The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter S.N. Onnoghen, GCON, has issued a Practice Direction to all heads of court to implement the provisions of Section 34(1) and 34 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to reduce incidents of police brutality and other forms of human rights abuse.
The above sections provides:
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 prison”
“During the visit, Magistrates may:
a. call for, and inspect the record of arrest;
b. direct the arraignment of the 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.
Consequently, the Chief Justice directed that:
1. The Chief Judge of every state of the Nation including the Federal Capital territory shall 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 the territorial jurisdiction other than prison.
2. The Chief Judge of every state of the Nation including the Federal Capital territory shall put in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure compliance with the above provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
The above practice direction was prompted by a petition to the CJN by a Non Governmental Organization known as the Gavel. the NGO group had in a letter dated 4th June, 2018 under the caption;
The Role of Magistrates in Curbing Police Brutality Under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act sought the intervention of the CJN over what they call the growing scourge of Police brutality and inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by Police officers especially the Special Anti Robbery Squad Unit (SARS) across Nigeria.
The group prayed the CJN to direct the implementation of the relevant provisions of the ACJA to forestall the ugly trend.