Magistrates Visit Police Cells to Check Human Rights Abuse, Falana Reveals

Femi Falana

Segun James

Following the persistent complaints from the human rights community against police brutality and abuses perpetrated by men of the Nigerian Police against persons detained in police cells, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Opeyemi Oke, has mandated some magistrates to visit police stations and interview people detained by the police.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and foremost human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana who disclosed this at the 30th anniversary lecture and book launch of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Lagos yesterday, said some of these visits by the magistrates have revealed startling cases of abuses and extrajudicial actions of the police.

According to him, when such police stations are aware of an impending visits by the magistrates, they “empty the cell” of detainees, adding that the decision is being replicated in other states of the country in order to reduce the abuses allegedly committed by the police.

Falana who was a former president of the CDHR from 1997 to 2001, also lamented the refusal of the federal government to obey the rule of law and judicial orders, saying under the Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon military regime, judicial pronouncement were obeyed to the surprise of many than now, under a democratic government.

In his speech, the President of CDHR, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, said the organisation was formed in 1989 in response to the incessant violations of the rights of Nigerians by successive governments in the country, especially to “provide the crucial platform for the struggle against military dictatorship and human rights violation in Nigeria.”

He disclosed that since its inception during the repressive regimes of the military juntas, CDHR has grown in membership and expanded in branches and units across the country, adding that but for the intervention of the organisation, many people would have continued to languish under the yoke of oppression.

In his lecture: ‘Achieving a Functional Human Rights Enforcement Regime in a Liberal Democracy: Chronicling the Struggle and Identifying the Way Forward,’ Prof. Akin Oyebode, said that but for the CDHR, “especially during the era of the locust and arbitrariness of successive military junta, it was able to keep hope alive and ensure that a people united can never be defeated.”

Oyebode lamented that Nigeria’s record of respect for human rights and the creation of a liberal democracy to the society was at best, tenuous and bereft of constituency, saying that “the deleterious consequences of a long, vicious and self-perpetuating military dictatorship are so impactful and cannot be wished away.

“A well- articulated reorien-tation of society must be effected in order to wipe away the ugly sore of military misrule and create the prerequisites of a new environment of popular will, freedom, emancipation and collective self-actualisation such as can enable human rights consciousness to thrive in the hearts and minds of the people.”