(By Iheanyi Ezinwo)-The Rivers State Police Command has expressed willingness to collaborate with the Justice Reform Team in the state to improve administration of Justice. This assurance was given by the Commissioner of Police, Usman B. Belel, while receiving the Rivers State team, in his office, in Port Harcourt, on Thursday, on advocacy visit.
He lauded the Rivers State Justice Reform team for finding the police as ally in justice reform, confessing that, in spite of their challenges, the synergy will help the force to develop required competences to advance justice reform in the state.
Responding to some of the issues raised by the visiting team, CP Belel stated that they will look inwards to ensure that every clog in the wheel of justice administration in the state, from their own side, is addressed. He said Rivers State Command of Nigeria Police has prosecutors at Divisional levels and are ready and willing to partner with the Justice Reform team in the prosecution and compilation of cases.
The Commissioner of Police however requested for legal aid officers from the Rivers State Ministry of Justice to help in compilation of cases, even as he assured that the Legal unit will go to Divisions to find out what is happening to case diaries.
Earlier, Dr. Uche Mike Chukwuma, Director General of Rivers State Neigbourhood Safety Agency, who stood in for the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Adama Lamikanra, said the team was divided into four groups and with mandate to carry out advocacy campaigns for the actualization of set objectives as directed by the parent body, the Federal Justice Sector Reform Coordinating Committee.
Dr. Chukwuma, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, suggested that a team of not less than two investigation police officers should be assigned to a case as against the practice, in most cases , especially at the divisional levels, where a single investigator is assigned to a case. According to him, this situation makes it sometimes very difficult to dispense cases in court, resulting in prison congestion in the state, and by extension, the country.
The Rivers State Justice Sector Reform team also suggested that the commissioner of police directs , area commanders, other heads of department concerned with investigation of cases, to ensure that subordinate officers posted to them as sectional heads are assigned some officers who must work as team members. “From investigations so far carried out , some senior officers ignore other junior officers posted to assist them by flagrantly refusing to assign other junior officers to work with them. Sometimes, the best they do is post just one junior officer to them”, he further explained.
Dr. Chukwuma proposed that Investigation department and legal units be created at the various Area Commands and Divisions with serving Police Officers who are qualified lawyers heading them. “And for any case to be charged to court, it should pass through the unit before being recommended for court or otherwise, before the Area Commander’s or DPO’s final directives”, he emphasized.
In his own remarks, DCP Ahmed Kontagora of the State CID complained that delays before the release of Director of Public Prosecution’s advice is hampering justice administration, as it takes much time before cases are decided. He harped on the need for library in legal department to assist legal officers to perform maximally. DCP Kontagora also explained that case files do not have the name of one officer as feared and that transfers do not affect investigations.
“ IPOs who go with files do so at their own risk as lockers are provided, and they are not even expected to go home with the key”, he said, adding that DPOs will be asked to bring files to legal department before they are charged to court to ensure that cases are properly studied and filed.