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Stakeholders demand that the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme be repositioned

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A repositioning of the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) has been demanded by stakeholders in order to provide effective access to justice for all Nigerians nationwide.

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At a stakeholder gathering held over the weekend in Abuja to honor International Human Rights Day, the call was made.

At the event, experts urged police officers to have a fresh perspective on how the PDSS assists them throughout their investigations and court appearances.

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

The European Union-funded Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in partnership with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, LACON, organized the event, which marked the conclusion of the 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 2023.

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The benefits of the program were emphasized by Aliyu Abubakar, the Director General of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, in his opening remarks. These included promoting community policing, bolstering police service delivery, and enhancing the protection and promotion of suspects’ and detainees’ legal and human rights, among other things.

Before implementing the plan across the country, he requested assistance from the police hierarchy.

In his keynote speech, Arase stated that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) essential and the PDSS’s adoption marked a turning point in the movement to protect the rights of people detained by the police.

The head of the Police Service Commission claims that the advancements made possible by the PDSS have been revolutionary in real, life-altering ways in addition to being revolutionary in theory.

On the other hand, he demanded a more thorough and coordinated strategy that deals with structural problems in the nation’s criminal justice system.

He stated: “In the past, detainees frequently had their rights violated since they were kept in police facilities for extended periods of time without access to legal counsel. Motivated by a dedication to justice, the PDSS has developed into a system wherein attorneys offer detainees throughout Nigeria pro bono legal services, guaranteeing that their rights are respected in actuality as well as in theory.

“Although the PDSS is clearly effective in some areas, it has to be widely replicated and adopted. Other states should use the lessons from Anambra, Edo, the Federal Capital Territory, and Lagos as a model to create a collaborative and legally responsible culture that cuts beyond regional lines.

The Administration and Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and its relevant provisions, along with the enforcement of Force Order 20 and other relevant provisions, are noteworthy turning points in the coordinated efforts to address the issue of arbitrary, irrational, and protracted pretrial (awaiting trial) detentions in the nation, according to Lateef Fagbemi, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

He mentioned that another benefit of the program is that it keeps prison populations from becoming overcrowded, which prevents the government from having to spend as much money on maintaining a big number of detainees.

AIG Shehu Gwarzo represented Inspector General of Police Kayode Egbetokun, who stated that the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme, as outlined in Force Order 20, intends to help his administration’s continuing reform initiative come to fruition.

He declared: “Force Order 20 establishes the PDSS as a nationwide mechanism for the delivery of free legal assistance for arrested or detained persons in police formations. It guarantees that suspects have quick access to duty solicitors, thereby expanding the scope of legal services offered in police stations. It carries out Nigerian police stations’ constitutional guarantee of access to legal representation.

The purpose of the event, according to Dr. Oluwatoyin Badejogbin, Project Manager of the International IDEA’s Criminal Justice Reform, Rule of Law, and Anti-Corruption (Phase II) Program, was to reaffirm the IGP’s commitment to allowing duty solicitors access to police detention facilities. According to him, it also sought to start a fresh dialogue among police officers on how the PDSS assists the force throughout investigations and court appearances.

Among the attendees were police representatives from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the 36 states.

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