During bi-monthly ACJA Stake Working Group in Enugu state stakeholders has resolved to begin inspection of police cells as part of the effort to monitor implementation of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) in the state.
Rising from the meeting held yesterday, involving representatives of the State Judiciary, the media, police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Carmelite Prisoners Interest Organisation (CAPIO), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Legal Aid Council, Nigeria; the group resolved to officially write to the state Commissioner of Police before the commencement of unannounced visits to the police cells across the state.
The visit would enable the Magistrates to ascertain the condition of detainees, extra-judicial detentions (if any), illegal detentions and inappropriate charges (if any) among other things.
The project organized by two NGOs; Women Information Network (WINET) and AFRILAW; and implemented by CLEEN Foundation, is being sponsored by MacArthur Foundation.
The meeting also resolved to ensure more inter-agency collaborations, especially among the Ministry of Justice, Courts, the DPP, Police and Correctional Service; to mitigate obstacles against the smooth implementation of the administration of criminal justice Act and Law in the state.
They identified such impediments to include; lack of legal representation to some suspects (which delays justice), filing of inappropriate charges against suspects by police, lack of witness support (transport allowance to witnesses), and strengthening of citizen’s rights and meditation centre.
Speaking at the stakeholders meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of WINET, Mrs. Miriam Menkiti stated that the Enugu State Working Group was convoked to promote transparency and accountability in the implementation of ACJA and ACJL in the state, through the engagement of stakeholders, policymakers and financial crime monitoring.
Menkiti expressed gratitude to the State Chief Judge, Justice Priscilla Emehelu for providing an office space for a Resource Centre within the state High Court Complex, which will be launched very soon, where books and electronic materials on case laws and ongoing cases relating to implementation of ACJA and ACJL could be assessed by lawyers and the general public.
In their remarks, the chairman of the meeting and representative of the state Chief Judge, Justice Angela Anidi, and the Chief Registrar of Enugu State High Courts, Mrs. Martha Aroh-Onuoha, a Chief Magistrate, stated that the issue of intermittent unscheduled visit to police cells was a constitutional provision, which ordinarily does not require permission of the commissioner of police.
They, however, stressed that attempts in the past by the magistrates in the state to undertake such visits were opposed by Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), who would demand written permission from commissioner of police before granting them access.
The representative of the police and OC Legal of Enugu state police command, Mr. Pascal Nwachukwu explained that the reason it appeared police were obstructing the magistrates from inspecting police cells was because of identification issue, saying that there was a case some people walked into a police station and took a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) away under the guise that they came from Force Headquarters, and that till date the DPO was yet to be found.
The Working Group resolved that the State Judiciary should officially write the Commissioner of Police about the proposed inspection of the police cells and that in addition, the visiting Magistrates should carry special identification letters from the Chief Registrar and also move along with the Media, Rights groups and NGOs.
It was also resolved that the magistrates should restrict their visits to police cells within their jurisdiction.