Judges must inspect police cells, detention centres monthly – Femi Falana

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The Femi Falana-led Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB) has appealed to judges and chief magistrates to conduct monthly inspections of police stations and detention centres.

The coalition of over 80 civil society organisations (CSOs) and organised labour said the judges and chief magistrates would be shocked at their discovery.

ASCAB stated this in a statement signed by Falana on Sunday.

The popular human rights lawyer said that thousands of Nigerians continued to be detained illegally by the police without trial across the nation.

He said that Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 made provisions for pretrial detention, detention time limits and monthly inspection of all police stations by chief magistrates designated by the chief judge of each state of the federation.

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Falana further stated that the newly enacted Nigeria Police Act, 2020 has imposed a duty on all chief magistrates and judges to conduct monthly visitation and inspection of all police stations and other detention facilities within their territorial jurisdiction other than correctional centres.

“Specifically, section 70 of the Act provides as follows:

“70 (1) The chief magistrate or where there is no chief magistrate within the police division, any magistrate designated by the chief judge for that purpose, shall at least every month, conduct an inspection of police stations or other places of detention within his territorial jurisdiction other than the prison.

“During a visit, the magistrate may call for and inspect the record of arrests; direct the arraignment of suspect; where bail has been refused, grant bail to any suspect, where appropriate, if the offence for which the suspect is held is within the jurisdiction of the magistrate.

“An officer in charge of a police station or an official in charge of any agency authorized to make an arrest shall make available to the visiting chief magistrate or designated magistrate exercising his powers under subsection (1): the full record of arrest and record of bail; applications and decisions on bail made within the period; and any other facility the magistrate requires to exercise his power under that subsection.

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“With respect to other Federal Government agencies authorised to make arrests, the high court have jurisdiction shall visit such detention facilities for the purpose provided in this section. Where there is default by an officer in charge of a police station or an official in charge of an agency authorised to make arrest to comply with the provisions of subsection (3), the default shall be treated as a misconduct and shall be dealt with in accordance with the relevant police regulations under this Act, or under any other disciplinary procedure prescribed by any provision regulating the conduct of the officer or official of the agency.

“From the foregoing, it is clear that the visiting judges and chief magistrates are empowered to order the release of detainees, or grant them baill or direct that they be arraigned in court. No doubt, the provision of section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and Nigeria Police Act, 2020 have confirmed the intention of both the legislative and executive arms of the Federal Government to ensure that the fundamental right of every citizen to personal liberty is not infringed upon or abridged by law enforcement officers contrary to the procedure permitted by law. It is now left for the judiciary to activate and implement the provisions of the law in order to end the incessant arrest and prolonged detention of the Nigerian people without any further delay.

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“We equally call on the members of the human rights community including the Nigerian Bar Association to assign their accredited representatives to accompany the judges and chief magistrates during the monthly inspection of police stations and other detention facilities in Nigeria,” the Femi Falana-led alliance stated.

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