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Concerned Parties Urge Police Duty Solicitor Scheme to Be Repositioned

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Concerned Parties Urge Police Duty Solicitor Scheme to Be Repositioned

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The Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) has to be reorganized, according to stakeholders, so that all Nigerians can have access to justice.

During a gathering of stakeholders in Abuja over the weekend in observance of International Human Rights Day, the request was made.

At the event, experts emphasized the need for police to reevaluate their knowledge of the PDSS and how it assists them throughout the investigation and court process.

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Speakers at the event included Solomon Arase, who was the former IGP and chairman of the Police Service Commission; Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who is the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Aliyu Abubakar, the Director General of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria; and Dr. Oluwatoyin Badejogbin, the Project Manager of the Criminal Justice Reform, Rule of Law, and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC Phase II) Programme.

Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) collaborated to organize the event, which concluded the 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 2023, with funding from the European Union.

During his opening remarks, Aliyu Abubakar, Director General of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, emphasized the many advantages of the scheme. These include, but are not limited to, the following: the promotion of community policing; the enhancement of police service delivery; and the better protection and promotion of the human and legal rights of incarcerated individuals and suspects.

Before implementing the plan on a national scale, he sought the support of the police leadership.

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During his keynote lecture, Arase emphasized that the PDSS was a turning point in the effort to protect the rights of those held by the police, as it was implemented in answer to the ACJA’s mandate.

The head of the Police Service Commission claims that the PDSS has brought about transformational changes, both in theory and in practice.

On the other hand, he demanded a broader and more coordinated strategy to fix the country’s broken criminal justice system.

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According to him, in the past, prisoners often had their rights violated because they were held in police institutions for long periods of time without a lawyer. In Nigeria, detainees have access to free legal assistance through the PDSS, which is propelled by a dedication to justice. This ensures that detainees’ rights are respected both in theory and in practice.

There needs to be broad replication and adoption of the PDSS, even though it is clearly working in some areas. To promote a culture of cross-regional cooperation and legal accountability, other states should follow the examples set by Anambra, Edo, FCT, and Lagos.

In his remarks, Gladys Odigbaro, Director of the Solicitor Department, Federal Ministry of Justice, on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, lauded the enforcement of Force Order 20 and other pertinent provisions of the Administration and Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) as significant steps forward in the coordinated effort to tackle the nationwide problem of arbitrary, illogical, and endless pretrial detentions.

As he pointed out, the plan has the added bonus of reducing the overcrowding of prisons, which means the government will have to spend less money on maintaining a huge prison population.

The Police Duty Solicitor Scheme, as outlined in Force Order 20, is intended to aid in the completion of the current reform initiative of the current administration, according to Inspector General Kayode Egbetokun, who was represented by AIG Shehu Gwarzo.

According to him, the PDSS would be used as a nationwide mechanism to provide free legal services to those who have been arrested or held in police formations, as stated in Force Order 20. It guarantees that suspects have quick access to duty solicitors, which increases the availability of legal services in police stations. It fulfills the constitutional mandate that all Nigerians have the right to legal representation at police stations.

The event was to establish the renewed commitment of the IGP to grant duty solicitors access to police detention centers, according to Dr. Oluwatoyin Badejogbin, Project Manager, Criminal Justice Reform, Rule of Law, and Anti-Corruption (Phase II) Programme of International IDEA. According to him, another goal was to get police officers thinking again about how the PDSS helps them with everything from investigations to court appearances.

Present at the gathering were representatives from the police forces of the 36 states plus the FCT.

 

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