The Breach of Human Rights in Nigeria by Police

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Human rights loosely refer to moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in national and international law.[1] In the words of Udombana[2], human rights are claims which an individual makes against or on society deliberately by virtue of his humanity. These rights are contained in various municipal and international instruments. These laws are based on certain fundamental principles relating to the promotion of human survival, prevention of harm, promotion and sustenance of human dignity, and the enhancement of human development thus giving prominence at global, regional, and national levels. These principles recognise the basic concept that peace and security of life and property are the primary conditions for progress and development of any society.[3]Consequently, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria asserts that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.[4]It can be inferred from this provision that every other purpose of government is secondary. All over the world, the principal agency given the responsibility of internal peace and security of nations is the police. The police are considered the most visible symbol of any government’s power and authority and the primary enforcer of its laws, and the instrument of social control in the hands of those who are managers of the State.[5] In relation to this, the 1999 Constitution provided that: There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.[6] In order to maintain order and enforce the law, the police are endowed by the Constitution and laws with enormous powers of surveillance, arrest, investigation, search, seizure, interrogation, detention, bail and prosecution.[7]The operation of the Nigerian police is endowed with wide discretion in the law enforcement process. This includes, when and how much force is to be used, when to arrest, whom to search and whom not to, etc.[8] In consonance with the provisions of the Constitution, powers and duties were conferred on the Police by the enactment of the Police Act [9]which empowers the Police among other things with the duties of:
  1. Prevention and detection of crime;
  2. The preservation of law and order;
  3. Apprehension and prosecution of offenders;
  4. Enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged;
  5. Performance of military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required by them or under the authority of the Act or any other Act; and
  6. Protection of life and property.[10]
While these powers are aimed at enhancing security and development in the society, it has become a very great threat to democracy, development, human well-being and human rights due to its discretionary nature. The police in the current Nigeria are at the forefront in breaching the rights of citizens which they are supposed to protect thereby limiting the sanctity of human life, human dignity, human freedom and rights. In other words, the power has become an instrument of oppression and exploitation because they are not regulated and lack all form of accountability whatsoever. This research will focus on the breach of human rights in form of torture and extrajudicial killing in Nigeria by the police and suggest the way forward in protecting innocent citizens from the fangs of police brutality.


Torture has been a subject of major concern in Nigeria. However, the rate of extra judicial killings in recent times has increased drastically. Reports have shown the wide spread disregard for human rights in the police force. Amnesty International reported that in 2010, hundreds of people were killed in police custody.[11] The Nigeria Police Force is responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, unlawful killings (e.g. torture to death while in detention) and enforced disappearances each year. The families of the victims usually have no recourse to justice as many of such cases go uninvestigated and unpunished. Many do not even get to find out what happened to their loved ones as police tell the families that they were transferred to another station or released on bail without any documentation to show for it. The Chapter IV of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria sets out the fundamental human rights of the citizens of the Nigeria. The provisions of the Constitution are clearly against torture and killing and promote the right to life. Also, Nigeria has long ratified the several UN instruments on Human Rights, such as Universal Declaration on Human Rights, United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since the 28th of June, 2001, but the impact is yet to be felt by the general public.


In this research work, the questions that come to mind and would have received illumination by the end of this work are;
  • What exactly is the role of the Nigeria police
  • To what extent is torture prevalent in Nigeria
  • What is the state of arrest and detention practice in Nigeria
  • Whether there is in existence any form of rehabilitation scheme for torture victims
  • What exactly is the state of documentation and reporting of extrajudicial killings and torture


The aim of this work is to create awareness to the Nigerian citizens that they have rights even when in police detention and also suggesting possible reforms that can bring about a change to the current practice by the Nigerian police. It is my aim that this project will reach out to the appropriate authorities and strike a chord for change. It is trite fact that where there is knowledge, there is an opportunity for improvement. At the end of the study, it is desired that the following issues should have to a reasonable degree received illumination:
  • Systematic torture in police and other centres of detention.
  • Arrest and detention practices.
  • State of Human Rights Training in the Nigeria Police Force and other officers in- charge of detention facilities in Nigeria.
  • Internal Control of the Nigeria Police Force.
  • State of Institutionalised mechanism for compulsory autopsy of all deaths in custody.
  • State of rehabilitation services, care and treatment for torture victims by the State.
  • State of reporting and documentation of all cases of Torture and Extra Judicial Killings
  • Possible reform in the Nigeria Police Force, Prison Service and Other Law Enforcement/Detention Agencies


Public confidence is an important tool for effective policing. When police commit torture, murder, and other crimes, they belittle the public confidence so essential to ensuring public safety and security. A culture of criminal policing and permeating corruption by police personnel promotes lawlessness and fosters an increased sense of insecurity. This research will be carried out using information drawn from various legislation, case law and official reports, as well as secondary materials, including newspaper articles and reports by governmental, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental organisation on the subject matter in various states within Nigeria. Spatially, this study is not limited to any particular era or point Nigeria’s in history; it studies the growing pattern of heinous practices by the Nigeria police force against the Nigerian citizens.


In compiling this work, reference will only be made to various newspaper articles, legislations, case law and reports by governmental, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental organisations despite the fact that I would have loved to get first-hand information from torture victims or a relative of someone who has been killed extra judicially. However, this lack is funded by the well-founded fear of police reprisal in the hearts of various police torture victims and relatives with good information.


The method of data collection employed for this research is the doctrinal method. It involves the harnessing of information from existing materials (legal and non-legal); which include reported cases, journals, reports and articles.


Extrajudicial Killing Extrajudicial killing refers to any execution of person(s) by the state or other official authority via any of its agencies other those carried out in conformity with the law. Also, an extrajudicial killing can be said to be the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.[12] Torture The infliction of intense pain to the body or mind to punish, to extract a confession or information, or to obtain sadistic pleasure.[13] Rights Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention or ethical theory.[14]
[1] Wikipedia [Internet]. c2014. [cited 2014 Nov 24]Available from: [2] Udombana, Nsogurua J, (2014)Lecture On Human Rights, 8th October. [3] Arase SE, Iwufor I, (2007) Policing Nigeria In The 21st Century. 1st Ed. (Ibadan): Spectrum Books Limited. [4] Section 14(2) (b), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (CFRN) 1999 [5] Lokulo-Sodipe JO, (2011) The Role of the Nigerian Police in the Protection of Citizens’ Rights to Life and Human Dignity in Nigeria. 6. U.I.J.P.B.L. p. 96-97. [6] Section 214(1) [7] Alemika EO, Chukwuma IC, editors. (2003) Police Accountability in Nigeria: Framework and Limitations, Civilian Oversight and Accountability of Police in Nigeria 47 (Abuja): University of Jos, Centre for Law Enforcement Education and Police Service Commission. [8] Alemika EO, (2010) Enhancing Police Accountability System in Nigeria: The Missing Links, Enhancing Police Accountability System in the Nigeria Police Force. 7 Abuja (AB): Cleen Foundation. [9] (Cap C38) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 [10] Section 4 of the Police Act (Cap P. 19), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (L.F.N.), 2004. [11] Amnesty International Report. (2011) Unlawful Killings and Enforced Disappearances; The State of the World’s Human Rights. [12] Wikipedia [Internet]. c2014. [cited 2014 Dec 27]Available from: [13] Garner BA, editor, (2009) Black’s Law Dictionary 9th Ed. Texas (TX): Thomson West. 1528 p. [14] Wikipedia [Internet]. 2014. [cited 2014 Dec 27] Available from:
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The Breach of Human Rights in Nigeria by Police. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved July 12, 2024 , from

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