House-to-house probe without search warrants is illegal, NGO tells governors
A non-government organisation, Access to Justice (A2Justice) has stated that the house-to-house search directive issued by some state governors in pursuit of looted properties without search warrants is illegal.
Recall that state governors of Adamawa, Osun, Kaduna and Cross Rivers have announced that a house-to-house search would be conducted to recover items looted from state and private warehouses if such were not returned.
Ahmadu Fintiri, the governor of Adamawa state on Wednesday signed an executive order for a house-to-house search and threatened to destroy houses where looted items are found.
After the #EndSARS protests were hijacked by hoodlums, some Nigerians began to discover some food items in some private and public warehouses and escalated into looting of items in various parts of the country.
In a statement signed by Joseph Otteh, A2Justice convener, and Deji Ajare, the project director, the NGO said such actions amount to usurping the powers of the court as no executive order confers such right.
“Many governors (and comparably, the FCT minister) have resorted to giving ultimatums to their citizens for the return of property and items removed from government and private warehouses, following widespread raids of those warehouses in the wake of the #ENDSARS protests,” the statement read.
“Most of the looted warehouses housed goods – foodstuff mostly – which were purposed for distribution to the poor following the measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic but had not, at the time of the raids, been done.
“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.”
Referencing Section 144 of the Criminal Justice Act 2015, the NGO said: “To search a house, the state would need a search warrant issued by a court, in accordance with the various laws of each state.
“Under the administration of the Criminal Justice Act 2015, for example, sec. 144 outlines grounds upon which a search warrant may be made. The purpose of using a judicial procedure to obtain a search warrant is to ensure that there is a rational and reasonable justification for intruding upon the constitutional right of every citizen to privacy,” it explained.
“No governor can usurp the powers of a court in this respect and no executive order can confer such a right.”
The NGO cautioned state governors against sending security agencies to carry out the search without due process saying security operatives may take advantage of it to take their pound of flesh on the people.