Within the concluding a part of this two-part report, ADE ADESOMOJU highlights how disregard for procedural regulation and safeguards have turned some chambers of justice into establishments serving to police and different regulation enforcement companies to trample upon residents’ rights
Mr Victor Osima’s travails began on July 20, 2018, when he agreed to face surety for a cybercrime suspect who had been arrested by some males of Intelligence Response Crew, Abuja.
The actions of the IRT, a police tactical unit, are a topic of varied allegations of rights abuses on the ongoing hearings of varied judicial panels of enquiry investigating circumstances of police brutality on the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and lots of different states of the federation.
On November 6, 2018, Osima was invited by the IRT to be instructed that the Turkey-based cybercrime suspect, Ehichioya Isibor, had allegedly jumped bail and left Nigeria.
Osima later learnt that Isibor’s passport and automotive earlier seized for the needs of investigations had been launched to him and the suspect had left the nation.
He later understood that the policemen determined to go after him following a petition by Isibor’s household accusing the IRT males of extorting cash from the suspect who had left the nation.
On November 12, 2020, the identical policemen who launched Isibor’s passport to him filed an utility earlier than a Grade 1 Space Court docket in Kubwa, Abuja for Osima to be summoned “to point out trigger why the bond for the sum of N20m” which he executed on July 28, 2018 “shouldn’t be forfeited to the Federal Authorities of Nigeria in compliance with the provisions of sections 170(3) and 179 of the Administration of Legal Justice Act, 2015”.
Osima’s lawyer, Mr Tony Ejumejowo, instructed our correspondent that with a uncertain prison nature of the proceedings initiated earlier than the Space Court docket by the police, the decide in control of the courtroom made an order remanding the surety in custody with none type of “arraignment”.
The lawyer stated his workforce fought very arduous earlier than Osima was fortunately granted bail earlier than the decide died.
The case was later reassigned to a different decide, who has been dealing with it since then.
Whereas applauding the #EndSARS protesters’ latest demonstrations towards the brutality of the now disbanded Particular Anti-Theft Squad and different tactical models of the Nigerian police in several components of the nation, Osima’s lawyer, Ejumejowo, stated the Nigerian Bar Affiliation and different essential stakeholders “are overlooking the roles of the magistrates within the remand of harmless Nigerians for flimsiest of excuses”.
Controversial jurisdiction, restrictions on remand orders
Like Ejumejowo, the outgoing Chief Choose of the FCT, Justice Ishaq Bello, who’s the Chairman of the Administration of Legal Justice Monitoring Committee, has expressed issues in regards to the abuse of remand orders by magistrates and judges of decrease courts.
To curb the abuse, the Chief Choose issued a directive prohibiting the courts from issuing remand orders in circumstances involving crimes they lacked the jurisdiction to entertain.
Justice Bello first made the directive public on January 12, 2016 when he went on an inspection tour of the Keffi Prisons in Nasarawa State.
Throughout the go to, the then Deputy Controller of Jail, Keffi Medium Jail, Mr James Lander, stated out of the 415 awaiting-trial inmates within the facility, 301 of them have been despatched there on remand by FCT courts.
Lander defined that the rationale the inmates have been despatched from Abuja to the Keffi Jail was as a result of the Kuje Jail, the one jail facility within the FCT, Abuja, was already overcrowded.
The Chief Choose reviewed a complete 322 circumstances, together with one involving Queen Usa, who was accused of armed theft and conspiracy.
Apprehensive that Usa was being detained on an order of a magistrates’ courtroom that lacked jurisdiction to entertain armed theft circumstances, the Chief Choose ordered the switch of his case to Court docket 18 of the FCT Excessive Court docket in Abuja.
He stated, “You will need to not arraign folks for offences akin to armed theft, homicide and different capital offences, earlier than magistrates’ courts, which they don’t have the competence to deal with such circumstances.
