Police Stations Now Have Supervising Magistrates. Daily Law Tips (Tip 672) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)
Access to justice is key, especially in a country where law enforcement agencies trample on fundamental human rights. In Nigeria, people have been detained by law enforcement agencies for months without prosecution, under the systematic lie that “investigation is still ongoing”. Debtors are detained without records until they pay their debts or die in detention. Most people believe that holding cells in law enforcement centers are the extensions of Correctional Centers (Prisons), since detainees serve illegal terms even without being charged to court.
To curb the madness in the law enforcement agencies across Nigeria, all law enforcement agencies and their branches now have Supervising Magistrates. This work reveals the role of Supervising Magistrates in monitoring law enforcement agencies across Nigeria. In this work, law enforcement agencies and police stations will be used interchangeably to address and mean the same thing.
Police Cells and Justice:
There are too many lawful holding cells across Nigeria, this is not surprising looking at the population and crime rate. Also, there are several unlawful and illegal detention centers in schools, religious centers, communities, private estates and public places. All lawful holding cells and lawful detention centers of law enforcements centers are built, designed and empowered by law to hod and detain suspects for a reasonable time. The “reasonable time” is a term provided by the constitution of Nigeria to mean one (1) day where there is a competent court with 40 kilometres, or 2 days where there is no competent court and more than 2 days, where there is a court order.
“Reasonable time” has further been narrowed down to 24 hours by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 and several other Administration of Criminal Justice Laws in states across Nigeria, for offences that are not punishable with death. The 24 hours is granted to law enforcement agencies to gather information, investigate a suspect and either release the suspect or charge the suspect to court. Any detention that is beyond 24 hours at a detention centre of any law enforcement agency, is illegal and unlawful, unless it is done with the order of a court of law. Where a person is detained for more than 24 hours for an offence that is not punishable with death, the detention is unlawful, the suspect (victim) or any person, can go to court to seek the immediate release of the victim. Where the offence is punishable with death, a suspect may be detained for more than 1 day (24 hours) but with an order of a competent court of law.
A suspect/detainee is INNOCENT even if there is an eyewitness or video record of the suspect/detainee committing an offence. Determination of justice is exclusively for courts and not for law enforcement officers. So, a suspect must be pampered and honoured by all persons until the suspect is proven guilty and a punishment is ordered by a court of law. In doing this, rule of law is respected, courts are respected, human rights are respected, orderliness is promoted, innocent persons are protected and justice is served to all, equally.
Supervising Magistrates and Law Enforcement Agencies:
Since many law enforcements agents are not respecting human rights, with suspects being detained for months and years, there came a need for a third party to monitor and supervise the law enforcement agencies. Magistrates are public officers who determine cases, including criminal cases in Magistrate Courts, they are lower than High Court Judges but higher than Judges of the Area Courts and the Customary Courts. Magistrates are appointed by State governments in their respective states to cover magisterial divisions. A magisterial division may have several police stations, police posts and offices of other law enforcement agencies.
By the the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 and several other Administration of Criminal Justice Laws in states across Nigeria, each police station and office of a law enforcement agency that arrests and detains persons, now has a Magistrate that supervises it. The Chief Magistrate or where there is no Chief Magistrate in a police division, the Supervising Magistrate is expected to have a monthly supervisory visit to the police station.
A Supervising Magistrate has the power to enter into any detention centre, police station, police post, office of any law enforcement agency or any place any person is detained, under his/her magisterial division to inspect it. The visit does not need to be announced or pre-arranged, it can be any time and the law requires it to be at least once in a month. During a visit by a Supervising Magistrate, the Magistrate can demand for and inspect the record of arrests; direct the arraignment (charging to court) of a suspect and also grant bail to a suspect. The bail must be for a suspect detained for an offence within the powers of the Magistrate to handle.
