The National Human Rights Commission is determined to put a stop to the incessant cases of pre-trial detention of suspects beyond the 48 hours limit allowed by law in states in Nigeria such as Lagos.
“Pre-trial detention of suspects beyond the 48 hours limit allowed by the law, will no longer be tolerated given its affront to human dignity and fundamental human rights,” the NHRC’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, was quoted as saying in a statement by the commission on Sunday.
Prof. Angwe called on security agencies in the nation to strictly observe the Constitution and Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-trial Detention in Africa as well as other relevant international protocols, treaties and conventions in handling criminal suspects.
Angwe was said to have cited Section 7(b) (ii) of the Part 2 of GCAPCPDA as stating that, “The maximum duration of police custody, prior to the obligation to bring the arrested person before a judge, shall be set out in national law that prescribes time limits of not more than 48 hours extendable in certain circumstances by a competent judicial authority, consistent with international law and standards”.
According to Punch, Prof Angwu said that the recent prison audit conducted by the commission revealed that about 70 per cent of the inmates were awaiting trial without the required minimum standard of living.
This percentage, according to him constitutes “a grievous human rights abuse”.
He said, “Out of 50,645 lockups, the number of convicts was 13, 901 compared to awaiting trial detainees of 35, 889 which indicates that there is a problem in the criminal justice system”.
He said the commission had embarked on routine visits to these prisons across the country to inspect their compliance with human rights standards in an effort to decongest prison and detention centres across the country.
He said, “It is therefore worrisome to note that a good number of people are put behind bars for a period of five to 15 years or more without diligent prosecution and in the process some become sick or even die in detention despite the possibility of being innocent of the allegations made against them.”
He commended the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, for his efforts in decongesting police cells across the nation.
He added that the commission would continue to collaborate with the police and other security agencies to ensure that all detention facilities complied with the International Minimum Standard for treating criminal suspects.
Source: Punch Ng