In a bid to investigate and get facts, men of the Police Force sometimes use brutal tactics to make accused persons confess to crimes they did not commit – this is my cry; this is my pain.
The professionalism of the Nigerian Police Force has been called to question severally as to how they go about the business of crime investigations with its attendant fundamental rights violations. This is not to undermine the effort of the Police Force in securing our lives and properties but to constructively appraise the methods applied at the most sensitive stage of their job.
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines confession as “A criminal suspect’s oral or written acknowledgment of guilt, often including details about the crime”
Section 27(1) of the Evidence Act defines confession as an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed the crime.
27(2) Further states that confession if voluntary, are deemed to be relevant facts against the maker.
In a nutshell, confession is the voluntary admittance of guilt or responsibility for a crime by a suspect or an accused person(s).
In many occasions, men of the Nigerian Police Force in their bid to get suspects to confess to the commission of a crime apply unconventional and brutal tactics ranging from hanging the suspect upside down, beating with iron rods, wooden batons or horse whips, to psychological torture which includes but is not limited to sleep deprivation, locking up in a dark room for long hours, and other range of inhuman and degrading treatments all meant to cow the suspect into confessing to the commission of the crime. All these happen in total disregard for the fundamental rights of the citizen as enshrined in the constitution.
Chief S.I. Ameh SAN, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission’s committee on torture had this to say in condemnation of the use of torture in obtaining confessions. “The temptation to get suspects to confess through any means is still very high. A police man will tell you that they saw a suspect stealing and he was arrested. While investigating the case, they may want him to confess quickly in order not to waste their time and thereby engage in force or torture to make the suspect confess that he committed the crime…”
Regrettably, it does not matter how or in what circumstance a confession is obtained as it becomes the word of the accused against that of the investigating officer to establish that such alleged torture existed. The judge will only use evidences before him in adjudication of justice.
The scourge has come to a point whereby unless something is done fast, we may wake up one morning to find out that we have more innocent men in prison than we ever envisaged. In stemming this tide, the relevant authorities must ensure that less reliance is placed on confessional statements in the determination of guilt of accused persons or we might be ‘guilty’ of sending innocent men to jail simply because we relied on a confessional statement obtained by an overzealous police officer.
In conclusion, it is recommended that our lawmakers put in place a law to the effect that a confessional statement obtained by a law enforcement agent without the presence of the suspect’s lawyer chosen by him or in the case where he cannot afford one, appointed for him by the state for that purpose, shall not be admitted in evidence as a confession voluntarily made.
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