THE ILLEGALITY OF SUBSTITUTIONAL ARRESTS IN NIGERIA.
Substitutional arrest, often known as "Arrest by Proxy," refers to the arrest and detention of innocent people who, despite the fact that they have not committed an offence, are detained because they are connected to or related to the accused person. An example is when a friend or family member of an accused person is arrested and detained.
This practice is usually used by law enforcement agencies to apprehend innocent individuals where the actual suspect cannot be found. The arrested individuals are called proxies. These proxies are often subjected to threats, intimidation, and physical abuse until the person being sought appears or surrenders to the authorities.
Substitutional arrest is illegal and unconstitutional. The law provides that whoever commits an offence must bear the consequences of his actions. Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 provides that:‘A person shall not be arrested in place of a suspect’. Similarly, Section 4 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Lagos state, 2011, provides that“No person shall be arrested in lieu of any other person”
Anyone who is arrested must have committed an offence and cannot be arrested solely because of their relationship or proximity to a suspect.
In the case of ACB v. Okonkwo (1997) 1 NWLR (pt 480) 194 where the police detained and arrested the accused's mother for the alleged offence committed by her child, the Judge stated while delivering the judgment that ‘I know of no law which authorizes the police to arrest a mother for an offence committed or purportedly committed by the son. Criminal responsibility is personal and cannot be transferred”
The learned Justice also went further to say that “a police officer who arrests ‘A’ for the offence committed by ‘B’ should realize that he acted against the law. Such a police officer should, in addition to liability in a civil action be punished by the police authority.’
A substitutional arrest can lead to abuse of power by law enforcement agencies and the government. It also undermines the rule of law and due process. The individuals who are arrested by proxy are often not told the charges against them or given the opportunity to defend themselves. This can lead to false imprisonment and can have a negative impact on the individual's reputation and livelihood. The law requires that anyone arrested or detained by law enforcement officers be informed of the reason for their arrest or detention and be given access to legal representation.
Violation of the individual’s right to personal liberty