State & Ors (2021) LPLER-20621(SC), where the Supreme Court of Nigeria ordered the sum of two million Naira to be paid to an appellant who was unlawfully arrested and detained.

References

  • 1
    Note that by virtue of section 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, its provisions do not apply to Court Martial (i.e. military proceedings).
  • 2
    See the case of Jim Jaja v COP Rivers State & Ors (2021) LPLER-20621(SC), where the Supreme Court of Nigeria ordered the sum of two million Naira to be paid to an appellant who was unlawfully arrested and detained.

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Legal Practitioner at The Law Kernel | + posts

LLB, BL, MICL

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