The unfortunate incident of 28 January, 2020, involving a legal practitioner, Onari Taylor-Harry Esq., has saddened lawyers across the country. Many have raised alarm and the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association has issued statement.

Taylor-Harry, as he is fondly called, was alleged to have been arrested by the Nigeria Police – Inspector General of Police Monitoring Team – for an undisclosed criminal allegation. Eyewitness report has it that the arrest was connected with a quit notice issued by Taylor-Harry in the course of his practice as a legal practitioner, duly licensed in Nigeria. The high point of the arrest which took place in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was that he was alleged to have been stripped and subsequently lined whisked away to a destination believed to be Abuja.

While we are yet to receive any concrete briefing from the Police regarding the alleged arrest and the circumstances surrounding the same, as is widely reported in the media, it is enough to mention that the man, Taylor-Harry is a lawyer well-known (even to the writer) as a perfect gentleman of the Bar. Throughout his years of legal education, Taylor-Harry was known for being reserved, intelligent and has imbibed the core values of discipline and conduct expected of a legal practitioner. Many can attest to his level of professionalism in practice.

That said, some issues that boggle the mind are, are there no police stations in Port Harcourt that can conveniently treat any allegation of criminal breaches leveled against Taylor-Harry without having to head to Abuja? Why was the allegation not disclosed at the earliest? Has the proper investigation been carried out prior to the arrest, to make room for his immediate arraignment at the nearest court as mandated by the Constitution?

The Nigeria Police must bear in mind always that they do not enjoy public trust. In the light of numerous incidents across the country, it will not be out of place to say that the worst may never be heard of the Nigeria Police Force. Issues of illegal arrests and detentions, gross violation of fundamental human rights of citizens, bribery and corrupt practices, flagrant abuse of rule of law, wanton display of legal ignorance, intimidation and harassment, obtaining by force of arms, torture, illegal stop and search activities, extra-judicial killings, etc. are all associated with the Police.

We are not unmindful of the fact that the many bad eggs in the Force have rendered insignificant the few good eggs who toil day and night to remedy the widely lost prestige of the Force. We agree with the cliché that when the Police want to work, they work. We also concede that the Nigeria Police is one of the Federal Government agencies that have not received the level of funding required to recruit the brightest minds, train them adequately, cater for them sufficiently and equip them tremendously. Perhaps these account for the reason we are where we are today.

Sadly, many lawyers have overtime narrated their ordeals in the hands of Police officers who have found it attractive to dishonour the noble title of gentlemen of the Bar. Thus, given the toga of Everything Bad the Police currently wears, it is difficult not to fault the procedures of the officers involved in the said arrest of Taylor-Harry even without hearing from the Force.

Lesson for the Police

The lesson for the Police is that they must accept every public outcry for being the natural consequence of their bad name. If the leadership of the Force feels strongly about it, a radical project can be launched for the total reform and overhaul of the Nigeria Police. Until then, they must live with the nightmare of having to be at the receiving end of all unpleasant remarks from the public. Even so, this fact has been judicially noticed. The Supreme Court (per Baje, JSC) recently stated that “Where we are now in this country is that place where our ‘Men in black & blue’ command almost no respect from the citizenry because of how low we have sunk.”

The Inspector General of Police is hereby called upon to command immediate investigation into the alleged arrest of Taylor-Harry and also cause a public statement to be issued giving details of the situation.

More so, while every citizen’s rights must be respected, we must note that lawyers are noble men who deserve twice the regard and respect in Nigeria.


Image Credit: Daily Post NG

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
Send this to a friend