Stop and Search: is that not a violation to the privacy of the person?

The Police can search a person in Nigeria[1]. It provides that a police officer may detain and search any person whom he reasonably suspects of having in his possession or conveying in any matter anything which he has reason to believe to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.

The test to be used to adjudge whether the action of a police officer was reasonable in conducting a search of a person is the same test used by courts to adjudge whether the conduct of the police officer was reasonable in effecting an arrest without a warrant of arrest. This is called the objective test i.e. whether a reasonable man would have conducted the search of the person in the circumstances.[2]

Whenever a person is arrested by a police officer or private person, the police officer may search the person upon arrest. The police officer may remove from the arrestee anything found on him other than necessary clothing.[3]

Any person arrested and detained in lawful custody may be subjected to a medical examination where such examination will afford evidence of the commission of an offence[4]. This may be as regards to persons suspected of concealing on their bodies hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Officers are empowered to search any person reasonably suspected of carrying anything chargeable with duty with intent to evade payment of duty, or any person carrying any articles, the importation or exportation of which is prohibited, provided the person is within a customs area.[5]

[1] Section 25 of the Police Act 1967

[2] – Jackson v. Omorokuna (1981) 1 NCR 283; and Commissioner of Police v. Obolo (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt. 20) 130.

[3] section 6(1) of Criminal Procedure Act and section 44(2) of Criminal Procedure Code.

[4] section 6(6) of Criminal Procedure Act and section 127 of Criminal Procedure Code

[5] Section 150 of Customs and Excise Management Act 1958