Home Community Insights No, a police officer is not allowed to slap a citizen

No, a police officer is not allowed to slap a citizen

No, a police officer is not allowed to slap a citizen
A police officer search Catholics before they attend a Mass to celebrate Good Friday in Abuja, Nigeria Friday, April 18, 2014. Nigerian Catholics joined Christians around the world in celebrating Holy Week ahead of Easter Sunday. (AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba)

A video was trending last week of two boys assaulting a police officer; they brushed down that police officer as they were shuffling and shouting at themselves. 

Reacting to this video, the Public Relations Officer of the Police Force Headquarters, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi stated thus on his Twitter page: “Even if a policeman on uniform slaps a civilian, the civilian has no right to retaliate more so if he is on his (official) uniform, it is an act of disrespect to Nigeria, to beat an officer on a police uniform,  the disrespect is not to the policeman but to our nation and its a crime as enshrined in our criminal laws”. 

If I understand his tweet properly, he is trying to put it out there that a police officer on duty is not acting in his (personal) capacity, rather, that police officer is acting in his official capacity as a law enforcement agent of the country and therefore acting on behalf of the federal republic of Nigeria and every respect and honor that is to be accorded to the federal republic of Nigeria should as well be accorded to that officer.

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This force Pro line of thought although reasonable but is to some extent flawed and I beg to respectfully disagree with him to some extent.

In as much as a police officer is acting on behalf of the government, no law anywhere empowers a police officer or any other law enforcement agent to slap or assault a citizen under any circumstance. He is not even allowed to slap or assault a suspect or an accused person. If he does, he has committed a crime punishable under the Nigerian laws and if a citizen assaulted or slapped by an officer decides to retaliate in the heat of the moment, they can only at best be tagged as “two fightings”. 

This statement of the force PRO is more like an encouragement to officers to assault citizens because they know they are serving the government and the citizens cannot retaliate or assault them back. 

This is what the criminal code act of Nigeria has to say in Sections 351, 354 and 355. 

  1. Punishment of assault.                            Any person who unlawfully assaults another is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable, if no greater punishment is provided, to imprisonment for one year.
  1. Assaults on person protecting wrecks.      Any person who unlawfully assaults and uses actual violence to a peace officer or any other person while acting in the execution of his duty in or concerning the preservation of a vessel in distress, or of any vessel or goods wrecked or stranded or lying under water, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
  1. Assaults occasioning harm.                    Any person who unlawfully assaults another and thereby does him harm, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

There is no exception or exemption to this crime. If a police officer slaps or assaults a citizen during the course of his duty, that police officer will not be exempted or excused because he is an officer of the law, he has committed a felony and will also be duly prosecuted.

Citizens are encouraged to respect law enforcement agents and the intent of this post is never to make an excuse for any form of uncivilized behavior by any person against officers of the federal republic of Nigeria, but actions call for reaction, therefore, law enforcement agents are also expected to be civil and uphold the highest form of decorum while discharging their statutory duties as they will never be exempted from prosecution if they commit any crime in the discharge of their duties.

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