The Federal government has tasked Magistrates across the country to conduct periodic oversight of police stations or other places of detention within their domains other than prisons with a view to uncover cases of human rights violation in various detention centres according to section 34 of the Criminal Justice Act.
The directive was given by the Federal Justice Sector Reform Coordinating Committee at the opening of a two-day sensitization workshop for the South East geo-political zone on the implementation of sections 29, 33 and 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 in Owerri, Imo State.
The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), who is the Chairman of the Committee, noted that it has become imperative for magistrates to conduct the oversight on detention centres as a way of addressing prison congestion and cases of abuse allegedly taking place in detention centres across the country.
The workshop, which was attended by magistrates, legal practitioners and various security agencies including the police, prisons officials, Civil Defense and officials of the Department of State Security Service (DSS), aimed at reforming the criminal justice administration and promotion of the rule of law.
The exercise was the aftermath of the validation and adoption of the report of 2018 workshop, which saw the need to train those saddled with the responsibility of implementing the ACJA.
The provisions of the identified sections were also explained to the participants.
According to the SGF, section 29(1) of the Act provides a mechanism for interface between the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation on one hand and the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General of the State on the other hand.
“The section requires the Inspector General of Police to remit quarterly to the Attorney General of the Federation a record of all arrest made with or without warrant in relation to federal offences within Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Section 29(2) of the Act requires the Commissioner of Police of a State or head of agency authorized to make arrest to remit quarterly to the Attorney General of the State records of arrest with respect to state offences.
Also, section 33 of the Act stipulates that an officer in charge of a police station or an officer in charge of an agency authorized to make arrest to, on the last working day of every month, report to the Magistrate, the cases of all suspects arrested without warrant within the limits of their respective stations or agency whether the suspects have been admitted to bail or not. “Section 34 of the Act requires a chief Magistrate or a Magistrate designated by the Chief Judge of the State to conduct an inspection of police stations or other places of detention within his territorial jurisdiction other than the prison”.
“The above provision also requires the Chief Magistrate to submit the report from the officer in charge of a police station to the criminal Justice Monitoring Committee who is expected to analyze the reports and advice the Attorney General accordingly”, he said.
However, he decried the fact that the Act made no provisions for the templates or protocols for generating and submitting such reports.
For the oversight, the law empowers the Magistrate in the course of the visit to call for, and inspect the records of arrest of the police station or detention facility.
The magistrate also has the right to direct the police station on the arraignment of suspects, advise on bail and grant bail where necessary, work towards improving public perception of security agencies and compliant with ACJA provisions as well as promote accountability and transparency in criminal justice administration.
Apata expressed appreciation to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha for graciously hosting the workshop. He thanked all stakeholders and development partners for their support in a collective effort at reforming the justice system and for attending workshop, He wished all the participants a successful deliberation.
In his keynote address, the Executive Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha expressed appreciation to the Federal government to collaborate with Imo state government in justice delivery system for the common good and interest of effective justice delivery.
Represented by his Deputy, Engr. Gerald Irona, the Executive Governor hoped that the intellectual exchanges and experiences among participants at the workshop would proffer lasting solution to breach of gaps identified in the administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He was optimistic that the objectives of the Act will be actualized if the same is implemented and complied with by all key players involved.
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