A Peep At The Police Force (Establishment) Act 2020: It Is Now The Duty Of The Police To Protect The Fundamental Rights Of Suspects in their Custody; We Hope They Comply. By.C Obilor
One of the numerous challenges that is prevalent in the Nigerian Administration of Criminal Justice System, is the wanton and unwarranted harassment and denial of the fundamental rights of suspects by the police. It has become more like a tradition for most police officers to display “I don’t care attitude” towards the fundamental rights of suspects in their custody.
This explains why, on a daily basis, suspects at the police station are denied the following rights:
- Their right not to be arrested without warrant in line with the express provisions of the law.
- Their rights not to be handcuffed , except in exceptional circumstances, during arrest.
- Their rights to be informed within 24hours the reason for their arrest or the allegations against them.
- Their rights to remain silent and avoid answering any questions until after due consultation with a legal practitioner of their own choice.
- Their rights not be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatments, and many more.
Despite all the above Constitutional provisions, it is disheartening that we still find cases where police officers behave as if they are ignorant of the above fundamental rights of suspects in their custody.
WILL THE POLICE EMBRACE THE CHANGES OFFERED BY THE NEW LAW? WE HOPE SO!
With the enactment of the NIGERIAN POLICE FORCE(ESTABLISHMENT) ACT, 2020, there seems to be a great sense of hope. The new law contains provisions, which if complied with and fully implemented will accord full protection to the rights of suspects at the police custody and prevent indiscriminate abuse of suspects.
Permit me to reproduce the said novel provision , ipsissima verba, to wit :
SECTION 5(1) The police force is responsible for promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of Persons in the police custody as guaranteed by the Constitution.
(2) For the purpose of subsection (1) of this section, the police shall collaborate with and maintain close Working relationships with any governmental agency or relevant private initiatives in the establishment of schemes or mechanisms offering legal services to accused persons in police custody in need of legal services to ensure that they have full access to justice as laid down under the relevant provisions of the Constitution.
(3) In addition to the provisions of subsection (1) and (2) to this section, the police force is also charged with the responsibility for promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of all Persons as guaranteed under the African Charter On Human and People’s Right(Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other international legal instruments on human rights which Nigeria is a signatory.
It is my humble view that if the above new law is fully implemented, it will put a permanent stop to the notorious practice by the police where suspects are treated as if they have no rights at all.
I think the new law deserves Kudos and should be embraced with both hands. Though there are numerous laws protecting the rights of suspects at the police custody, we hope that the new law will provide the framework for effective and well organized police force which will no longer engage in activities that tends to deny fundamental rights to suspects at their custody.
Rather, the police will begin to protect than abuse the rights of suspects in their custody so that one would be able to utter the words ” POLICE IS REALLY OUR FRIEND”! Without shame or any iota of doubt.
It is now the responsibility of the police to protect the fundamental rights of suspects in their custody. We hope they will!
BY : B.C OBILOR ( BCOBILOR@nigerianbar.ng)
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