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Bayo Akinlade write on police brutality

Police And The Abuse of Power, Indiscriminate Arrests and Illegal Detention: Renewed Calls on Lawyers To Volunteer as Duty Solicitors Under PDSS

By Bayo Akinlade Esq

We need Lawyers to take up their roles as protectors of the weak to stand in the gap and rescue vulnerable citizens falling victim to the extortive behaviour of some Police Officers

Praises Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN, Prof. Isabella Okagbue, Afolabi Balogun, Justice Reform Project (JRP) and others for supporting volunteers visiting Police Detention Facilities across the Country

The Police Duty Solicitors Scheme is an agreement between the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and the Nigerian Police under the Police Force Order 20 to protect suspects from illegal detention by the Police. The initiative was developed, supported and funded by the Open Society Justice Initiative back in 2003 and over the years had various international organizations provide support but after the funding stopped, the initiative went into abeyance until 2018 when it was revived by the Ikorodu Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association.

Bayo Akinlade, the then Chairman of NBA Ikorodu Branch speaks more about the initiative:

"PDSS is a unique and effective tool in not only dealing with Indiscriminate arrest and unlawful detention but also in ensuring that the right people are charged, arraigned before the appropriate court and duly prosecuted without violating their personal rights as provided for in the constitution.

In achieving this, we need Lawyers to take up their roles as protectors of the weak to stand in the gap and rescue vulnerable citizens falling victim to the extortive behaviour of some Police Officers".

Akinlade, who is the current Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Law Society, goes on to state that..." the Scheme itself is codified in the internal rules of the Nigeria Police called "Force Orders". The Police itself signed up to this initiative as partners with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria to implement provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and other local and international laws dealing with the Human Rights"

Akinlade as convener of the Duty Solicitors Network (DSN) a group established to support the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria in promoting PDSS and provides support to Magistrates visiting police detention facilities under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law notes that:

"In my many years of looking at reforms within the Administration of Criminal Justice, I have come to understand that one of the major causes of abuse of police power is the ignorance of the people themselves. In many cases of illegal detention, it is citizens with money and power that use the police to oppress others. These complainants use the appalling financial situation of the individual police officer to induce these police officers to abuse their powers. What we now hope to do through PDSS is to protect both the suspect and the integrity of the Police by having lawyers visit the police detention facilities unannounced.

On how PDSS is funded, Akinlade states that:

"This is one of the reasons we are now advocating for the provision of the legal aid fund which are monies due to the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria to provide probono legal services for indigent citizens.

At the moment, DSN gets it's support from private individuals and other organizations through our direct 'Donor to Volunteer' support mechanism. In this regard I am grateful to people like Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN, Prof. Isabella Okagbue, Afolabi Balogun, Justice Reform Project (JRP) and many individuals and organisations for supporting volunteers visiting Police Detention Facilities across the Country."

On the way forward with PDSS, Akinlade reveals that the Scheme is undergoing a review while it continues to engage with the police to deliver justice to the people...

"We need the Police to honour their part of the agreement under the scheme by allowing volunteers access to the suspects. While I give kudos to some police officers who honour the agreement, most senior police officers claim they are not aware of the scheme"

Akinlade concludes:

IIt is my hope that our principal actors and stakeholders in the Administration of Criminal Justice will collaborate to make this scheme work to the benefit of all

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