Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has appealed to judges and chief magistrates to conduct monthly inspection of all police stations and detention centres across the country.
The appeal was contained in a letter dated November 12, 2020, in which the legal practitioner noted that “incessant arrest, detention and torture of poor citizens” by security agencies have become the order of the day.
Falana made reference to section 34 of the Administrative of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which empowers chief judges to designate senior lawyers to conduct monthly visitation and inspection of police cells and detention centres.
Falana, who is also the interim chair of Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), cited section 70 of the newly enacted Nigeria Police Act, 2020, which also gives legal backing to chief magistrates and judges to conduct monthly inspection of police stations and detention centres within their territorial jurisdiction.
The section states: “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.
“(2) During a visit, the magistrate may; (a) call for, and inspect, the record of arrests; (b) direct the arraignment of suspect; (c) 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.
“(3) An officer in charge of a police station or an official in charge of any agency authorised to make an arrest shall make available to the visiting chief magistrate or designated magistrate exercising his powers under subsection (1): (a) the full record of arrest and record of bail; (b) applications and decisions on bail made within the period; and (c) any other facility the magistrate requires to exercise his power under that subsection.”
The section also makes provisions for disciplinary measures for police officers in the case of illegal arrest and detention.
He stated that the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and Nigeria Police Act, 2020 give the visiting judges and chief magistrates the right to grant bail or order for the arraignment of the persons in detention, adding that there will be “no basis for the #EndSARS protest” in the future, if the inspection is carried out.
He also called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to assign representatives to the visiting judges and chief magistrates to accompany them on the monthly inspection.
“We are of the strong view that if all detention facilities in the country are henceforth regularly inspected by Judges and Chief Magistrates as stipulated by the law, the people of Nigeria will no longer be subjected to illegal arrest and detention by the Police and other security agencies,” he said.
“In particular, there will be no basis for #EndSARS and any similar campaign either now or in future.
“We are therefore compelled to call on Judges and Chief Magistrates to carry out their duties under section 70 of the Police Act.
“However, to achieve the objective of the law we appeal to the respective Chief Judges to supervise the Visiting Judges and Chief Magistrates in the discharge of their statutory duties. Where there is no Chief Magistrate within the police division, the Chief Judge should designate a Magistrate for the purpose in accordance with section 70 (1) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.
“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.”