As part of its efforts in promoting the enjoyment of Human Rights in Nigeria, Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France or Lawyers Without Borders), in collaboration with its partners, the Carmelite Prisoners Interest Organisation (CAPIO) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has set up “The Police and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Situation Room” in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

A statement made available to CITY LAWYER shows that the Situation Room was established under the “Strengthening the National Actors Capacities and Advocation for Ending Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria project” (SAFE) funded by the European Union and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and is targeted at addressing human rights violations such as torture, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention.

In attendance at the maiden convening of the situation room were representatives of ASF France, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON), Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), CAPIO, NBA, and key CSOs working on justice sector reform in Nigeria such as Amnesty International, CLEEN Foundation, Access to Justice. Others were representatives of CSOs from Lagos, Enugu and Kaduna States.

In line with ASF France’s objectives for establishing the situation room, insightful contributions were made by members of the situation room as follows:

  • Create a pool of possible reforms that are consistent with international best practices in respect of Police accountability and human rights;
  • Create a platform for CSO monitoring and collaboration with the Police on its operations towards human rights enforcements;
  • Develop strategies aimed at improving the respect of human rights by officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force; and 
  • Boost the image of the Nigerian Police Force before the citizens.

The situation room also considered recommendations generated from State-level stakeholders roundtable meetings organised on the SAFE Project on Human Rights. The Head of Office of Avocats Sans Frontières France, Angela Uwandu, in her opening remarks said: “The work for the advancement of Human Rights in the country should be a collaborative effort between CSOs and the Government hence the dire need for the situation room”. She also called on CSOs to replicate this effort so as to sustain the gains of the engagement.

In his contribution, the representative of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, restated the commitment of the Police to the advancement of human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law in the country.

The O/C of the Police Complaints Response Unit (P-CRU), ACP Martins Ishaku Basiran, during his presentation on the Police Internal Mechanism for Accountability for Human Rights Violations by Police Officers said “a total of 2,156 complaints were reported during the 2019 period, 1,617 (75%) complaints were resolved, 108 (5%) complaints were found to be false and 431 (20%) complaints are still under investigation. There is an urgent need to establish P-CRU Desk offices across various States of the country to ensure that complaints are reduced to the barest minimum”.

ASF France aims to build on a successful maiden convening of the situation room to ensure sustainability of this initiative. The situation room would continue to expand and operate remotely as it gears up for its next convening.

ASF France’s SAFE project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the French Agency for Development (AFD) and is implemented in partnership with the Nigerian Bar Association and the Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organization (CAPIO).

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The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Lagos State Branch has launched its Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS). The event took place during the weekend at the FIDA Lagos headquarters at Makoko, Lagos.

Speaking on the rationale for the scheme, the Chairperson of FIDA Lagos Branch, Mrs. Philomena Nneji said it was aimed to assist indigent persons who come in contact with the law, adding that special focus will be placed on protection of women and girls against rape and sexual assault.

Tracing the history of PDSS in Nigeria, the Lagos State Coordinator of Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACoN), Mrs. Iyabo Akingbade stated that approximately 70 per cent of total prisoners are awaiting trial detainees. She identified multiple adjournments as a major handicap in pre-trial detention, adding that State prosecutors charged with ensuring due process in criminal arraignments lack mechanisms to monitor or control the police.

“There are instances where detainees are held longer in pre-trial detention than would have been the case if they had been convicted for the offence charged,” Akingbade said, adding that duty solicitors are meant to “stand in the gap” and resolve many of the cases to reduce judges’ dockets.

On his part, Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch PDSS programme, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke commended FIDA Lagos for the initiative, noting that there is a need to boost the provision of legal assistance to indigent persons. He however canvassed the need for an “urgent review of the PDSS framework in view of the fact persisting overhang in pre-trial detention.”

Former Chairman of NBA Ikorodu Branch, Mr. Adebayo Akinlade traced the implementation of the PDSS programme in the Ikorodu area, adding that the scheme posted several successes under his leadership. He urged the chapter to ensure that the scheme is sustained in order to foster access to justice for more citizens.

A senior officer with the Legal Department of the Nigerian Police Force, State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Lagos, Ibijoke Akinpelu spoke on the modalities put in place by the force to tackle rape and sexual offences among other crimes. She pledged the cooperation of the force with FIDA Lagos in carrying out its PDSS project. She also took questions from Makoko residents and duty solicitors during the interactive session.

Following the formal unveiling of the scheme, the chapter bestowed an award on Akinlade for his contributions to the growth of the duty solicitors’ scheme.

Other stakeholders who attended the launch are Mrs. Felicitas Aigbogun-Brai, Executive Director of REPLACE as well as a representative of the Chairman of Yaba Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), Kayode Omiyale. Members of the chapter held a legal clinic on the sidelines of the launch to offer legal counseling to some Makoko residents who attended the launch under the programme.

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