Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Mr. Onofiok Luke, has called for greater protection of human rights of citizens in administration of criminal justice in Nigeria and the abolition of public parading of suspects in the media. Luke stated this at the Expert Review Meeting on the proposed amendments to the Administration of Criminal Justice Administration Act, 2015 organized by the Center for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) in Abuja.
“Of major concern to me is the issue of investigation, arrest and detention of suspects because they bear directly on the human rights of citizens. These areas leave much discretion to law enforcement agencies. It seems as if in Nigeria this discretion is abused by not being exercised properly and fairly. It is sometimes tended to be exercised in a punitive manner by law enforcement agencies. It is important that proper investigation be carried out before arrest. Suspects should not be unnecessarily detained; where they are arrested, they should be charged to court immediately except special circumstances warrant immediate arrest and detention of suspects, for instance, in cases of violence or threat of violence. Since we cannot totally leave this issue to the discretion of law enforcement agencies, there is need to state specifically how investigation should be carried out, circumstances that will warrant arrest to be made and when to detain suspects”, Luke stated.
On the need to abolish public parading of suspect in the media, Luke noted that the proposed section 15(2) to the ACJA merely charges the police to try as much as possible to refrain from parading suspects in the media. He said that “parading of suspects in the media should be totally abolished. This will go in sync with judicial thinking that the exercise is unlawful. However, if the law enforcement agencies have good and convincing excuse for parading of suspects in the media, such exercise should only be executed with court’s prior permission.”
Luke, who condemned the siege on Justice Mary Peter-Odili, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, by security agents, observed that the action was a major setback to the attainment of judicial independence and a further blot on the nation’s democratic credentials. He recommended a review of the process of application and issuance of search warrant in order to weed out abuse.
Luke thanked CSLS and other stakeholders in the justice sector spearheading the amendments to the Act for their commitment to finding lasting solution to the perennial problems of criminal justice administration in Nigeria and stated the readiness of the House of Representatives to give legislative backing to the amendments when forwarded to the House.
The meeting had in attendance Hon. Justice A. J. Kutigi, Hon. Justice O. A. Adeniyi both of the FCT High Court, Prof. Yemi Akinseye- George, SAN , President of CSLS, Dr. A. F. Afolayan of the Nigerian Law School, Mrs Bamidele Akinseye-George, Executive Director of CSLS, A. T. Kehinde, SAN and others.