Deputy Commissioner of Police Bassey Ewah has cautioned Nigerians against allowing police officers to search their phones at checkpoints without a court warrant.
“No policeman can ask for your phone unless there is a warrant. Unless you are being investigated as a person,” Mr Ewah said.
Nonetheless, Mr Ewah who spoke at a community relations program organised by the police in Lagos state, highlighted that the only condition where an officer is requested to search phones was if the individual is being investigated.
“I stand to be corrected; please do not give any policeman who stopped you at the checkpoint your phones,” he reiterated. “It’s not our schedule. If we are investigating you, we will present a warrant and then demand for your phone. Please take note,” he added.
Former Inspector General of police Mohammed Adamu in October 2020 banned personnel of the police from indiscriminate searching of mobile phones and laptops.
The ban came in the wake of several complaints of extortion and harassment made by Nigerian youths.
Despite the ban, operatives continue to barge in on Nigerian youth indiscriminately, seizing their phones to assess their account balances and communication with a view to extorting them.
People who resist such invasion have suffered incrimination, illegal detention, harassment, brutality or in dire cases, extrajudicial killing.
In 2019, a #StopRobbingUs campaign was launched to put an end to the practice of unlawful arrest, attack, kidnap and forcible withdrawal of funds from young people with laptops or any electronic gadget by officers of the Nigerian police.
The #EndSARS protests in October 2020 also followed from cases of harassment, invasion of suspects privacy and police brutality.
Authorities in the wake of the historic demonstrations disbanded the notorious police unit SARS and promised sweeping reforms in response to youths demands.
Though cases of harassment markedly subsided in the wake of #EndSARS, upsurge in police excesses are now being reported by young Nigerians who say the disbanded notorious unit has metamorphosed into new police departments, continuing the tradition of brutality and extortion.