The officer in charge of any detention centre, must during an inspection by a Magistrate, provide to the Magistrate, the full record of arrest and record of bail, applications and decisions on bail made so far and any other information or material the Magistrate may demand. Refusal of any officer to perform his duties during a visit is a misconduct and must be handled in line with the Police Regulations and any other disciplinary procedure regulating the officer or agency. A Magistrate cannot supervise any law enforcement agencies setup by the federal government of Nigeria, rather only a High Court Judge can make such supervisions.
Gone are the days people were detained and forgotten in police stations and offices of law enforcement agencies. With the aid of Supervising Magistrates, every police station, law enforcement agency and detention centre now gets to be monitored every month and their records scrutinised to ensure there are no illegal detentions. If this is invention is thoroughly enforced, the police stations and law enforcement centers will be “holy” again.
However, there is need to monitor and supervise the Supervising Magistrates to ensure they perform MEANINGFUL monthly supervisions and not mere parties and friends visits. The States Chief Judges and the FCT Chief Judge as well as the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) and their equivalents in states, must develop robust remote reporting system to ensure compliance of Magistrates. The should also be Back Check Survey and Data Quality Assessment at the detention centers to confirm the data from Supervising Magistrates. Good law with zero implementation and monitoring is zero impact.
- Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
- Sections 32 and 34, of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and similar laws across states in Nigeria.
- “Head of a Police Station Must Make Monthly Report of Arrests to a Magistrate”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tip 638]) <https://sabilaw.org/head-of-police-station-must-make-monthly-report-of-arrests/> accessed 9 October 2020.
- “#EndSarsNow: Nigeria Police Lacks Power To Punish”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tip 670]) <https://sabilaw.org/endsarsnow-nigeria-police-lacks-power-to-punish/ > accessed 9 October 2020.
- “What Must Be In Register Of Arrest To Be Kept At Every Police Station And Security Agency In Nigeria”, Onyekachi Umah (Daily Law Tips [Tip 430]) <https://sabilaw.org/what-must-be-in-register-of-arrest-to-be-kept-at-every-police-station-and-security-agency-in-nigeria-daily-law-tips-tip-430-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 9 October 2020.
- “How to Get Bail After 24 Hours of Arrest in Nigeria”, Onyekachi Umah Daily Law Tips (Tip 648) < https://sabilaw.org/how-to-get-bail-after-24-hours-of-arrest-in-nigeria/ > accessed 9 October 2020.
Feel free to reach the author, ask questions or make inquiries on this topic or any other legal issues via email@example.com or +2348037665878.
This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation (www.SabiLaw.org) funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (www.BezaleelChambers.com). The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.
This publication is not a piece of legal advice. The opinion expressed in this publication is that of the author(s) and not necessarily the opinion of our organisation, staff and partners.
? Take short courses, get samples/precedents and learn your rights at www.SabiLaw.org
? Publish your legal articles for FREE by sending to: firstname.lastname@example.org
? Receive our free Daily Law Tips & other publications via our website and social media accounts or join our free whatsapp group: Daily Law Tips Group 6
KEEP IN TOUCH:
Get updates on all the free legal awareness projects of Sabi Law (#SabiLaw) and its partners, via:
Facebook page: SabiLaw
WhatsApp Group: Free Daily Law Tips Group 6
Telegram Group: Free Daily Law Tips Group
Facebook group: SabiLaw
ABOUT US & OUR PARTNERS:
This publication is the initiative of the Sabi Law Foundation (www.SabiLaw.org) funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (www.BezaleelChambers.com). Sabi Law Foundation is a Not-For-Profit and Non-Governmental Legal Awareness Organization based in Nigeria. It is the first of its kind and has been promoting free legal awareness since 2010.
DONATION & SPONSORSHIP:
As a registered not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation, Sabi Law Foundation relies on donations and sponsorships to promote free legal awareness across Nigeria and the world. With a vast followership across the globe, your donations will assist us to increase legal awareness, improve access to justice, reduce common legal disputes and crimes in Nigeria. Make your donations to us here or contact us for sponsorship and partnership, via: lisa@SabiLaw.org or +234 903 913 1200.