My dear Colleagues, on Friday, 10th July 2020, the Asst. Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onitsha Branch, Chukwuemeka Hills Asiegbu, Esq. was arrested by men of the Nigeria Police Force, at Onitsha, Anambra State and was taken to Abuja. As I understand, he was arrested and detained as a result of a civil dispute that arose out of a purely land transaction at Onitsha. As I write, he has already spent more than 12 days in the custody of the Police. On Monday, 20 July 2020, Hon. Justice S.N. Odili, of Anambra State High Court, ordered the release of Mr. Asiegbu from detention pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit filed on behalf of Mr. Asiegbu. Regardless of this valid court order for his release, the Police have blatantly refused and neglected to release him.
This is a veritable case of assault on the rule of law by our law enforcement officers, and once again, our capacity to stop it has been put to test. As I have stated countless times, our law enforcement officers are not above the law and their powers as clearly defined in the laws are limited. Statutorily, the Police has no power whatsoever to make any arrest or detention on ground of civil dispute. Section 8(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (“the ACJA”), provides thus: “A suspect shall not be arrested merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract.” Again, court orders have the force of law and are binding on the Police. It is not within the domain of their discretion to choose to obey or not to obey court orders.
The arrest of Mr. Chukwuemeka Asiegbu is not only illegal, unjustified and unprofessional but amounts to an infringement of his fundamental right, no matter the attempt to colour the dispute with criminality. Clearly, the Police has no right to intermeddle in civil dispute. I condemn such unlawful act by the Police in the strongest term and call on the Inspector General of Police to obey the court order by ordering the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Asiegbu, with a public apology to him.
Joyce Oduah, FICMC
Candidate for the Office General Secretary