22 years in Service: Police Inspector does not know law on interrogation of suspect

A Police Inspector, Mr. Orankan Balogun who has spent 22 years in the Nigeria Police Force has claimed ignorance of the existence of the Administrative Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) enacted since 2015, which stipulates that it is mandatory that a suspect makes his statement in the presence of his lawyer.

The law also provided that where a lawyer is not available, the process must be recorded with an audio-visual device to prevent suspects making statement under duress.

Officer Balogun made this claim while appearing before the Ogun Judicial Panel of Investigation on police brutality sitting in Abeokuta in respect of a petition submitted by one Mr. Gbenga Kehinde who was accused, arrested and detained unlawfully for 47 days alongside his friends, Messrs. Rafiu Bena, Emmanuel David and Saheed Adesanya for allegedly stealing fishes worth N63m at a fish farm in Imagbon area of Ijebu-Ode.

Kehinde, in his petition submitted to the panel, stated that “on the 7th of October, 2017, “I was arrested with my three friends. We were taken to Magbon SARS office in Abeokuta where we spent over 10 weeks in detention at the Police custody with several daily tortures for an offence we did not commit, and that we were forced to sign statements obtained from us under duress”.

Responding during cross-examination, Inspector Balogun disclosed that he was the leader of a team that arrested the suspects, confirming that the suspects were actually arrested and locked up for 47 days before they were eventually released, but denied the allegation of torture and brutality and obtaining their statements under duress

When asked why the suspects were not charged to court for trial but detained unlawfully for 47 days in contradiction of the ACJA, Balogun and his colleague Police Inspector Adams Abubakar said, “we were waiting for negotiations between the complainant, members of the suspects’ families and the community of the suspects”.

Speaking later in an interview, the Panel Chairman, Justice Solomon Olugbemi said both the Administrative Criminal Justice Acts of 2015 and the Administration of Criminal Justice and Other Allied Matters law of Ogun State of 2017 provided that, before the statement of a defendant is taken by the police, his lawyer should be present or there must be video recording of the process of taking the statement.

Justice Olugbemi reminded law enforcement agents to always comply with extant laws, recalling that there had been several reports alleging that police officers obtained statements from suspects under duress.

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