“Let me additionally use this chance to say this. I perceive that the EFCC has been bringing some casmes to you and you’ve got been granting them remand orders; you will need to not do that from in the present day.”
Apart the abuse of the remand orders, the jurisdiction of space courts, that are Sharia Courts, has additionally been a matter of controversy.
The FCT Excessive Court docket has in judgments in two totally different circumstances – Gladys Chukwu v. Hon. Gambo Garba (FCT/HC/M/4499/19) and Barr. Anugo Ifeanyi v. The Grand Khadi Sharia Court docket of Enchantment and two others (FCT/HC/CV/2107/14 ) – declared that the Space Courts lacked the jurisdiction to entertain prison circumstances.
The matter has been taken earlier than the Court docket of Enchantment for additional adjudication.
The Govt Secretary of the ACJMC, Mr Sulayman Kuku-Dawodu, recalled that there was one other judgment by the FCT Excessive Court docket, affirming the prison jurisdiction of the Space Courts.
He stated because of the controversy, the ACJMC, a committee headed by the FCT Chief Choose and whose membership cuts throughout all authorities companies concerned within the prison justice system, met with the Grand Khadi who has the oversight supervision of the Space Courts, “to discover a steadiness”.
In accordance with him, the Space Court docket judges, by way of their Grand Khadi, insisted that they’ve jurisdiction to adjudicate on prison circumstances, citing the ACJA, “which interpreted courts to imply a courtroom that’s presided by a certified lawyer”.
He added, “We needed to agree one way or the other at a coverage stage for the difficulty to be settled within the meantime, earlier than the decision of the attraction on the matter after we can search additional amendments to the regulation to make it clear on whether or not they have jurisdiction or not.”
Legal professional-Common, NBA, FCT police converse
The Legal professional-Common and Commissioner of Justice, Ekiti State, Mr Wale Fapohunda, confirmed that “there are a number of issues together with arrest and detention strategies, abuse of bail processes, poor investigation and naturally archaic interrogation strategies” all which he stated “typically result in rights violations and the resultant lack of residents’ confidence within the police”.
“The unacceptable excessive variety of individuals awaiting trial within the correctional services is a direct results of these limitations,” Fapohunda added.
The first Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Affiliation, Mr John Aikpokpo-Martins, who heads the Human Rights Committee of the NBA, acknowledged the existence of the abuse of prison proceedings of the inferior courts however stated “we have now not noticed it in a way that requires consideration”.
He added, “Nonetheless, we all know that typically, in political issues notably, police and different regulation enforcement companies often arrest suspects and file expenses towards them, simply to maintain the suspect in detention.
“When the particular person is granted bail and the matter doesn’t go on, it could be interpreted to imply that the precise factor the regulation enforcement company needed to realize was to maintain the particular person in detention at that materials time.
“I’m not essentially saying so, however it’s a pointer to the opportunity of what you might be saying is going on.”
However the Chairman of the Bwari department of the NBA, one of many three branches of the legal professionals’ affiliation within the FCT, Mr Clement Chukwuemeka, stated, “We have now been observing such and we have now complained about it to the Chief Choose of the FCT.”
He stated, “The truth is, members report it in each basic assembly of our department. That was what led me to confront the Chief Choose of the FCT over it.
“The Chief Choose gave a directive that has diminished the issue now.”
When contacted over the allegations of abuse of remand orders and the prison proceedings of the inferior courts by the police in Abuja, the Officer-in-Cost, Authorized Division of the FCT Police Command, James Idachaba, requested our correspondent to quote an occasion.
The reporter cited the case of Vijah Opuama, the previous governorship candidate in Bayelsa State who was arrested by the Inspector-Common of Police Monitoring Unit in August this yr and was later rushed to the Space Court docket in Zuba, Abuja to legitimise his detention in jail.
Responding to this, Idachaba stated, “The case you referred to was dealt with by the IGP Monitoring Unit, which you already know operates at giant.
“However I can inform you that so far as the FCT Police command is anxious, nothing like that occurs.”
