By Ejike Ejike, Abuja
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, yesterday launched Police Force Order 20, which provides legal services for suspects before detention and trial.
The launch of the Force Order 20 is in line with the recent unveiling of the revised Community Policing and ‘Bail is Free’ initiatives, which practically demonstrates the Police Force’s commitment to connecting with the people and respecting their rights.
Speaking at the event, Idris who described the launch of the programme as “a milestone to ensure and access legal representation in the country and we are doing this, irrespective of religion and status”, noted that the rule of law must prevail in all actions of the Force to ensure democratic policing.
“The event is the manifestation of my promise to the government to promote the human rights of Nigerian citizens and to offer them free legal representation as I believe this also will curtail unnecessary detention, torture and maltreatment”, the IGP added.
Also speaking during the launch, the special assistant to the president on Justice and Sector Reform, Juliet Ibekakwu, said the initiative will help in maintaining the rights of the people as it will strengthen the country’s criminal justice system.
“It will increase the access to justice of the poor, marginalised persons. The framework is well- coordinated”, Ibekakwu who represented the Attorney General of the Federation stated.
In his address, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, a senior managing legal officer for Africa at the Open Society Justice Initiative, who is a partner in the project, explained that “only individuals who have good reasons to stay in detention, prior to trial, are those to be detained and, while detained, all due process rights established under the constitution and laws must be accorded to them”.
Odinkalu, who said the order will henceforth expand the provision of legal services in police stations beyond police officers by ensuring prompt access to Duty Solicitors for suspects, commended the Nigerian Police Force under Idris.
“The IGP deserves credit for taking the courageous steps to bring this into fruition…these new opportunities should spur the people to be more supportive of the NPF both in terms of making their work easier and holding them to account”, he said.
Earlier, the director general of the Legal Aid Council, Mrs Joyce Bob-Manuel, said the move for the Order 20 started since 2006 but has now been amended to the effect that no suspect should be brought to court without a pictorial or video evidence.
“This is also making sure that Police should always ask suspects if they have a lawyer or not before any case is being brought to court”, she added.