THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – On Wednesday, September 20, 2017, Nigeria’s Inspector General (IG) of Police, Ibrahim Idris, issued a Force Order that institutionalises the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), report says.
The scheme is an initiative that provides ‘free legal services for arrested and/or detained persons in police formations’.
According to an editorial, the scheme emerged from a collaboration between the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON), Open Society Justice Initiative and the police based on a memorandum of understanding which made the scheme available in selected states. But the Force Order (titled Force Order 20) now makes it a statutory part of police operations nationwide.
The IG said:
‘Both the Force and the general public stand to benefit from this scheme. The public, mainly the poor and the vulnerable arrested by the police for being in conflict with the law.’
He also assured that the initiative would not just allow such arrested persons get the service of a counsel free of charge but would ensure that their rights are protected.
Then he warned LACON not to see the scheme as a transfer of police functions, but as a right to access detainees in police formations and protect their rights as provided in the constitution.
Speaking earlier, Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, the Senior Managing Legal Officer of Open Society Justice Initiative, said 80% of the people in prison who are awaiting trial cannot afford bail, barrister or bribe. Then explained that the scheme will eliminate the need for any of these for such persons.
Odinkalu claims that now persons arrested and/or detained are entitled to a free lawyer and they can demand for lawyers from Legal Aid Council.