By Yemi Akinsuyi in Abuja
The Federal Government has said the nation must confront and address custodial violence against police detainees in the country.
It noted that victims of violence in police custody had often raised alarms, stressing that acts of torture, coercion, intimidation and extra-judicial execution were aberrations in the nation’s criminal justice system and a negation of the constitutional principle of the right to dignity of the human person.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said this on Friday in Abuja during the inaugural Inspector-General of Police Annual Strategic Police Management Conference with the theme, “Custodial Violence and Strategic Police Management.”
The AG described violence against detainees in police custody as a betrayal of the persons who had been placed in the care of law enforcement agents through the instrumentality of the law.
Malami said, “We are living witnesses to the fact issues of custodial violence against detainees in police cells and other detention centres have often been raised by the victims, the press, domestic and foreign non-governmental organisations and even by concerned stakeholders within governmental institutions.
“Violence in this context includes acts of torture, coercion, intimidation and even extra-judicial execution in extreme cases. These are realities which we need to confront as individuals, as institutions and as a nation.”
The minister said he was impressed by the courage of the police leadership to openly discuss the issues, even where certain aspects might negatively impact on the image of the Force.
“It is in my opinion, a demonstration of the necessary will to boldly reposition the Force for the challenges that lie ahead,” he added, noting that excuses of inadequate personnel and resources, would not be acceptable to explain away indiscretions committed in the line of duty, including custodial violence.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who declared open the conference said allegations of forced confessional statements by suspects had often led to protracted trials within trial and occasioned significant delay in criminal cases.
Osibajo, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Economic Affairs, Dr. Yemi Dipeolu, observed that most judges ascribe little or no weight to confessional statements where corroboration was lacking.
“Counter-intuitive as it may sound, it is my view that the current way in which the police take confessional statements is the reason for one of the main causes of delay at trial- the phenomenon of trials within trial,” he stated.
The VP urged the police to take advantage of the new provisions in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which mandates the police to either record a voluntary confessional statement on video or take the statement in the presence of the suspect’s lawyer.
The IG, Solomon Arase, stated that the concept of the conference was borne out of the fact that no organisation develops beyond the capacity of its human asset, adding that the quality of any agency was best measured by the quality of the crop of its strategic managers.
He said there was a chronic manpower gap at the strategic policing level in the country, stressing that this was noticeable within the ranks of Assistant Commissioner of Police to Commissioner of Police, “yet the future leadership of the Force naturally evolves from this cadre of officers.