Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has called on judges and chief magistrates to obey the law by visiting detention facilities regularly with a view to decongesting them.
Falana, who is the interim Chairman, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, said this in a statement on Sunday titled, ‘Special Appeal to Judges and Chief Magistrates to Conduct Monthly Inspection of All Police Stations and Other Detention Facilities in Nigeria’.
He noted that Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 requires chief judges of the Federal High Court, Federal Capital Territory High Court and state High Courts to designate judges and chief magistrates to conduct monthly visitation and inspection of all police stations and other detention facilities in all the states of the federation and the FCT.
The senior advocate said in spite of the directive of the National Judicial Council, the provision of the law was not complied with by many judicial authorities hence, the incessant arrest, detention, and torture of citizens by the police and other security agencies.
The statement read in part, “However, the newly enacted Nigeria Police Act, 2020 has imposed a duty on all chief magistrates and judges to conduct monthly visitation and inspection of all police stations and other detention facilities within their territorial jurisdiction other than correctional centres. Specifically, Section 70 of the Act provides as follows:
“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.”
According to Falana, the law holds that during a visit, the magistrate may call for and inspect, the record of arrests; direct the arraignment of suspect and 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.
The activist said it is now left for the judiciary to activate and implement the provisions of the law in order to end the incessant arrest and prolonged detention of the Nigerian people without any further delay.
He added, “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.
“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.”
Falana called on civil rights organisations as well as the Nigerian Bar Association to assign their accredited representatives to accompany the judges and chief magistrates during the monthly inspection of detention facilities.