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Group tasks NASS on alleged corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system

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A non-governmental organisation, NGO, the Due Process Advocates Foundation, DPA, has asked the National Assembly to conduct holistic public hearing on alleged corruption in the country’s criminal justice system, beginning from the moment of arrest by the Police to the point of release from prison.

This, according to a statement by the group was confirmed by a recent investigation carried out by a journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, who spent two weeks in detention — five days in a Police cell and eight as an inmate in Ikoyi Prison where he particularly uncovered continuous abuse of prosecutor power by the Police.

Soyombo had in the quest to experience the workings of the system adopted the pseudonym Ojo Olajumoke and feigned an offence for which he was arrested and detained in Police custody, arraigned in court and eventually remanded in Prison.

DPA, therefore, likened the journalist’s experience to that of a legal practitioner, Barrister Emeka Ugwuonye who was detained in Abuja Police station and still being held in Kuje Prison over an alleged murder case.

The group’s Director of Information, Ifeanyi Calistus, who signed the statement, added that the current travail of Ugwuonye cannot be separated from his continuous criticism of Police activities in the country.

It lamented that the legal practitioner is still in detention based on an alleged fabricated murder charge by the Police, which was calculated to prevent the disclosure of the worst police corruption and atrocities in Nigerian history.

The group added that the “most astonishing thing about Ugwuonye’s case is that the court seems to have ineptly aided the designs of the Police.”

The statement reads in part: “The extraordinary work of Soyombo also highlights some institutional failures that have aided and even facilitated the Police problem, such as the failure of the courts to control Police abuses and the failure of the Bar to checkmate and vigorously advocate for rights of victims.

“Further, it highlights the absence of adequate internal controls within the Police Force, such as ethical control and effective rules of engagement.

“Normally, the Nigerian courts should be able to check the excesses of the police in two major ways: vigorous enforcement of fundamental rights and effective application and observance of due process standards as contained in Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution.

“Unfortunately, the courts seem to have abandoned these standards and taken positions that amount to complicity in the abuse of rights. This is evident in the fact that over 80% of the inmates in our correctional facilities all over the country are awaiting trial. This was discussed in greater detail in DPA’s policy statement for October 2019.

“Equally, every indication shows that the organized bar and individual lawyers have been unable to challenge the abuses by the police. More and more lawyers have been intimidated by the Police.

“Most lawyers are terrified by the prospect of going to visit their clients in detention centers controlled by various police units. And with a judiciary that increasingly rubber-stamps every police action; the individual lawyer is totally helpless.

“Finally on this, the Nigerian Police Force has repeatedly failed to come up with standard ethical and security doctrines that police officers would follow. Instead, each time a new Inspector General of Police (IGP) is appointed, there will be several positive pronouncements that are soon ignored.”

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