The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has directed Chief Magistrates in the country to periodically inspect police stations and other detention centres within their jurisdiction to check thealarming rate of citizen maltreatment by police and other security agencies.
This was disclosed by the Special Assistant to the CJN on Media, Mr. Awassam Bassey, in a statement on Thursday.
The order followed what Onnoghen described as the “frightening proportions” of “horrific incidents of police brutality, inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by officers across the country” in recent times.
The directive is to be conveyed to the Chief Magistrates through their respective Chief Judges in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Bassey’s statement partly read, “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 his territorial jurisdiction other than prison.
“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 statement also said the CJN had received “several complaints of the horrific incidents of police brutality, inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by officers across the country”.
Recall that Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had in December 2017, wrote to the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, urging her to designate Chief Magistrates to conduct a monthly inspection of all police stations and other detention centres in Lagos State.
Now Chief Justice Onnoghen has confirmed that police abuse of Nigerians “has assumed frightening proportions in recent times.
“The magistrates’ courts are currently overwhelmed with cases of such brutality, inordinate arrests and detention of citizens.”
He added, “As we approach the election year, it is imperative that we curb these excesses through the instrumentality of the statutory powers of the courts.
“The Administration of Criminal Justice Act has given magistrates oversight functions over police stations in their jurisdictions.”
There is a culture of police brutality and extortion in Nigeria, with the country’s police ranking as one of the most corrupt force in the world.