SEARCH AND SEIZURE IN NIGERIAN LAW WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO THE NORTHERN STATES

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SEARCH AND SEIZURE IN NIGERIAN LAW WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO THE NORTHERN STATES

Abstract:

The centrepiece of this thesis is the study of the Nigerian law or. search and seizure with special reference to the Criminal Procedure code. BasicalTv, search and seizure,is a process employed to recover either from the “body of a person or from a premises, material needed for the purpose of law enforcement. Hence, the police tan make use of the process to recover criminal evidence, in the course; of their investigation or, where necessary, in order to forestall the commission of crime,. Bv employing the process of search and seizure, therefore, the police may, for example, recover a hidden weapon from the body of a suspect or retrieve stolen property from the place or premises where such property is kept. Let me hasten to state at this point that although the law in Nigeria empowers law enforcement agents to conduct search and seizure in the performance of their respective functions, this power is not absolute. The provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Act relating to search and seizure provide the legal framework for the exercise of this power. As a background to my treatment of this subject, it is deemed appropriate, as a first step, to undertake a survey of the development of English common law principles on search and. seizure. This is because of the close historical connection between the common law and Nigerian law as well as the pursuasive nature of English court decisions in Nigeria. – V – This thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter one i.-e., the introductory chapter, identifies the main probelm connected with the, exercise of the power of search and seizure which the law strives to eliminate or control. And that concerns the balancing of the private and public interests involved in search and seizure in such a way as to ensure the protection of citizens in their p r i – vacv without prejudicing the process of effective law enforcement in any way. Chapter two discusses the common law position on the subject with special reference to England and the United States, In doing so, the chapter c r i t i c a l l y examines the applicable common law principles in this area, the circumstances when search is allowed, and the limits of seizure. It may be noted here that, subject to some exceptions. ,the orthodox common law view’is that search is allowed only when (i) it is conducted with the consent of the person to be searched, or ( i i ) it follows a lawful arrest, or ( i i i ) it is conducted on the authority of a search warrant. Some of the exceptions to this common law position include (i) the frisking of suspects ( i i ) search, in emergency s i t u a t i o n s, and ( i i i ) cases of items taken in plain view. Chapter three is devoted to the study of the Nifrnrian law on search and seizure. Against the “background of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Act, this chapter considers when search of a – vi – person or place can “be made with or without warrant, what property may “he seized, and the powe^ of retention of the seized property. It further considers the procedural requirements for the issue and execution of search warrants. Finally, as a means of securing the liberty of persons wrongfully or unlawfully detained, the chapter contains a “brief comparison “between n search warrant issued for that purpose under section 77 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the habeas corpus procedure. Chapter four focuses on the question of admissibility of evidence obtained bv illegal search nnd seizure. It “begins “by defining an “illegal” search “before proceeding to treat the admissibility aspect. Here, the Nigerian position is considered in line with other common law jurisdictions, such as, India, England and the United States. The question of what remedies are available to a victim of unlawful search and seizure is considered in chapter five. The chapter discusses “both the preventive options open to an intended victim and the remedial options available to an actual victim. For instance, while the intended victim may exercise a right of resistance or petition the courts for an injunction, an actual victim may “bring an action to recover damages for trespass, assault the courts or “battery, or petition/for restoration of the items seized. Chapter six is the concluding chapter. It highlights the shortcomings of the law in its present form and the problems associated with its application. It concluded by recommending the implementation of some specified measures with a view to attaining an overall improvement in the situation.

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