The National Human Rights Commission in commemoration of the African Day of Pre-trial Detention has called on security and law enforcement agencies in the country to jettison all practices leading to pre-trial detention in the course of discharging their duties.
The Ag Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Oti Ovrawah stated this in Abuja as Nigeria joins other African Countries to mark the African Day of Pre-Trial Detention which is observed on the 25th of April every year.
She called on law enforcement agencies to embrace the new world order of prompt investigation and diligent prosecution of those who are alleged to have come in conflict with the law. She noted that using modern investigation gadgets will go a long way in eradicating coercion and torture as a means to extract information from crime suspects.
Mrs. Ovrawah said the African Day of Pre-trial detention was necessitated by the need to monitor the actions of criminal justice personnel from the moment of arrest until the end of trial. She said it covers issues such as arrest and custody, safeguards for arrestees and defendants, measures to ensure law enforcement transparency and accountability, and ways to improve coordination between criminal justice institutions.
Ag Executive Secretary noted that the constitutional safeguard which stipulates that all accused persons are innocent until proven guilty should be the guiding principle of security agencies.
Mrs Ovrawah observed that the challenging issues of insurgency and communal clashes in some parts of the country have put pressure on the operations of the security agencies to the extent that some of them are accused of arbitrary arrest of citizens without recourse to relevant Rules of Engagement and International Human Rights Standards.
She emphasized that despite the challenging circumstances under which they operate; law enforcement agencies must exhibit high level of transparency and accountability in dealing with suspects or those who are found on the wrong side of the law. By so doing, we would avoid a situation where more than 70% of prisons inmates are awaiting trial which is the worst form of pre-trial detention, she lamented.
Fatimah Agwai Mohammad
Head, Media Relations Unit, NHRC