Groups train police officers on force order 20
• Pledges to support PWD, others have legal access
Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE) partnering with Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) has trained police officers on the force Order 20, a police regulation that allows lawyers provide legal services within police divisions and formations.
Retired Commissioner of Police, Frank Odita, speaking at the training workshop for police officers of the Lagos state Police Command, titled ‘Creating Synergy around Police Force Order 20 and the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS)’ emphasised the implementation of the training to improve the conditions of state policing.
He noted that the order presents the essence of the PDSS as a mechanism for the provision of free legal services in police formations, in fulfilment of the legal and constitutional obligations concerning procedures for arrest, detention and trial of suspects by the Nigeria Police.
Those, he said, were with a view to enhancing democratic policing in the country as well as rendering the needed legal assistance to members of the force.
According to him, section 36(5) of the 1999 constitution provides for presumption of innocence of a person charged with a criminal offence. This provision entitles all accused persons to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect as an innocent person until such a person is proven guilty by a court of law.
“PDSS, which is based on partnership between the Nigeria Police force, the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and the Open Society Justice Initiative is built on cooperation, openness, mutual respect and above all respect for the rule of law, due process and constitutional rights or citizens and duties of government,” Odita who is also the CEO, Frankcom securities said.
Executive Director, REPLACE, Felicitas Aigbogun-Brai, noted that prior to the training, a number of police officers were not aware of PDSS and force order 20.
She stated that senior officers have a human right curriculum, which allows them go to training school but the junior ranked officers don’t have a lot of training on human rights, adding that there is still room for improvement and re-training.
Aigbogun-Brai explained that inaccessibility has been the major challenge faced.
“Police force order gives us access but when we get to the stations sometimes, the access is not smooth as they would still want us to call officers in authority before they can give us audience,” she said.
Participants in the training included all lawyers working in police legal department, human rights desk officers from major area commands in the state, heads of family support units and heads of community policing.
In a related development, REPLACE has pledged to support Persons With Disabilities (PWD), the vunerable, women and children to have legal access in the country.
The NGO also pledged to help prevent people from getting into trouble with the police by curbing the problems that would warrant police assault.
A staff of REPLACE, Dominick Aigbogun, who gave these pledges during an awareness programme in Lagos with the theme, ‘improving access to legal advice and services in Nigeria’ said PWD never get access to anything. He stated that sometimes the PWD are being looked down on, while they are just normal people.
The NGO, which is in partnership with British Council, Role of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) and in collaboration with Justice for Peace and Development Initiative (JPDI), Ngwunta chambers and Legal Resources Consortium (LRC), is aimed to help women, people living with disability and children.
It is also aimed at helping people who are finding it difficult to access legal aids.
“Women are peculiar creatures, same with children and more importantly people living with disability. We have come to realise that those are the people who almost never have access to anything not just legal aid but almost any aid at all,” Dominick said.
He noted that their other project is called police duty solicitor scheme, which is aimed to decongest police stations and correctional centres.
“We realise that in trying to decongest these police stations and correctional centres, it is like GIGO, as they are going out, they are coming in. We also said that community awareness is sacrosanct because they can also help to curb crimes from the grass root. That will prevent people from getting there,” he added.
Commending REPLACE, the Senatorial Coordinator for the blind in Mushin, Akinrinmade Kehinde said the lawyers have done enough in educating her.
According to her, the awareness has made her know her right to have access to public buildings, road transport and public facilities, like hospitals and schools.
“I have my fundamental human right. No one can just undermine me because I am disabled. We all have equal rights and the legal backing is there,” she said.
Also, the leader of the National Council for Women Society of Nigeria in Mushin and Odi Olowo-Ojowoye Lagos, Olufunmilayo Abdul urged the federal government and lawyers to help curb domestic violence, child abuse, kidnap amongst others and to offer justice to whoever deserves it.
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