Press Release / For Immediate Release.
16 March 2022
CitizenCommons through its access to justice initiative LegalCommons has taken up the legal defence of eight victims of police brutality and arbitrary arrests who have been at the Suleja custodial centre on remand since 2020 without trial.
These young men, who are now our clients, were arrested during random raids by men of the Nigerian Police Force, on different dates between December 2019 and May 2020 and at various locations within the FCT. They were held in police detention for months, tortured, forced to sign confessional statements and subsequently transferred to the infamous detention facility of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad- SARS known as “abattoir” in Guzape district. At “abattoir’, their illegal detention continued until the disbandment of the unit following the #EndSARS nationwide protests. It was at this point and on the 17th day of December 2020 that a Chief Magistrate from the Wuse Chief Magistrates court who visited the detention facility ordered their remand to the Suleja custodial centre for fourteen days, where they have remained without any trial.
Since the plights of these young Nigerians were brought to our attention and taking up their defence, we have made several efforts to ascertain the status of their cases and most importantly whether there was any pending charge(s) against any of them. We conducted searches at the Chief magistrates’ court Wuse and at the High court of the Federal capital territory, and when we did not find any pending charge, we applied to the High court to grant them bail. It was while at the Kubwa division of the FCT high court on the 8th of March 2022 for the hearing of one of the cases that our counsel received a call from an officer of the Correctional Service stating that our clients were at that particular court at the Maitama high court. It was on getting to the court that we got hold of the charges against our clients and surprisingly, without the requisite proof of evidence.
Surprisingly, the charges against our clients were purportedly filed in December 2020 yet were never served on our clients nor were they informed of their arraignment until we accidentally stumbled on the case on the day for their arraignment. This is a blatant disregard for their constitutional rights to a fair hearing and also a clear indication of the unfair treatments the Criminal Justice system metes to the underprivileged in our society. Also noteworthy is the fact that our clients have severally spent time ranging from twenty-two to twenty-seven months in custody without as much seeing the inside of a courtroom; this again is a denial of access to justice and brings to fore the state of our criminal justice administration.
The arraignment of our clients was eventually adjourned to the 17th of March 2022 and we will on that day, canvass for them to be granted bail on liberal terms to afford them adequate time and facility to prepare for their defence.
It is our opinion that these young men are victims of the infamous excessiveness and brutality of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that triggered the October 2020 #EndSARS nationwide protests. It is worrisome that despite huge public outcry around this issue, Nigerians are still being victimised this way by our justice system. This is a reminder that we need systemic engagement and robust police accountability mechanisms to improve our justice system.
Citizens’ Common Advocacy International is a citizen action organisation, committed to empowering everyday citizens to take social action targeted at solving small and big societal challenges using the power of community, collaboration, innovation and technology. Through our Community Impact Spaces, we provide the platform to incubate social ideas, engage in community dialogue, explore policy solutions, resource social entrepreneurs, civic leaders and community activists in their resolve to find innovative solutions to social problems. We are an emerging social impact organisation committed to resourcing a generation of social changemakers in their effort to hold the government accountable, promote active citizen participation, and make democracy work for the people. Our interventions are targeted as promoting the principles of a democratic, just, peaceful and thriving society, ensuring accountable governance and open government, advancing citizens’ rights and civic engagement, activating citizen action for social impact makers and promoting the success of sustainable development goals locally. Our LegalCommons programming provides opportunities to use the instrumentation of the law to provide increased political and social accountability, expand access to justice and capacity building to citizens and legal practitioners.
Legal Commons is a legal innovation and access to justice project of CitizenCommons. Through the LegalCommons Connect we nurture a virtual and physical community of legal practitioners, activists, media professionals and everyday citizens to activate collective action and innovation and in access to justice, human rights and socio-economic rights. Our LegalCommons Hub – provides a co-working space for new attorneys, event space, a community legal resource centre. We leverage technology and collaboration, use the instrumentation of the law to shape policy, expand access to social services, protect citizens’ rights, hold the government accountable, and make public office holders work for the people they serve.