House-to-house search for looted palliatives illegal – Group

    Oladimeji Ramon

    A human rights group, Access to Justice, has faulted the move by some state governments to conduct a house-to-house search for looted COVID-19 palliatives.

    In a statement by its Convener, Joseph Otteh, and Project Director, Deji Ajare, A2Justice said the government cannot search people’s houses without a warrant.

    The statement read, “A house-to-house search for looted relief or other materials, without a valid search warrant duly issued by a court of law, is unconstitutional.

    “Under Nigeria’s Constitution, no state governor has the right to order a house-to-house search of any residential or other building. Nigeria’s Constitution, in Section 37 provides that: ‘The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected’.

    “No governor can usurp the powers of a court in this respect and no ‘Executive Order’ can confer such a right. Access to Justice urges all governments – federal and state – to take the path of the rule of law and resist the urge to ride rough-shod over the Constitution of Nigeria with respect to the said lootings.

    “Sending security agents to go from house to house in search of looted property is fraught with all kinds of risks, particularly at this time. Officers of law enforcement and security forces may be in the mood for reprisals and want exact a pound of flesh over the unfortunate events of the last couple of days, and can easily scapegoat anyone they find to fit pre-formed stereotypes of a looter.

    “They may want to exact revenge for other grievances against their adversaries, or simply to use any proxies they find to get back at civil society for daring to mount a protest against police brutality. House-to-House searches are fraught with all of these risks.”

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