Why You Should Not Allow police Search Your Phone / Laptop.
Nigerian Policemen are known for the popular ‘stop and search’ operations they carry out on our streets and highways. Sometimes, during these operations, they tend to check your phones, laptops and other personal belongings. You will not allow them access to your phones and laptops again after reading this. See below.
Do policemen have the right to search people’s phones, laptops?
In a series of Interviews carried out by The Punch Newspaper, several top ranking officers of the police force answered the above questions with facts. Read all the answers below.
The police have the responsibility to conduct ‘stop and search’ on any property or a personal belonging that they have reasonable suspicions that it is a subject of crime.
If it is not a subject of crime, they can’t hold on to the object but the law permits the police to go to any length in their investigations or go anywhere and ask questions.
If a crime is committed in Abuja or anywhere, they have the responsibility to check any property either randomly or frequently or otherwise. When you are holding a laptop and the police have reasonable suspicions that it was stolen, they have the right to check.
Peoples’ vehicles are broken into and laptops are stolen; personal and corporate data are also stolen. So, how do you recover them without checking the laptops? People also burgle houses and personal possessions are carted away, so the police have the right to check and recover them if they are suspected to have been stolen.
The police can also search laptop shops where many stolen laptops and phones are often sold and through searches, the police could recover many stolen property. If a policeman demands to see your laptop, you should first ask for his identity to determine if he is a police officer because if you are in mufti and you demand to search my bag, I would need to know if you are a police officer.
Secondly, you should ask the policeman why he wants to search your bag or laptop; he must tell you whether he has a complaint of stolen goods or laptop or whether a crime has been committed. But if you are in your house, the police must present a search warrant before searching your house.
- ACP Jimoh Moshood (Force Public Relations Officer, Abuja)
They have no right to check people’s phones on the roads, streets or in their cars. People have a right to self dignity, which is a fundamental human right. Prying into people’s privacy — part of which is checking their phones and laptops — is tantamount to violating their rights to self dignity. The police frown seriously on that.
In the event that a policeman checks your phone on the road, you have the right to report that policeman for disciplinary action to be taken. The person can also resist releasing the phone. He can also ask the policeman if there is any report against him that he uses his phone for crime. If the policeman says yes, the person should ask the policeman to take him to the police station to see if indeed there is any entry or petition made against him.
If a policeman cannot provide answers, then he has no right to look at your phone. By the time you ask these questions, the officer will know you are well informed. However, where there is a criminal allegation that borders on cybercrime against a person, the police have right to request to look at your gadgets suspected to be tools of the crime.
⦁ SP Chike Oti (Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Police Command)
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