Magistrates to Inspect Police Stations over Unlawful Detention, Brutality
Reprieve appears to be on the way for the Nigerian citizens clamped into detention unjustly by Police as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Samuel Nkanu Walter Onnoghe has directed Chief Judges of the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to give marching orders to Chief Magistrates to conduct inspection of police stations and other places of detention within their territorial jurisdiction other than prisons.
Justice Onnoghen’s directive is contained in a Practice Direction issued on the Role of Magistrates in Curbing Police Brutality under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. The CJN, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Awassam Bassey said his directive was in line with the provisions of the ACJA and is intended to check complaints of incidents of police brutality, inordinate arrests, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by Police officers across the country. The CJN also directed Chief Judges to set up appropriate mechanisms to ensure compliance with the stated provisions of the ACJA on police brutality and inordinate arrests among others.
“I have observed, and received several complaints of the horrific incidents of police brutality, inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by Officers across the country. “These incidents have assumed frightening proportions in recent times. The Magistrate Courts are currently overwhelmed with cases of such brutality, inordinate arrests and detention of Citizens. “As we approach election year, it is imperative that we curb these excesses through the instrumentality of the statutory powers of the courts”, the CJN noted in the Practice Direction and added that ACJA gives Magistrates oversight functions over police stations in their jurisdictions.
Section 34 (1) of the Act states that, “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 place of detention within his territorial jurisdiction other than prison.” Section 34 (2) further states that, “During the visit, Magistrates may, call for and inspect, the record of arrest; direct the arraignment of the 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.” In line with the provisions contained in ACJA, the CJN directed the Chief Judge of every state of the nation, including the FCT to direct Chief Magistrates, and, where there is no Chief Magistrate within the police division, designate any Magistrate for that purpose, to, at least, every month, conduct an inspection of Police Stations or other places of detention within his territorial jurisdiction other than prison.
He further directed the Chief Judge of every state of the nation and Abuja to put in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure compliance with the above provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.