The Police Command in Lagos State has called for synergy with the bar, the bench and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in implementing the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme [PDSS].
The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of State Central Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Mr Fayoade Adegoke, made the call on Friday during the stakeholders’ quarterly meeting of PDSS held in Ikeja.
PDSS sought to reduce the excessive use of pretrial detention by providing free legal advice to suspects at police stations.
Adegoke, represented by CSP Rotimi Owobo, said many police officers in Lagos State had little knowledge about PDSS and called for more enlightenment, particularly for the junior officers.
He advised lawyers and members of civil society organisations to be mindful of their words and actions while seeking for the rights of their clients at police stations.
“The language and manner lawyers/CSOs use determines some feedback they receive from the junior officers and they complained about police reaction while trying to seek for suspect’s rights.
“Lawyer cannot do whatever they want while at the police station, such as videoing the cell of a police station; that is a security risk exposing the facility to criminals’ attack.
“Police are humans, you must address them with respect, even if a junior officer,” he said.
Adegoke said that bail remained free at police stations and accused some lawyers of initiating the bail money to the officer in charge, even when the police have not looked into the case.
“Lawyers or CSOs should approach police in charge of their case without initiating money.
“If you are not satisfied with the officer’s conduct, he has superior of DPO, Area Commander, the CP, AIG in zone before going to the I-GP. Follow the due process in order up to the I-GP,” he counselled.
Mrs Ajibola Ijimakiwa, Programme Officer, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), said that the British Council sponsored the meeting as part of efforts to support Legal Aid Council, with a view to enhancing legal assistance for vulnerable groups of persons in Lagos.
Ijimakiwa said RoLAC also used the meeting for effective coordination for all service providers in legal aid system.
“We hope that the relevant stakeholders are willing to engage meaningfully with the coordination process to have a more holistic approach to gathering regular data and advocating for more support with relevant agencies,” she said.
The Legal Aid Coordinator in Lagos, Mrs Iyabo Akingbade, who presented the Force Order No 20 as amended, said the scheme was based on partnership between the police and stakeholders so as to have cooperation, respect for the rule of law. amongst others.
Akingbade said PDSS aimed at contributing to the realisation of the reform programme of the present police administration.
She called on all stakeholders to ensure implementation of the scheme by reaching out to areas yet to be reached by members.
Mr Amore McDavies, a Magistrate in Lagos, representing the judiciary, said that the state Judiciary welcomed the intervention, assuring that such will be sustained.
McDavies said that there was need for sensitisation about PDSS for lawyers and police in Lagos.
He encouraged all lawyers, volunteers and CSOs to operate under one umbrella of PDSS in Lagos when seeking to assist suspects at police stations.
The magistrate said that the police should know that lawyers and CSOs were not their enemies in carrying out their duties, stressing that they were only assisting in the administration of criminal justice.
Mrs Adebola Adegboyega, a Deputy Director of Nationa; Orientarion Agency in Lagos, said the agency was doing its best to enlighten the populace on PDSS and other government policies, noting that fund was the major challenge.
She called for more funds and logistics assistant from individuals and organisations so that more enlightenment would come for the people.
The Chairman of People With Disabilities, Agege/Ifako-Ijaiye chapter, Mr Paul Owolabi, said the PDSS activities were not visible in his area, calling on the group to add PWD as members.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that about 50 participants drawn from the police, Nigerian Bar Association, CSOs, Lagos State Judiciary, PWD, NOA, OPD and NYSC attended the meeting.