What is detention?
Detention can take place in a series of different contexts. Detention means the deprivation of the liberty of a person due to arrest by the police or other law enforcement agencies, such as immigration authorities, or bodies enabled by law such as some hospitals. You are not only detained when kept in a police cell, or prison. Once your freedom of movement is restricted and you are kept in a particular place (usually in a police station), detention has taken place. You may also detain in a court holding cell.
Detention is the exception to the rule, as it deprives you from a basic human right which is the right to personal liberty. Therefore must comply with the legal requirements that allow it to take place.
No. Detention should be the exception to the rule.
When a person is arrested, they are deprived of their liberty.
Section 35 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law:
Provided that a person who is charged with an offence and who has been detained in lawful custody awaiting trial shall not continue to be kept in such detention for a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment prescribed for the offence.”
These reasons or grounds for detention are limited. You cannot be detained for grounds which are not stated in the Constitution of in law.
HINT: when a person is being detained, find out and, if safe, ask under which grounds that person is being detained.
Primarily, detentions are made by law enforcement agencies, which are empowered by law to detain a person for the reasons mentioned above. In Nigeria, detentions can be carried out by:
The police is empowered by law to arrest and detain suspects.
Section 4 of the Police Act
The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.
2. Other law enforcement agencies
You may also be arrested and detained by other law enforcement agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), The State Security Service (SSS), Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). These law agencies are empowered by law to preserve law and order and have detention centers where accused persons can be detained.
3. Other agencies
In other instance, public health authorities, immigration officials, or social welfare officials may also detain a person for the purposes of their care or treatment, or if they enter or remain in the country illegally.
The law specifies where you can be detained. Therefore, it is illegal to detain a suspect anywhere other than the following places:
It is ILLEGAL for example to keep you in a private house, or a traditional ruler’s palace.
Take note of the events surrounding your detention. You may want to challenge your detention in the court as being unlawful. Make sure that you make note of any irregularities with your arrest (more information on arrest can be found in the A4J Arrest guide.
Once you are at the police station or detention centre ask to be allowed to speak to your lawyer or family. Immediately inform them of where you are being detained and why.