By Femi Falana
While welcoming Nigerian lawyers to Lagos for the 2022 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association we are compelled to advise them to adopt urgent measures to end illegal arrest and detention of innocent citizens by the police and other law enforcement agencies. In particular, we urge the 125 branches of the NBA to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which has abolished arrest and detention of citizens for civil wrong and breach of contract. The law has also made provision for legal representation of suspects in police stations, bail for suspects and humane treatment of detained suspects.
The NBA should direct the members of the Human Rights Committee its branches to accompany Chief Magistrates during the monthly visits to all police stations in the country. Such visits will end the incessant arrest and detention of suspects and other people as the Magistrates are empowered to grant bail to suspects, order their release or direct that they be arraigned in appropriate courts.
Let the NBA leadership pressurise the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to designate Judges to conduct monthly visits to the detention facilities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, ICPC, NDLEA, Customs, armed forces, State Security Service in line with the provisions of section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and section 70 of the Police Establishment Act.
The President and National Officers of the NBA are official visitors to all the correctional centres in the country by vitue of section 21 of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019. The NBA leaders should visit the correctional centres regularly and ensure that the rights of convicts and other inmates are respected in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act and the Constitution.
Nigerian lawyers should apply the provisions of the Anti Torture Act, 2017 to end the torture of suspects and other people in Nigeria. Let the police and other law enforcement officers be made to know that the penalty for subjecting suspects to torture is 25 years imprisonment and that officers who torture suspects to death are liable to be tried for murder. In addition to the prosecution of torturers the victims of torture are entitled to sue for monetary compensation.
State Attorneys-General should ensure that the prosecution of criminal offences in all courts is conducted by legal practitioners in line with the provision of Section 106 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the relevant provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws applicable in the States. Other States should emulate Delta and Kano States which have cancelled the prosecution of criminal cases by police officers who are not legal practitioners.
Nigerian lawyers are urged to provide pro bono legal services to Indigent citizens with genuine complaints.
Instead of rejecting the complaints of indigent citizens on account of impecuniosity, lawyers should refer them to the offices of the Legal Aid Council, National Human Rights Commission and the Public Defender in each of the States of the Federation.
We call on the NBA leadership to liaise with the Inspector-General of Police and the Police Service Commission to ensure that a lawyer is assigned to every police station in Nigeria to monitor human rights compliance in accordance with the provision of section 66(1) of the Police Establishment Act.
Finally, since the NBA has invited the presidential candidates of the registered political parties to the 2022 Annual Conference it should challenge them to commit themselves to end illegal arrest and detention of citizens.
Femi Falana SAN,
Chair, Alliance on
Surviving Covid 19
and Beyond (ASCAB)
August 21, 2022.