ACJMC Commences Free Legal Services for Police Detainees

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

With the formal launch of the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS), succour may have come the way of many indigent citizens, who spend days languishing in police detention cells due to their inability to afford the services of legal practitioners.

The launch by the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), over the weekend, was aimed at ensuring an effective justice system in the country.

Secretary of ACJMC, Mr. Sulayman Dawodu, in his remarks, stated that events leading to the prosecution of any suspect must be well managed and devoid of any arbitrariness such as torture and other illegal means of extracting information from alleged criminals.

To make investigation and subsequent prosecution more transparent, he disclosed that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, provided among others, that statement should only be taken from a suspect in the presence of his or her lawyer.

Sulayman observed that while some persons arrested and detained by the police were not aware of their rights and how to protect them, others could not afford the services of legal practitioners.

“It is simply a scheme developed to render immediate free legal services to vulnerable and indigent persons arrested and detained in Police stations pending the completion of police investigations and their arraignment before a court of law,” he said.

According to Sulayman, solicitors would be attached to police stations across the country, which would provide legal assistance to detainees, monitor and make referral to the Nigerian Bar Association, Legal Aid Council (LACON) and others for onward free legal services in the courts.

While officially launching the scheme, Director General of the Legal Aid Council, represented by Mr. AbdulFatai Bakare, stated that the scheme, which was in collaboration with the services of the council, would strengthen community policing as well as service delivery, adding that it would also reduce the time spend in police custody.

He commended the Police Duty Solicitors for their efforts, and appealed to them to see it as an opportunity to give back to society.

In his goodwill message, Chairman of the Bwari chapter of the NBA, Mr. Monday Adjeh, who commended the ACJMC for a job well done, assured that the scheme had come to stay because it had been long awaited.
He assured that the NBA would give its full support towards realising the success and goals of the scheme.

The goals of the PDSS include reducing torture of suspects in police custody; increased protection and promotion of legal and human rights of suspects and detainees; increase accountability and transparency in the Police; improve quality of legal assistance and justice delivery amongst others.