- THE NIGERIAN POLICE; A Debt Recovery Agent? (Blessing Akinsehinwa Esq. ACIArb.)
That the Nigeria Police has and is being used to interfere in civil transactions is not a secret. That members of the force have also been used by individuals and organisations especially banks to recover debts is a common norm.
A raging then begs to be answered; ‘Is the Nigeria Police Force legally empowered to recover debts and or interfere generally in civil transactions?’
Section 4 of the Police Act, CAP P19, LFN 2004 comes to our rescue. It provides-
‘The police shall be employed for the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of this or any other act’
From the foregoing, it is quite clear and unambiguous that nowhere is the Police empowered to interfere in a purely civil transaction.
Why then do Nigerians resort to the Police as a debt recovery agent? IT IS FASTER.
Why the heck will I subject myself to the rigours of litigation, filing of processes, payment of professional fee to lawyers, unending adjournments, uncertainty of the law, when I can easily pay a Policeman who will help recover my money within such a short period of time.
This practice has so gained prominence that even Police officers engaged to recover these sums do so dauntlessly.
Even the courts have pronounced in a plethora of cases that this practice is illegal, yet the practice has not subsided.
In Ken Mclaren & 2 Ors v. James Lloyd Jennings (2003) 5FR 107, the Court of Appeal held of policemen who went to Kano to collect a debt that;
‘it follows that the policemen who accompanied the appellants to Kano and assisted them in the arrest of the respondent were on a frolic of their own. The arrest was not authorised by the act and consequently unlawful, wrongful, illegal and cannot afford the appellants a shield’
This is not to say that the police cannot be invited where there are criminal elements in the transaction. For instance, where there is an element of forgery, fraudulent misrepresentation and or criminal breach of trust; the police can step in to investigate and prosecute the criminal aspect but not in the recovery of the debt owed.
What then can a creditor do in view of the above stated arguments? To this, I humbly submit that you consult your Lawyer, after all Lawyer must chop!
Blessing Akinsehinwa Esq. ACIArb.
A Legal Practitioner based in Abuja.