Human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday called on Olumuyiwa Adejobi, spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), to withdraw his statement on how civilians should react to assault by officers.
Reacting on Saturday to a viral video where two men were seen wrestling with an armed officer, Adejobi had said “even if a policeman on uniform slaps a civilian, the civilian has no right to retaliate”.
“More so, if he’s on uniform, it’s an act of disrespect to Nigeria to beat an officer on uniform. The disrespect is not to the policeman but to our nation and it’s a crime as enshrined in our criminal laws,” he added.
“So it’s not a case of what the policeman did that led to it, but the reaction of the civilians who actually assaulted the police. If police assault a civilian, you report and actions will be taken to rebuke him, not to take the law into your hands.”
However, Femi Falana, in a statement on Sunday, said that law enforcement personnel are prohibited from ill-treatment of citizens and that the Nigerian constitution guarantees every citizen the right to the dignity of their person.
“Civilians are required to respect police officers who are discharging their lawful duties. The penalty for assaulting or slapping a police officer is 3 years imprisonment under the Criminal Code,” the statement reads.
“In the same vein, police officers are equally mandated to respect civilians. Indeed, section (2)(b) of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 states that torture is deemed committed when an act by which pain and suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person to punish him for an act he or a third person has committed or suspected of having committed. The penalty for assaulting a civilian is 25 years under the Anti Torture Act of 2017. In addition, the victim may sue for monetary compensation under the Anti Torture Act and the Constitution.”
While asking the police spokesman to withdraw his “highly inciting and provocative statement “ Mr. Falana said it has given the misleading impression that the Nigeria Police Force has authorized its officers to slap citizens and subject them to other forms of torture without any challenge whatsoever”.
“If the statement is not withdrawn within the next 24 hours, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, should not hesitate to replace Mr. Adejobi with another police officer who has unqualified respect for the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people,” he said.