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EndSARS lootings: ‘House-to-house search illegal’

Under Nigeria’s Constitution, no state governor has the right to order a house-to-house...

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, a Civil Society Organisation has said.

A non profit organisation, Access to Justice, said on Thursday that under Nigeria’s Constitution, no State governor has the right to order a house-to-house search of any residential or other building.

According to Joseph Otteh, director, A2J, to search a house, the State would need a Search Warrant issued by a court, in accordance with the various laws of each State.

“The purpose for using a judicial procedure to obtain a search warrant is to ensure that there is rational and reasonable justification for intruding upon the constitutional right of every citizen to privacy.

“No Governor can usurp the powers of a court in this respect and no “Executive Order” can confer such a right,” he said.

Access to Justice urged all governments – Federal and State – to take the path of the rule of law and resist the urge to ride rough-shod over the Constitution of Nigeria with respect to the said lootings.

“Sending security agents to go from house to house in search of looted property is fraught with all kinds of risks, particularly at this time.

“Officers of law enforcement and security forces may be in the mood for reprisals and want exact a pound of flesh over the unfortunate events of the last couple of days, and can easily scapegoat anyone they find, (capriciously), to fit pre-formed stereotypes of a looter; they may want to exact revenge for other grievances against their adversaries, or simply to use any proxies they find to get back at civil society for daring to mount a protest against police brutality.

“House-to-House searches are fraught with all of these risks,” the group said.

Many governors had ordered a house-to-house search for looted materials in their respective states following the looting spree that took place across the country recently.

For example, Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, signed an Executive Order on Wednesday authorizing a house-to-house search for items looted from public and private warehouses during the EndSARS protest.

The governor had, on Tuesday, given a 12-hour ultimatum, which lasted till 6 am on Wednesday, for looters to return the items they carted away from public and private warehouses.

Hoodlums had hijacked the EndSARS protest – a protest against the brutality of the police – and turned it into an avenue to attack and steal government and private property.

Many government and private warehouses were looted, many public infrastructures destroyed and private businesses and homes vandalised by the hoodlums within the period.