Image: Legal Stone Solicitors LLP
Often times you find yourself in a tight spot where you owe a friend or business partner some money. This is usually followed by threats, assault and seizure of moveable properties. In extreme cases, the creditors involve the Police, all in a bid to recover this debt. If you have not experienced this, you know someone who has been in that situation. The debtor is usually arrested, placed behind bars and released only when the creditor gives the order. Right before we discuss the illegality of this practice, it is apposite to be acquainted with the terms crucial to this topic.
What is a debt?
Debt is a state of being under an obligation to pay or repay someone or something in return for something received. It is an obligation which requires a party known as the debtor, to pay money or any valuable property to the other party, referred to as the creditor.
What does recovery of debt mean?
Debt recovery is the use of a third party known as a collection service to recover loans as the name implies, is the process of collecting or regaining the money someone owes you.
Is it legal to involve the Police in recovering debts?
It is illegal and unconstitutional to involve the Police in recovering debts. The Nigerian Police Act contains the duties of the police and at no point did it saddle them with the responsibility of arresting a debtor on the instruction of a creditor, when the debtor fails to liquidate his debts. The failure of a debtor to liquidate his debts is not a criminal offense under the law; it's a civil offence and as such, the services of the Police and other security agents will not be required. They do not have the power to prosecute a debtor.
The court in a number of cases has condemned this kind of practice, reiterating the fact that the provisions of the Police Act does not empower the Police to enforce contracts or collect debts.
Why is it illegal to involve the Police in recovering debts?
You are advised to resist the urge to resort to self-help in the process of recovering your debts. Self-help includes, threats, harassments, oppression of the debtor, the use of thugs and other despicable acts. The use of Police, is also a form of self-help. This is because it is not within the bounds of law to involve them and they usually have a percentage from the amount of money recovered. The court has also declared this practice unlawful as the major duty of the police is detection of crime, protection of lives and properties amongst all others.
What to do if a creditor uses the Police to harass you?
When your creditor resorts to self-help, resist the urge to fight back or it might affect the law suit you plan to institute against the creditor. What you need to do is to contact a Legal Practitioner, who depending on the circumstances of your case can commence an action against your debtor for enforcement of fundamental human rights, battery, false imprisonment, etc.
When can the Police be involved in recovering debts?
It is lawful to involve the police only when there are criminal activities in the monetary transaction such as the issuance of dud cheques, fraudulent means of obtaining loans etc. Here, agents like the Police or the Economic Financial Crime Commission will be legally involved.
As a creditor, there are several ways to recover your debts without exposing yourself to civil or criminal liabilities as stated above. There are professionals or agencies in Nigeria who are trained to recover your debts within the ambits of the Law. For an indebt understanding, as well as the proper procedure for recovering debts in Nigeria, check the Intricacies of Debt Recovery in Nigeria.
Written by Adeiye Adenekan.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone no: 09090008231
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Accessed 16th April, 2020.
Bill Fay: "What is debt recovery?"Cited in www.debt.org. Accessed 16th April, 2020.
Oceanic Securities International Ltd v. Balogun (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 643), McLaren v. Jennings (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt.808) 470.
Edoabasi Udo: "For Debtors: what to do if your creditor resorts to self-help or chases you with police."Cited in https://www.mondaq.com/Nigeria/insolvencyBankruptcyRe-structuring/664426/For-Debtors-What-To-Do-If-Your-Creditor-Resorts-To-Self-Help-Or-Chases-You-With-The-Police Assessed 5th of June, 2020.