LACON MARKS INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY WITH A NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS MEETING ON REPOSITIONING THE POLICE DUTY SOLICITOR’S SCHEME FOR EFFECTIVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE.
LACON MARKS INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY WITH A NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS MEETING ON REPOSITIONING THE POLICE DUTY SOLICITOR’S SCHEME FOR EFFECTIVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE
The Legal Aid Council on Friday 8th December 2023 held a National Stakeholders Meeting on Repositioning the Police Duty Solicitor’s Scheme for Effective Access to Justice at Transcorp Hilton Abuja. The event attracted stakeholders in the Nigerian Criminal Justice System. In attendance were the Representatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Also in attendance were Dr. Solomon Arase, former IGP and Chairman Police Service Commission, Yakubu Maikyau SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar, Director General Legal Aid Council, Representative of NYSC, Representatives of RoLAC, Police Public Relations Officers of all the states of the Federation as well as Staff of the Legal Aid Council
The Director General of Legal Aid Council, Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar in his address gave a rundown of the history of the PDSS outlining the benefits of the Scheme to Society. He stated that Police Duty Solicitors Scheme as supported by the Police Force Order 20, as amended, seeks to address the Pre-Trial Detention Phenomenon, enhancement of Access to Justice and improvement of Police Accountability.
The Inspector General of Police, Dr. Kayode Egbetokun, was represented by AIG Shehu Sani Gwarzo. In his address he mentioned that the essence of the PDSS is the provision of free legal services at Police Formations. It implements the constitutional promise of access to counsel at Police Formations. He added that the Scheme is built on openness, transparency, and respect for rule of law to improve the quality of justice delivery in Nigeria especially for the poor. The IGP specially commended the dutifulness and passion of Duty Solicitors across the Country for their selfless service.
Dr. Oluwatoyin Badejogbin, Project Manager Criminal Justice Reform RoLAC II, in his goodwill message stated that the Police Force Order 20, as amended, is designed to help the Police achieve efficiency. He particularly pointed out the placement of Liaison officers at Police Formations as one to be exploited that would greatly improve the synergy between actors in the Scheme in providing access to justice to indigent detainees.
The Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN, was represented by Mrs. Gladys Odegbaro, Director Solicitors Department, Federal Ministry of Justice. In his speech he mentioned that one of the goals of the PDSS is reduction of the dockets of Judges across the country. He stressed that the practice where suspects are charged to court without legal representation is unacceptable and that Force Order 20, as amended, is the instrument of Order for Duty Solicitors to carry out their duties without fear or intimidation. He added that the Scheme will ultimately correct the anomaly of prolonged pretrial detention without arraignment.
Dr. Solomon Arase (IGP Rtd), Chairman of the Police Service Commission in his presentation on the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme said that Duty Solicitors are independent Defense Attorneys that are engaged to redress Pre-Trial Detention in providing legal representation at Police Formations. He stated that the gains achieved through the PDSS have been transformative, not only in principle but in tangible life changing ways. He also called for a more comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses systemic issues within the nation’s criminal justice system.
Panelists at the various sessions were Nkem Okereke, Program Officer Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), Stanley Ibe, a Consultant formerly with the Open Society Justice Initiative, Benjamin Hundeyin PPRO Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Ibikunle, Director International Operations of Legal Aid Council, Mr. Bayo Akinlade, Former Chairman NBA Ikorodu Branch. The moderator of the sessions was Felicitas Aigbogun Brai Executive Director REPLACE.
The event was funded by the European Union – Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (RoLAC II) of International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in collaboration with the Legal Aid Council.