Do Nigerians have right to record policemen doing something illegal?


Why not? Ordinarily, we are supposed to have CCTV all over the place. Contracts were awarded in Lagos and Abuja, but the money was criminally diverted. About $470m was stolen. In all the cities of the world that have CCTV, these illegalities are naturally recorded so if ours was working, individuals wouldn’t need to do that. In the United States and other countries of the world, you have CCTV. The traffic lights also have cameras such that if you break the law, your number plate and car would be captured and that is how your address and details would be traced and you get a ticket. Also, in all airports in the West where there have been terrorist attacks, the criminals have been traced through CCTV.

So, it is a sign of backwardness on our part that our country has not installed CCTV because that is the primary way of detecting criminal activities. And for public officers like policemen, you have no right to privacy when you are on duty so you can be videoed or photographed if you are committing a crime because under Section 24 of the 1999 Constitution, every citizen is obligated to assist law enforcement agencies in the performance of their duties.

So, even the media is required by Section 22 of the constitution to promote public accountability and transparency. SO, there is no secrecy in governance. So, no policeman can take you to court for recording him while committing a crime just like any other citizen. Nobody can say, ‘you have violated my right to privacy’ if I record him or her killing a citizen or beating up a citizen.

It is the constitutional responsibility of every citizen to assist the law enforcement agencies in detecting, preventing and enforcing the laws of the land; it is lawful to record or procure any material that is impeccable and can be admissible in evidence against any law enforcement agent performing an illegal duty.

This is a minimum constitutional requirement of a citizen to demonstrate his/her loyalty to the country. Failure to perform this duty makes such citizens liable for arraignment for accessory before the fact of a crime committed by the state agent. Prosecution and conviction of legal infractions in law courts depend on the weight of evidence. Given the poor attitude and the high propensity of the average police personnel for high-handedness, extra-judicial and human rights abuse, it is logical to get them on tape or video while performing such illegal duties.

Conversely, citizens can also record an act of excellence and professionalism displayed by any security agent for public attention, commendation and recognition for reward by the appropriate higher authority. This act will not only be a public performance appraisal on our police but would also serve as a means of checks and balances as required under a democratic dispensation. Why do we need to erect Close-Circuit Television in our cities as done in advanced countries of the world?  Is it not to fight crimes? It is a crime against the state for any security agent to use his/her uniform for illegal duties. How do you describe a policeman/soldier or any member of the Armed Forces sitting in a vehicle to provide protection to kidnappers, smugglers, drug-traffickers, etc?  Citizens will be failing in their constitutional duties to seek refuge in mute indifference or cold complicity.

  • Festus Keyamo, SAN (Human rights lawyer)

Absolutely! Nigerians have the right to do so. It is an absolute right. They have an unrestricted and fundamental right to do so. This is because policemen are public officers performing public duties and as such, are subject to public scrutiny.

Public scrutiny also involves recording what they are doing. If you are in the line of duty as a policeman and you are following the law, what should scare you? Do not also forget that in civilised societies, it is not even the public that records them, it is their own department that monitors them.

Cameras are installed in police cars so that everything they do would be reviewed when they get back to the office. In America, there are cameras in all police cars. And even on their helmets, there are cameras so that everywhere they are going, it can be recorded. So if the law and their own departments deem it fit to record all their activities, how much more the citizens that they serve? So, any policeman who thinks that the public has no right to record him should be relieved of his duties. That means he wants to engage in illegality and if you are not engaged in such, you will have no problem having them record what you are doing. Recording a policeman violates no law. Rather, it promotes the spirit and the letters of the law.

  • Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam (Convener, Citizens Monitoring Group)

When it comes to men and women in uniform engaging in illegal acts, it is not restricted only to the police. What about the military and other security outfits? Basically, what are we talking about here? Illegal roadblocks, collecting bribes on the roads and army brutality in our society among others. Arresting people is no longer done with decorum even if clandestinely, but with so much drama, high handedness and show of force. This sadly in the past has led to flared tempers and extrajudicial killings.  It is a mindset which needs to be re-oriented and firmly too by the authorities to check such excesses. Such brute force is an abuse of human rights.

Recording policemen and women with one’s camera: How many times has each succeeding IG, including the present one, announced that this is the end of illegal roadblocks and extortion of motorists on the roads?

Yet, soon after such announcements nothing changes. In the absence of public CCTV, what options do our citizens have in order to present as evidence against a bride collecting policeman or policewoman on the road without recording such instantly? By the way such recordings could also help in tracking crime in our society. In advanced countries, such recordings are presented as evidence during trials otherwise the guilty go free for lack of evidence.

News agencies globally have also used such recordings to report crime scenes and so why should Nigeria be different? I know some things could be abused but that does not suggest a call for its total rejection and practice.

On December 22nd, 2017, I recall returning to Jos from Abuja to attend a function, but our journey slowed down significantly between Keffi and Barde as traffic became chaotic.  Why? It was alleged that the police at a hurriedly mounted checkpoint wanted the usual N50 naira from a trailer driver who refused to give them money and they got angry and punctured one of his tyres and the guy took the law into his own hands and decided to park his trailer across the road blocking both sides – making it impossible for other vehicles to pass.

Vehicular movement at such Christmas season is usually very high. Interestingly, it took some soldiers and policemen also hurrying either to Jos or Abuja to help make way for motorists to meander through bush paths. Without videotaping the incidence, how would you report that matter, what will your evidence be?

  • Sunny Anyanwu (Lawyer)

Yes, Nigerians have the right to record a policeman doing something illegal, but most often than not, the police would seize the phone and force you to delete the recordings. I give you an example: I recorded how policemen who were transferred from other states to the Federal Capital Territory were being maltreated by the Abuja command and how they sleep on the staircase for months. So I came to take pictures with my phone and when I was caught, they deleted all the pictures before returning my phone. I wanted to write to the Inspector-General of Police or take them to court, but with the deletion of the photographs, I couldn’t get any evidence against the force. I wrote to the IG, but till today, there has been no response. I was fighting for the policemen, but their superior seized the phone and deleted the pictures before returning it to me. So, there is no evidence to show that the policemen were being inhumanly treated. They would deny it and say they are the best police in the world. But in case the police destroyed your phone while recording them, you have the right to take them to court and seek damages. Any policeman who damages someone’s property should be dismissed; he is not fit to be a police officer, but the police leadership won’t do it because they are also guilty of the offence. A senator recently accused the IG of impregnating a junior police officer, but nothing happened to the IG. In advanced countries, he would have been sacked that same day.