The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu has directed the command’s legal team to ensure that all the Human Rights Desks within its umbrella are active, stating that the force is committed to fostering the rights of suspects and detainees.
Speaking while receiving a delegation from the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) alongside other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, Odumosu assured the delegates of his commitment to the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) initiated through Force Order 20.
The scheme was initiated by LACON in partnership with the Nigeria Police Force and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Others in the advocacy visit were the NBA, Lagos branch; the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) programme of the British Council and Rights Enforcement and the Public Law Centre (REPLACE).
The Lagos State police chief also announced the appointment of the officer-in-charge of the Legal Unit, SP Yetunde Cardoso as the “Judicial Liaison Officer” for the command, saying that it would smoothen the hardships being encountered by duty solicitors in accessing police formations.
He directed Cardoso to work with the delegation among other civil society groups “to promote prompt dispensation of justice in the state and to ensure that the Human Rights Desk of the command is active.”
Odumosu assured the delegation of his support for the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS), noting that it “provides an enabling atmosphere for easy access to police facilities and suspects by designated members.”
He however emphasized the need for proper conduct to ensure that the PDSS volunteers work in line with the mandate of the programme.
Noting that criminal justice administration starts with policing, he assured the delegation of the cooperation of the command in promoting rule of law and access to justice, saying: “It is a symbiotic relationship; be rest assured of our commitment to everything the stakeholders are doing is towards making the society better.”
Odumosu also stated that he would inaugurate the Force Order 20 Advisory Committee once he receives a directive from the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Muhammed Adamu, adding that the directive is crucial to ensure uniformity in composition of the committee.
In her remarks, the leader of the delegation and Zonal Director of the Legal Aid Council (South-West), Mrs. Latifat Salau noted that both Force Order 20 and the Legal Aid Council Act empower the council to visit police detention centres in collaboration with non-governmental organisations.
She emphasised that the PDSS programme enables lawyers to visit police detention centres “to look at the welfare of inmates, ensure that they do not spend longer time than is constitutionally provided for, and generally secure their fundamental rights.”
Salau observed that while some police stations accord duty solicitors unfettered access to detainees, “others do not, thereby creating bottlenecks in achieving the goals of Force Order 20.”
She urged Odumosu to redress the hardship by directing officers to facilitate access to detainees by duty solicitors.
While the Executive Director of REPLACE, Mrs. Felicitas Aigbogun-Brai assured the police top shots – which included two deputy police commissioners and the commander of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) among others – that the duty solicitors have been duly trained and accredited by her organization, Mrs. Ajibola Ijimakinwa, Lagos State Coordinator of ROLAC, stated that the PDSS programme is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the British Council through ROLAC/REPLACE. She assured the police high command of their commitment.
On his part, the Vice Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch and Chairman of its Human Rights Committee, Mr. Okey Ilofulunwa commended the command for its work in combating crime and assured that NBA “will continue to place premium on safeguarding the rights of detainees in collaboration with critical stakeholders.”
The delegation also included the Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch PDSS Sub-committee, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke; Mrs. Grace Adenubi and Mrs. Omolara Rogers, both of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, and Mr. Segun Babalola, Programme Officer at REPLACE.
Nwadioke was last February appointed Chairman of NBA Lagos Branch PDSS programme with a charge to drive implementation of sections 33 and 34 of the Administration of Criminals Justice Act 2015 (ACJA).
The programme has started deploying its volunteer duty solicitors to designated police detention centres among others to offer free legal services to detainees and help in stemming the filing of frivolous charges, which congest our courts.
Duty solicitors will also accompany chief magistrates to oversight detention facilities in the Lagos area towards ensuring compliance with human rights standards.