Days of repeated makes an attempt by our reporter to get the Pressure Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mba, to touch upon these allegations of rights abuse towards the police, yielded no fruit as he neither answered cellphone calls nor responded to messages to his cellphone.
Warning figures from FCT
Knowledge obtained from the ACJMC present that circumstances being dealt with by the police are accountable for the very best variety of awaiting trial inmates within the Suleja and Kuje Correctional Centres, that are two of the three prisons the place detainees standing trial in Abuja are being remanded by courts.
As an illustration, the evaluation by the ACJMC confirmed that 87.9 per cent, that’s 246 out of the 280 awaiting-trial inmates within the Suleja Prisons from January 2019 to October 2020, are being prosecuted by the police.
The ACJMC evaluation equally revealed that out of the 672 awaiting-trial inmates in Kuje Prisons throughout the similar interval, 524, translating into 78 per cent, are being prosecuted by the police.
However curiously, the inferior courts – the Space Courts and the magistrates’ courts – are solely accountable for the remand of solely 120, which is about 42.9 per cent of the awaiting-trial inmates in Suleja Prisons for a similar interval.
Whereas the Federal Excessive Court docket is accountable for the remand of 14 individuals (0.05 per cent) within the Suleja Prisons for a similar interval, the FCT Excessive Court docket is accountable for the remand of 146 (52.1 per cent) of them.
Equally, out of the 672 awaiting-trial inmates in Kuje Prisons, the Space Courts are accountable for the remand of solely two, whereas the magisterial courts are accountable for 102, each of which quantity to solely 15.5 per cent.
As with the case for Suleja prisons, the FCT Excessive Court docket contributed greater than half of the 672 awaiting-trial inmates remanded in Kuje Prisons.
Whereas the FCT Excessive Court docket is accountable for 385 of those inmates, which is about 57.3 per cent of the 672 awaiting-trial inmates, the Federal Excessive Court docket is accountable for 183 of them, translating into about 27.2 per cent.
The statistics for the Keffi prisons the place the FCT courts additionally remand suspects was not out there.
Combined bag of constructive, damaging indicators
Kuku-Dawodu, the Govt Secretary of ACJMC, defined that the comparatively decrease variety of the jail remands attributable to the inferior courts didn’t suggest that each one was nicely.
He stated the FCT Chief Choose’s restrictions on the issuance of remand orders by inferior courts is perhaps the rationale why the courts had fewer circumstances of remand.
Kuku-Dawodu, whose committee is barely involved with federal courts, together with the FCT courts, couldn’t inform if such directive by the FCT Chief Choose was in power in different states which are working their variations of the Administration of Legal Justice Act, 2015.
Offering additional insights, Dawodu stated the spike within the variety of circumstances being dealt with by the police and the attendant comparatively excessive variety of the FCT Excessive Court docket circumstances may very well be attributed to a breakdown of “the checks and balances” mechanism, following the abolition of holding cost by the ACJA.
He defined that with the abolition of holding cost, the police seemed to be submitting the circumstances involving critical crimes immediately on the FCT Excessive Court docket with out sending the case information to the Workplace of the Legal professional-Common of the Federation/Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation for authorized recommendation.
Corroborating Dawodu’s level, the ACJMC information confirmed that a big chunk of the awaiting-trial inmates in each Suleja and Kuje prisons are being prosecuted by the police for critical crimes, akin to armed theft, amongst others, on the FCT Excessive Court docket.
Below the “holding cost” system, the circumstances would have began on the Justice of the Peace’’ courts earlier than the arrival of authorized recommendation from the Federal Ministry of Justice.
“The info that we have now present that the police are coping with extra of the intense circumstances inside their establishment and they don’t seem to be referring them to the Legal professional-Common’s workplace. So, this must be regarded into, to reverse this example,” Dawodu stated.
