At the 6th bi monthly meeting of the Anambra State ACJA/ACJL Working Group meeting of the CLEEN Foundation sponsored by MacArthur Foundation, the group discussed “the role of members of the NBA in enhancing the effectiveness of the ACJL in Anambra State” and appraisal of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality.
The Group noted that both lawyers in the private practice and those that work with the government all have roles to play in ensuring the effectiveness of the ACJL. Oluchukwu Louis Udemezue Esq. Who was one of the resource persons pointed out the following roles thus:
The Role of the Lawyer in Private Practice engaged by a suspect.
a. Advising clients as to their legal rights and obligations, and as to the working of the legal system in so far as it is relevant to the legal rights and obligations of the clients – The role of the lawyer in this aspect ranges from advising clients even when there is no case or the client want to enter into any business or other transactions. The lawyer, being the master of procedure as pertains to the ACJL and other laws relating to criminal justice administration is expected to guide the client on what to do and how to do bearing in mind that the whole essence of his being retained by the client is to ensure he doesn’t get into any criminal liability.
b. Assisting clients in every appropriate way, and taking legal action to protect their interests – In cases where the client’s legal rights are being infringed, to draw the attention of the authorities to such infringement and instituting actions for enforcement of the rights of the client where necessary.
c. Appearing for Clients before courts, tribunals or administrative authorities and insisting on the observance of the rules of procedure as outlined by by the ACJL – About the most important role of the lawyer in the society is representing clients in courts and tribunals. A lawyer who appears for a client is expected to represent he client to the best of his ability and within the realms of the law. Under the ACJL regime, the lawyer is expected to bring his knowledge of the innovative procedures in the ACJL to bear in his representation.
The Role of the Lawyer working in Government establishments in enhancing the Effectiveness of the ACJL.
a. Advising his department properly on the provisions of the ACJL and insisting that the procedures are followed when dealing with suspects – Whether you are a police counsel or a lawyer working with NDLEA etc, it is your duty as a lawyer to always call attention of the persons carrying out investigations in that government department to the relevant provisions of the ACJL dealing with arrests, searches, obtaining of statements etc. Armed with such knowledge, investigations would be ore ACJL compliant.
b. If engaged in prosecutorial position, he should prosecute and not persecute – Not being a prosecutor prosecuting any case on behalf of the government or any branch of the government will advise that a suspect or accused has the services of a lawyer at all stages in criminal proceedings and where he doesn’t have such, the lawyer prosecutor shall ensure that the rights of the suspect/accused are not tampered with as a result of that.
c. If the rules of procedure are not observed in investigation to the extent that it would affect the chances of success of any charge before the Court, do not prefer a charge.
Ruth Soronnadi Esq. gave an appraisal of the ongoing Judicial Panel of Inquiry on SARS victim abuse and police brutality in Anambra State. She made the following recommendations thus:
“For the members of the judicial panel of inquiry, what is important and critical is the sense of justice, integrity and courage to stand for and with the truth. The concern should be on doing what is right by making decisions, arriving at conclusions that uphold the fundamental rights of people that have been previously trampled upon. The decisions of the panel, and its recommendations where detailed, in line with principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience could be a platform on which complainants could stand and seek recourse to the courts on full prosecution and indictment of erring officers. The compensatory reliefs it is empowered to grant victims could to an extent assauage their feelings especially when it is implemented by the Governor.
A thorough police reform with plans for its sustainability through systems for monitoring and evaluation periodically cannot be overemphasized.
Equally, in the spirit of true federalism, the Nigerian Constitution needs to be amended to accommodate a decentralization of the Police Force. There is need for states to have their police force independent of the federal government. This on its own is a very important part of the needed police reform as it will aid the better monitoring of the activities of the police by the state governments. Without this in place, policies on police reform may continue to remain articles of faith”.
*The Working Group thank immensely Oluchukwu Louis Udemezue Esq. and Ruth Soronnadi Esq. who were the resource person for the meeting.*
This meeting was facilitated by Ogoegbuna, Somto Stella Esq.