The ongoing industrial action occasioned by the unreconcilable disagreements between the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), State Governors’ and their respective Attorney Generals and Commissioners for Justice over non-implementation of financial Autonomy for the Judiciary in their respective states across the country may have taken a new dimension in Niger State following perceived overcrowded Police detention facilities with criminal suspects of high profiled matters/ cases.
The criminal suspects were said to have been languishing in the Police cells at detention facilities at the Niger State’s Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), and other Police divisional headquarters across the state in the past two months without being charged to court following the ongoing industrial action.
The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria( JUSUN) were demanding financial autonomy for the Judiciary to function as the third tier of government as enshrined in section 121 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, while the state governors and their respective Attorney Generals and Commissioners of Justice were said to have refused to comply with the Federal High Court judgment delivered sometimes in 2017 by Hon. Justice Gabriel Adeniyi of Federal High Court, Abuja.
For the perceived refusal by the State Governors to comply with the court judgment, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria( JUSUN) on April 6, 2021, directed their members in parts of the country to embark on an indefinite strike until their demands were met.
Sunday Tribune however gathered that the industrial action was said to have crippled court activities as litigants and lawyers including the Police and other law enforcement agencies were all at the receiving end of the industrial face-off as they could not take suspects in their custody to courts and arraigned them for prosecution.
ST further learnt that already, no fewer than about 1,557 suspects were in the Police cells of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), at the State Police Headquarters in Minna.
Suspects detained for sundry allegations include culpable homicide, armed robbery, armed banditry, and rape cases, among other capital offences.
Further checks however revealed that in view of the capital nature of the criminal suspects’ offences, they were being kept in the cells pending the suspension of the ongoing industrial action when they will be formally arraigned in courts for proper prosecution.
It was further learnt that against the backdrops of the congestion in the SCIID Minna Police cells/detention facility, some of the suspects were also distributed to other nine divisional commands within the Police Area Command in Minna, the state capital.
An insider source also informed our reporter at the SCIiD, Minna that the divisional commands were also congested with suspects as some of the cells and could not even accommodate the suspects.
“We are really battling with the influx of suspects in our cells. Feeding them and taking care of any of them that fall sick in our custody is a big problem to the Police as there is no provision provided to take care of their medication and feeding needs.
“My fear is that God forbids, there should be no any outbreak of diseases in the cells. It will be a big scandal/ challenge to the command.” a senior Police officer who would not want his names in the prints informed this reporter.
Tribune Online, however, gathered that apparently worried by the unhealthy situation and the overcrowded nature of the detention facilities at the State Police Command, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Adamu Usman was said to have approached the State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney general of the State, Barrister Nasara Dan Malam, to prevail on the Chief Judge of Niger State, Justice Aisha Lami Bawa Bwari to as a matter of urgency, to direct some Chief Magistrates to try some of the suspects with the view to assist in decongesting the detention facilities.
Justice Aisha Bawa Bwari had allegedly obliged the request where she approved and appointed the Chief Magistrate in the State Judiciary Headquarters, Alhaji Nasir Mu’azu and five other Magistrates to speedily assist the State Police Command in the trial of the suspects towards decongesting the detention facilities.
Tribune Online further learnt that the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Barrister Nasara Dan Malam, was said to have also approached the State Comptroller of Correctional Service Command, Alhaji Abdulkadir Salman to help in providing accommodation at the two Custodial Centres in Minna for admission of the suspects.
The state Comptroller of the Service, it was gathered, requested the support of the State Government with the provision of their feeding and medications as the service headquarters in Abuja has not made any provision for their feeding.
However, in an interview by the Tribune Online in his office, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Barr. Nasara Dan Malam described the ongoing industrial action declared by JUSUN as regrettable emphasizing that the action was uncalled for.
He explained that Governor Abubakar Sani Bello as a respecter of the rule of law, was passionate and committed to the independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary, stressing that the governor was not in any way against the constitutional provision of financial autonomy.
He thereby, tendered a passionate appeal to the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), to as a matter of concern, call off the strike in the overall interest of speedy administration of criminal justice.
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