In accordance with him, the essence of getting authorized recommendation from the Legal professional-Common’s workplace in critical circumstances “is to make sure that the prosecution or the investigation is enriched in these circumstances not just for the safeguards of human rights of these which are detained however to additionally be sure that the investigators have credible and evidence-backed circumstances.”
He nevertheless famous that the police too had attributed their reluctance to ship their case information to the Legal professional-Common’s workplace due to the delays within the issuance of authorized recommendation, thereby stalling the circumstances.
The President of the Centre for Socio-Authorized Research, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, stated many of the individuals in pre-trial detention have been indigent residents.
“We’d like pro-poor legal professionals who will defend the rights of the indigents who’re denied their human rights,” Akinseye-George stated.
To make up for the scarcity within the variety of pro-poor legal professionals, he steered that “the authorized assist system additionally must be strengthened to take up the circumstances of individuals who’re detained with out trial”.
Akinseye-George added, “In the mean time, the Authorized Help Council is each poorly funded and under-staffed.
“It’s a disgrace that almost all of individuals in our Correctional Centres are awaiting trial. This has been so for a really very long time.”
The don, who described “detention with out trial” as “a hangover of army rule,” which “offers our democracy a really dangerous title”, steered that “magistrates shouldn’t challenge remand orders to the police and different regulation enforcement companies when there isn’t any affidavit earlier than them exhibiting a transparent connection between the suspect and the offence”.
He added, “They need to additionally by no means enable the regulation enforcement companies to make use of them to detain suspects indefinitely.
“The place a remand order is given to allow the conclusion of investigation, the remanding Justice of the Peace should all the time give clear and brief return dates. Any Justice of the Peace who fails to do that ought to be sanctioned by the Chief Choose.”
Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, who led the authorized workforce that secured the discharge of Vincent Obafe, a person who was, by an order of a magistrates’ courtroom, remanded for 3 years in Agbor Prisons in Delta State on trumped-up armed theft expenses, referred to as on the Authorized Help Council and the Nationwide Human Rights Fee to be extra proactive.
Ugwumadu stated, “Authorities establishments, just like the Nationwide Human Rights Fee and the Authorized Help Council, ought to step up their recreation in relation to the large variety of circumstances of rights abuses within the nation.”
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), acknowledged that pre-trial remands “to cowl the interval of investigation has been defeated as it’s now abused by the police and different safety companies”.
“I’m of the sturdy view that it is just the month-to-month visitation and inspection of all detention services within the nation that may cease the abuse of the elemental proper of Nigerians to private liberty,” Falana stated.
The Legal professional-Common of Ekiti State, Fapohunda, stated in a bid to curb these sharp practices, the Ekiti State Authorities had enacted the Administration of Legal Justice Legislation since 2014, and adopted a lot of insurance policies, together with a Sufferer Constitution for victims of crimes, together with police abuse.
He stated, “We have now additionally taken deliberate steps to strengthen state entry to justice establishments, like creating the Workplace of the Public Defender and the Directorate of Residents’ Rights.
“Throughout the Ministry of Justice we have now additionally adopted a restricted timeframe for issuance of authorized recommendation by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Most significantly, we have now adopted a consultative and collaborative strategy in working with the state police command.
“Generally, we intervene on the police station, notably for suspects in minor offenders.”
The legal professional basic famous that the mix of the Administration of Legal Justice Legislation within the numerous states that had enacted it and the Police Act 2020 “supplies a framework to realize professionalism in policing our communities” however “have to be backed by the willpower of the management of the police power in any respect ranges”.
He inspired all states to enact the Administration of Legal Justice Legislation to handle abuse of remand orders and the attendant human rights violation.
Fapohunda added, “The Attorneys-Common of the South-West states, for instance, are continually sharing new concepts in prison justice administration and insurance policies.
“Typically, we should always all become involved within the dialogue on police reform and be sure that our voices are heard on the necessity to have a police service that works within the curiosity of all Nigerians, no matter age, gender, financial standing or every other attributes.”
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