Whether the IGP can be Sued for Infractions Committed by Members of the NPF

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CASE TITLE: INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE & ORS v. MR. KENNEDY UMOLO & ANOR (2022) LPELR-57715(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE:  25TH MARCH, 2022

JUSTICES:

  • MISITURA OMODERE BOLAJI-YUSUFF, JCA
  • JOSEPH EYO EKANEM, JCA
  • ABIMBOLA OSARUGUE OBASEKI-ADEJUMO, JCA

COURT DIVISION: ASABA

PRACTICE AREA: POLICE- NIGERIA POLICE FORCE

 FACTS:

Mr. Kennedy Umolo, who was the Applicant at the trial Court, is a businessman carrying on business of hiring of equipment through a company known as Ken-Ogha Engineering Limited.

​His case was that two bulldozers were hired from him by George Timinimi and Welfare Timinimi who used the bulldozers to demolish the 2nd Respondent’s property which was under construction. He was however arrested and detained by the Police at Orerokpe Police Station at the instance of the 2nd Respondent (Mrs. Lovelyn Ejoh) along with one of the bulldozers. He was granted administrative bail by the Orerokpe Divisional Police Officer and directed to report to the police station on a later date.

When he reported at Orerokpe Police Station on the said date, he was re-arrested and detained at the Commissioner of Police office in Asaba for nine (9) days. He was informed by the IPO that the case at the State Headquarters was based on Mrs. Lovelyn Ejoh’s petition. He was informed that the Police had concluded the investigation on the matter and their decision was that he should be charged to Court for the offence of riotous damage. His counsel then wrote a petition to the AIG Zone 5, Benin City.

He was already in the police vehicle on the way to Court when the police in Asaba received a signal from AIG’s office that he should be brought to Benin with the case file. He was eventually granted bail. The 2nd Respondent subsequently set in motion the machineries to re-arrest him and wrote another petition to the Inspector General of Police. This spurred Mr. Kennedy Umolo to institute a Fundamental Right (Enforcement) Proceeding at the trial Court against the Appellants and the 2nd Respondent.

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The trial Court after hearing all the parties and considering all the processes granted all the reliefs sought by the 1st Respondent.

The Appellants were dissatisfied and therefore appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:

The appeal was determined upon consideration of the issues thus:

  1. Whether reliefs 1, 5 and 6 sought by the 1st Respondent are vague and were granted against non-existing parties.
  1. Whether the failure to hear the parties on the admissibility of the documents attached to the Appellants’ counter-affidavit is a denial of fair hearing which has occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
  1. Whether on the entire facts and evidence before the lower Court, the Court was right to have granted the reliefs sought by the 1st Respondent.

COUNSEL SUBMISSIONS

Learned Counsel for the Appellant submitted that the Police Service Commission is the employer of all policemen in Nigeria and not having been made a party in the case, the trial Court was wrong to have awarded the sum of N2,000,000 (Two Million Naira) as damages against the Appellants based on the principle of vicarious liability because none of the Appellants is an employer of the other or of any police officer in Nigeria.

In response, the 1st Respondent’s Counsel submitted that the DPO, Orerokpe Police Command being an agent/servant/delegate/representative/subordinate of the 1st and 2nd Appellants at all times, the 1st and 2nd Appellants are liable for the acts and omissions of the DPO.

DECISION/HELD

In the final analysis, the appeal succeeded and was allowed.

RATIO

POLICE- NIGERIA POLICE FORCE: Whether the Inspector General of Police is answerable for the actions and infractions committed by members of Nigeria Police Force under his command

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“Sections 214 and 215 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, (as amended) provide thus: 214 “(1) 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.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution-

(a) The Nigeria Police Force shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

(b) The members of the Nigeria Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by law;

(c) The National Assembly may make provision for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the Armed Forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and air fields.”

Section 215. (1) There shall be-

(a) an Inspector General of Police who, subject to Section 216 (2) of this Constitution shall be appointed by the President on the advice to the Nigeria Police Council from among serving members of the Nigeria Police Force.

(2) The Nigeria Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of Police and any contingents of the Nigeria Police Force stationed in a State shall, subject to the authority of the Inspector-General of Police, be under the command of the commissioner of police of that State.”

Section 7 (1) of the Police (Establishment) Act, 2020 provides that: “Appointment, tenure, removal, etc; Inspector-General of Police” (1) The Inspector-General of Police shall be the head of the Nigeria Police Force and shall exercise full Command and Operational Control over the Police and all its departments and units. It is clear from the provisions of Sections 214 and 215 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, (as amended) and Section 7 (1) of the Police (Establishment) Act, 2020 that the operational command and control of the Nigeria Police Force is under the Inspector General of Police. Legally, the person or officer who has statutory control over the operations or activities of an authority should be answerable in his official capacity for whatever grievance arises as a result of performance of that duty. There is only one police force in Nigeria and the force is under the authority and command of the Inspector General of Police. Though the relationship between members of Nigeria Police Force and the Inspector General of Police is not that of master and servant the IGP is answerable for the actions and infractions committed by members of NPF under his command unless it is shown that the action or infraction complained of is outside the statutory duties of the officers. See NWANNA V. A. G. FEDERATION & ANOR (2010) LPELR-9047(CA) AT 8-10 (D). See IGP & ORS V. UCHENWOKE & ORS (2020) LPELR-50624 (CA)AT 8-10 (G-B). On the need to join the Inspector General of Police where the actions of the Nigerian Police Force is the subject matter of the proceedings, the Supreme Court in ATTORNEY GENERAL KANO STATE VS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION (2007) 6 NWLR (PT. 1029) 164 AT 192 (C- D) per Kalgo, JSC held thus: “The Inspector General of Police is the head of the Nigerian Police Force which is recognized by the Federal and State Governments of Nigeria; and it is a separate body created by the Constitution with special powers and responsibilities. Therefore, it can properly be sued.” Per BOLAJI-YUSUFF, J.C.A.

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