Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, have been warned against meddling in civil offences related to land matters in their areas of operation.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, who sounded the warning on Thursday while addressing officers and men of the Edo State Police Command during a tour of inspection of the Command in Benin, warned against criminalising such matters.
He decried incidences whereby policemen dabble into land matters, which he said could subject the Force to unnecessary litigation.
The IGP who reminded the operatives that the only civil courts, rather than the police, have the constitutional power to allocate land, however noted that the police could adopt alternative dispute resolution methods when there are clear indications that civil transactions could degenerate into criminal cases.
“One of the issues that I have had to tackle is the incidence of people dabbling into land matters. The police do not have the constitutional power to allocate land to anybody; they cannot do that. The only people that have the right to do that is the civil court.
“So, you people must be able to draw the thin line between what is criminal, what is civil and what is commercial, because whenever you dabble into civil and commercial issues, you attract civil litigation to the Nigeria Police Force. And when you do that, you have to take garnishee orders,” he said.
Arase who described himself as a strong advocate of intelligence-led policing as well as human rights approach to policing, charged the officers to adhere strictly to the tenets of human rights, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
He said: “You cannot abridge the fundamental rights of Nigerians; you cannot treat them as if they are people who have been conquered. You must respect these rights.
“I don’t expect most of you to bring people into our facility and detain them indefinitely while you are shopping for evidence. You must be able to have evidence before you bring them into our facility.”
The police boss reiterated that the welfare policy of the force was geared towards improving the lives of the Inspectors and rank and file, whom he said play major roles in efficient policing, just as he commended the support given by Edo State government towards effective police operations operations in the State.
He noted that over 40,000 police personnel have been promoted to various ranks, adding that more promotional exams would be conducted to ensure that hard work is rewarded accordingly.
Earlier in his speech, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, explained that the Command recorded remarkable successes in the fight against crime in the state.
According to him, a total of 749 suspects had been arrested by the Command, out of which 309 of them were charged to court.