Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, wednesday in Abuja launched the amended Force Order 20, known as the Police Duty Solicitorsâ€™ Scheme (PDSS) aimed at ensuring detainees in police stations across the country gain access to legal services.
The launch which was widely applauded by civil society organisations, legal practitioners and a cross section is expected to put to end years of injustices suffered by Nigerians in police custody due to their inability to access legal services.
Idris also use the opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the police force under his watch to uphold the dignity of the Nigerian citizens and his campaign against corruption, warning that culprits would not be spared from the rod.
â€œLet me state without fear of contradiction that this current police management has a zero tolerance on violation of the rights of citizens and corruption. There will be no hiding place for officers whose conducts run foul with the law. You must learn to be professional in the discharge of your duties and shun all forms of misconducts,â€ the IG warned.
He described the launch of the Force Order 20 as another milestone of his administrationâ€™s effort at ensuring an efficient Criminal Justice Sector, adding that both the police and the general public stand to benefit from the scheme.
According to the IG, â€œThe police who are often accuses of torture and inhumane treatment at police station will now have an independent person not only to act as a check to their excesses but they could be vital witnesses to the officers when accused wrongly.
â€œOn the other hand, the public, mainly the poor and the vulnerable arrested by the police for being in conflict with the law will not only have the services of a counsel free of charge to ensure the protection of their rights but at no cost.â€
He therefore commended organisations like the Legal Aid Council and the Open Society Initiative for their contribution in the realisation of the project.
He also advised them to ensure that they do not see the scheme as a usurpation of police functions but simply to have access to detainees in the police formations to protect their rights as guaranteed in the constitution.
In his keynote address, Senior Managing Legal Officer for Africa, Open Society Justice Initiative, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, commended Idris for ensuring that the initiative which was started in 2004 come into fruition in his time.
â€œThe launch of Force Order 20 is both a milestone and an opportunity, it secures in a practical way the guarantees of due process in section 36(5) of the 1999 constitution.
â€œThis Force Order now makes it possible to take the scheme across the federation,â€ he said.
â€œTo achieve this, every stakeholder has a role to play. New partnerships have to be forged with state institutions like LACON and the Attorney Generalâ€™s Chambers as well as the Bar and Bench. Non governmental actors have a seat in the management scheme designed by Force Order 20,â€ he added.