The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police, Mr Muazu Zubairu, has called for a more robust and cordoned relationship between lawyers in the state and the Nigerian Police force. The commissioner of police made the call when the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Uyo branch, Eno-Obong Akpan, led members of the branch executive and elders of the Bar to pay him a courtesy visit.
Mr. Muazu said that as partners in the criminal justice administration, lawyers and police officers must work together to enhance justice delivery in the state.
“The legal profession and the police force are both integral part of the criminal justice administration system. So both must as a necessity work together to achieve the interest of justice. We have at all times tried to educate our officers to always see lawyers as friends. As partners in the same process of criminal justice system, therefore, there should be no room for friction between the two. We are must work together to ensure that the interest of justice is served at all times”, the CP said in response to the complaint by the NBA chairman of Police harassment of lawyers.
The Police Boss maintained that, “As long as I am here, I will continue to harp it on police officers to recognize that lawyers and the police are friends and partners. Any instance that you feel that the police is going out of its way, please let us know and we shall act immediately to prevent any ugly incident from occurring.”
On the issue of abuse of fundamental rights of citizens, Mr. Muazu stated that the command has always been in the vanguard of enlightening police officers on their responsibilities to every citizen, adding that human rights education is one that the police has taken very seriously.
“In respect to fundamental human rights, we also make sure that our officers are educated on their constitutional roles and the limits imposed by law. As police officers we know our constitutional powers and the limits of such powers. The same constitution that gives us powers to arrest, detain and prosecute, also limits the power by insisting that we cannot detain beyond 48 hours; you either charge the person to court or you grant bail. But in any organization, you must have the extremists and bad eggs. I want to appeal to you to please assist us by drawing our attention to any of our officers who goes beyond his bounds in the discharge of his duties and I can assure you of prompt action”, he promised.
Responding to the issue raised on the delay of criminal cases in the state and the role of the police in such delays, the Commissioner of Police promised to take a pro-active step towards mitigating the situation. He called for the appointment of a liaison officer by the state Attorney General for a more smooth liaison between the justice ministry and the police.
The Commissioner of Police said, “What I will advice is that you go back to the DPP or the Attorney General and inform them to appoint a liaison officer who would be interfacing with the police. Such officer will be the constant link and bridge between the police and the Justice Ministry to ensure that the criminal justice administration would run seamlessly. The problems you enumerated need constant talking, constant collaboration to ease. When you write for case files and it is not provided, the liaison officer would be able to come and meet me; if you want a police officer to come and give evidence, just let us know in time. With a liaison officer, when an IPO is needed to give evidence, the liaison officer can arrange a pre-appearance conference to smoothen out rough edges in the case and by the time you put him on the witness stand, everything will come out well.”
On the troubled Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas, the police commissioner assured that normalcy would soon return to the area. He said that the measures put in place by the police were sure to make a difference in the restoration of security and order in the area.
“Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas are the two flash points I inherited. Just this Monday, we flagged off a special operation in the area. We now have our men stationed in about six locations in the area, fully equipped and under tested officers. The report I heard was that people have abandoned their villages and homes for fear of those hoodlums terrorizing the place. They were said to have been attacking the people at random, while the area had no police or security presence. So we had to move in and provide the needed presence. Let me tell you that we did that deployment through our community policing strategy, where the locals are made to own the policing security system” Mr. Halilu explained.
Earlier in her address, the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Eno-Obong Akpan Esq, while welcoming the Commissioner of Police to Akwa Ibom, said that the state looks forward to a better security situation following the serious concerns experienced in that regard in recent times.
The NBA Chairman drew the attention of the police boss to the recent case where police operatives barged into a lawyer’s office to arrest his client. She called on the commissioner to ensure that such acts do not repeat in the interest of the cordial relationship between the police and lawyers in the state.
The chairman further stated that the level of human rights abuses by the police seems to be on the increase and urged the police high command to stem the tide.
She took the advantage of the visit to call attention of the police to the difficulties experienced by litigants in getting police assistance to enforce Court orders and urged the commissioner to create a special unit to ensure smooth and effective enforcement of court orders.