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When people claim that a member of law enforcement has falsely arrested them, they sometimes file a complaint alleging a violation of their civil rights. These civil rights lawsuits are known as fundamental human right, guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (see sections 33 – 46)

Before the court (State High Court of Federal High Court) in the state where the infringement occurred, or is likely to occur.

People most commonly file fundamental human right cases after the police, prison guards, or other state officials use excessive or unreasonable force while acting in their official capacity, known as acting “under color of law.” For example, if the police obtain a search warrant to search your home and, while conducting the search, decide to use pepper spray on you and your family while you are restrained and not resisting, their actions violate your constitutional civil rights and you can sue them under fundamental human right Enforcement rules, guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) before the court (State High Court of Federal High Court) in the state where the infringement occurred, or is likely to occur.

On the other hand, if you and a non-uniformed, off-duty police officer get into a fight, that officer is probably not acting in his official capacity as an agent of the state and you probably can’t sue for civil rights violations. (You might be able to sue on other grounds, though.)

People typically bring fundamental human right enforcement lawsuits when they have been subject to the unreasonable use of force by the police or prison guards, when they’ve suffered harm as the result of an illegal search, or for similar reasons. In these cases, a person harmed by the actions of state officials acting in their official capacity typically sues the individuals involved, their superiors, or the city or county government that employed them.

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The majority of police officers are competent professionals who recognize the boundaries of their authority and are diligent in following proper protocol in questioning citizens and respecting their rights. There are instances, however, where an officer may violate the rights of an individual either through misunderstanding, frustration or outright hostility and you will need to retain a lawyer.

Police harassment is an abuse of an officer’s authority by continually or arbitrarily stopping someone, aggressively questioning him or her, or by conducting an unwarranted or illegal search and seizure. The harassment is commonly an attempt to coerce someone into admitting complicity in a crime, or by threatening or intimidating a person to obtain information. Your attorney helping fight against police brutality and misconduct may need to locate a number of credible witnesses to prove repeated civil rights violations in these instances.


Police harassment can take a variety of forms and include diverse victims. Some common examples of police harassment include:

Illegal spying or placing certain people under surveillance

Use of excessive force

sexist or homophobic comments

Illegal detention

Illegal search and seizure

Legal or Illegal Arrest

Police have broad latitude in carrying out their function to fight crime and to protect citizens. Being stopped by an officer is not a pleasant experience, but even if you are innocent, police officers are not liable for violating your civil rights if they are performing their duties properly.

For example, if the officer had probable cause to believe you may have committed a crime, your arrest is most likely proper, and you will have no legal recourse. It is of no consequence if the facts the arresting officer relied on turn out to be false as long as the officer reasonably believed them to be true at the time of your arrest.


When Police Exceed Their Authority

If your arrest was based on false testimony from a known unreliable source, or it was based solely on your ethnicity, your lawyer may be able to demonstrate a civil rights violation. If a fellow officer witnessed your illegal arrest and failed to intervene, an additional charge may be brought against that officer for failing to intervene to protect you from a constitutional violation.

Most violations are based on excessive force. Even if the officers had sound intentions when restraining you, they may not cause unwarranted serious bodily harm or death, such as using a taser on you while you are handcuffed and posing no danger. Whether the officers used excessive or unreasonable force is based on the surrounding facts and circumstances that your attorney will carefully investigate.

Finally. As Franz Fanon said: “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. Know your rights and vigorously fight for them. That is your duty as humans.

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