The upkeep of persons detained in police cells in Nigeria, including feeding and medical treatment, is the responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force, a police lawyer has said.
Nosa Uhumwangho, a legal officer with the Intelligence Response Unit (IRT) of the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command, spoke with newsmen on Friday.
He said the IRT had decongested its cell which had over 70 inmates.
“We had to invite the Magistrates because of the congestion in the cell. Some of the suspects in the cell also need to do COVID-19 test before being taken to the correctional centre,” said Uhumwangho, an assistant superintendent of police.
Uhumwangho commended the effort of the magistrates, saying that investigation officers are being reminded that suspects should not be kept longer than necessary in police custody.
“They have also learnt that once a detainee is in the cell, his feeding and treatment whenever he falls ill, is the responsibility of the police.”
Relatives of detainees in police cells in Nigeria are usually made to cater for them while awaiting bail, with police officers often extorting them before granting them access.
Uhumwangho told newsmen that the decongestion of IRT cell was prompted by the unit, due to the prolonged strike by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
He said the decongestion took place on Thursday.
Newsmen recall that JUSUN on April 6, directed its members to shut down all courts across the country, demanding the implementation of the law granting financial autonomy to the Judiciary.
The strike has, however, been suspended, as JUSUN directed court workers to resume work on Monday, June 14.
Uhumwangho said that three magistrates took part in the process, which was intended to decongest the cell and make recommendations for detainees, who had overstayed in the cell.
Reacting to leniency on the part of the magistrates, Uhumwangho said the magistrates were only doing their job, as a lacuna had been created by the law which is what they operate on.
“It is true that some cases cannot be concluded in 48 hours, so it is necessary and mandatory to seek order for continuous remand.
“Although courts are on strike now but by next week, we will arraign them, and our cells will be decongested.
The legal officer also noted that one of the suspects, Collins Okonkwo, would be taken to Owerri where he committed a crime of armed robbery and kidnap, but escaped and was rearrested in Lagos.
Newsmen observed that some suspects were recommended to be released with immediate effect, some recommended for administrative bail while some were directed to be arraigned, as soon as courts resume sitting.