Questions that may come to mind of many individuals facing the conduct of search by the police includes can the Nigerian police actually search me and my properties without a search warrant; Can I demand a search warrant be produced before the police conduct their search?; Can a male police officer search a woman and the woman’s things? e.t.c
Under Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, everyone is entitled to their right to privacy. This is the general rule but there are however exceptions to this general rule. Which brings us to the topic in question; Can a police conduct a search against you without a warrant?
Before we continue, it is important we understand what a warrant is.
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What is a Warrant?
According to the online dictionary, a warrant is a document issued by a legal or government official authorizing the police or another body to make an arrest, search premises, or carry out some other action relating to the administration of justice.
This is basically an official document from a legal or government official granting the police the authority to perform an act.
This is contained under Section 28 of the Police Act
When talking about the power of the police to conduct searches with or without a search warrant, it can be broken down into 3 categories for ease of understanding. These are search of persons, search of things and search of premises.
Categories of Police Search
- Search of a Person
- Search of Things
- Search of Premises
Search of a Person: Without Warrant
The answer is yes. The police can search a person with or without a search warrant.
Section 29 of the Police Act empowers a police officer to detain and search any person whom he reasonably suspects of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything which he has reason to believe to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.
Right to be Aware of When Searched by the Police
Yes, there is. In regards to search of a person, only a female police officer may search a woman. The law in Lagos state particularly states that a person must be searched by persons of the SAME sex . The exception however is that a male police officer can still search a woman’s handbags, purses, wallet etc.
Search of Things: Without Warrant
The answer is yes. The police can conduct the search of things with or without warrant. The police officer therefore has the power and can search and stop vehicles on the road without a warrant.
The Power of search of things without warrant is also conferred on customs officers, and the Federal and State Task Forces or National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)
Search of Premises: Without Warrant
Generally, the answer is No. The police require a search warrant to search your premises and any search conducted without such warrant is UNLAWFUL. However there are certain exceptions to this general rule.
Situations Where the Police Can Search Premises Without a Search Warrant
- Where a Police Officer acting upon a warrant of arrest suspects that the person to be arrested has entered into or is within any premises.
- Where a person against whom a Warrant of Arrest has been issued is found in a premises
- Where there is a complaint on oath as to an abducted person kept in the premises.
- The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp do not need a search warrant to enter a premise where there is a reasonable belief that government property is being unlawfully harboured.
- Custom officers may enter and break into any Premises reasonably suspected to harbour illegal goods.
- National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officials can search any premises connected with a drug related offence.
Time of Issuance and Execution of Search Warrant
A search warrant may be issued and executed on any day including Sundays or Public holidays. It is usually executed between the hours of 5am to 8pm.
There are certain situations where the law permits security officers to conduct a search without warrant and in the event that the security officer needs a warrant to conduct a search and doesn’t provide one then that search is unlawful.
BY IGHORIMOTO EFEMENA; EFEMENA96@GMAIL.COM