The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has directed Chief Judges of the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to compel Chief Magistrates to conduct an inspection of Police Stations or other detention centres within their territorial jurisdiction.
Justice Onnoghen said he was perturbed by several complaints he received, concerning “horrific” incidents of Police brutality, inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by security agents.
In a statement he issued on Thursday, the CJN maintained 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.
“I have observed, and received several complaints of the horrific incidents of Police brutality, inordinate arrest, detention and extortion of innocent Nigerians by Officers across the country.
“These incidents have assumed frightening proportions in recent times. The Magistrate Courts 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”, read the statement which was signed by media aide to the CJN, 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 an inspection of police stations or other place of detention within his territorial jurisdiction other than prison, 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 Federal Capital Territory, 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 Federal Capital Territory, shall put in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure compliance with the above provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act”, the statement added.
In a related development, the CJN, on Thursday, directed heads of courts to make Practice Directions that will dissuade litigants who institute actions without exploring the arbitration clauses in contracts.
The CJN who gave the directive after he commissioned a new Court of Appeal Mediation Center in Abuja, said it was high 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.
He said the overall goal of the Court of Appeal Mediation Center was to improve the efficiency in the court system, promote conflict resolution and provide more effective justice delivery in the Appellate Court.
“It is hoped that this initiative will see the Center grow to become a veritable alternative to the rigours of courts”, the CJN added.
In her address, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, discribed the Court of Appeal Mediation Centre as first of its kind in the entire West African region.
“The Court of Appeal Mediation Centre would provide a platform that will encourage disputing parties in reaching an expeditious resolution of their disputes in good faith; and in a fair and efficient manner.
“The Centre will improve access to justice, user confidence in the court system, lighten the Court’s docket and invariably afford the conventional Court ample time for such matters or issues that are best solved through litigation.
“This is a giant stride in the right direction as Appellate Courts in countries like America, Canada, Australia, India, Singapore, and Mauritius have already achieved phenomenal successes in that regard.
“I wish to humbly appeal to members of the Bar to give Appellate mediation in this Court their maximum cooperation. We must bear in mind that our primary objective as officers in the Temple of justice is to do justice; and that justice delayed is justice denied”.