Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has expressed worry over complaints of “horrific” incidents of police brutality, inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by security agents.
Consequently, he has directed Chief Judges of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to mandate Chief Magistrates to conduct an inspection of Police Stations or other detention centres within their territorial jurisdiction.
In a statement he issued yesterday, the CJN noted that such incidents have assumed frightening proportions in recent times to warrant the intervention of the Judiciary.
He bemoaned that Magistrate Courts across the country are currently overwhelmed with cases of such brutality, inordinate arrests and detention of citizens.
“As we approach election year, it is imperative that we curb these excesses through the instrumentality of the statutory powers of the courts.
“The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) has given magistrates oversight functions over police stations in their jurisdictions,” the CJN said in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Awassam Bassey.
Besides, Justice Onnoghen stressed that section 34 (1) of the ACJA empowered chief magistrates or any magistrate designated by the Chief Judge of a state, to conduct inspection of police stations or other places of detention within his territorial jurisdiction, other than prisons, on monthly basis.
According to him, section 34 (2) of the Act further provided that during such visit, the magistrate could call for, and inspect the record of arrest; direct the arraignment of the suspect; where bail has been refused, grant bail to any suspect, where appropriate, if the offence for which the suspect is held, is within the jurisdiction of the magistrate.
“In the above, I hereby direct as follows: The Chief Judge of every state of the nation, including the FCT, shall direct chief magistrates, and, where there is no chief magistrate within the police division, designate any magistrate for that purpose, to, at least, every month, conduct an inspection of police stations or other places of detention within his territorial jurisdiction other than prison.
“The chief judge of every state of the nation, including the FCT, shall put in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure compliance with the above provisions of the ACJA,” he added.
In a related development, the CJN has directed heads of courts to make Practice Directions that will dissuade litigants who institute actions without exploring the arbitration clauses in contracts.
The CJN gave the directive after he commissioned a new Court of Appeal Mediation Center, in Abuja.
He said it was time the judiciary deployed multi-modal justice delivery that would ensure that the wheels of Justice are speeded up to meet the demands of the citizenry.