The Inspector General of Police in Nigeria has sent out a circular to all police commands banning the “illegal search of mobile phones”. But his men have refused to comply.
Too many Nigerians have horror stories of Police officers stopping them for arbitrary searches, and then invading their privacy by insisting on going through their mobile phones. Again and again, people keep being forced at gun point to submit their phones for inspection. Officers go through bank details, SMS, social media interactions and all, in violation of personal privacy. And till now, Police authorities have simply carried on like they could not care.
However, Abayomi Shogunle, Officer in Charge of the Police Complaint Response Unit (CRU) has tweeted that the Inspector General of Police has sent out a circular to all police commands banning the “illegal search of mobile phones”.
— Abayomi Shogunle (@YomiShogunle) January 4, 2016
In our opinion, if searching citizen’s mobile phones is already illegal, what is the essence of a ban? Shouldn’t the illegality of it just be pointed out to the rank and file? But we won’t nitpick. We are glad to see the IGP take a stand for the rights of citizens to privacy.
We can only hope that this will be clearly communicated to officers on the streets where the personal violations take place on a daily basis. The other question is, will the police comply? After all, citizens see them break other laws with impunity everyday.
Update December 2017: Over a year after this circular was issued, and the occurrences of illegal searching of mobile phones by police officers has worsened. Citizens are even forced at gunpoint by rogue police officers to make cash withdrawals from ATMs.