The administration of criminal justice in Nigeria is designed such that at the Magistrate Court level, the Prosecution is represented in Court by a Police Prosecutor who is usually not a lawyer and only appears by virtue of being a Police officer- his adversary is the Defence Counsel who is a lawyer who must have been duly called to Nigerian Bar.
The Police Prosecutor is there as a representative of the Commissioner of Police who is listed on the Charge sheet as the Complainant – the primary duty of the Police Prosecutor is to prosecute the alleged offence on behalf of the Commissioner of Police. Over the years, Police Prosecutors have taken on new duties/powers namely verifying bail bonds, deciding whether to prosecute among others. Police prosecutors have become emboldened by their familiarity with the Court system which some of them have now made complex by extorting Defendants before performing obligations since they have been unjustly granted unfettered discretion in the performance of such obligation.
An apt example is the bail bond mentioned above, where whenever a Magistrate Court grants bail to a Defendant and prescribes a bail bond for such bail, the terms of the bond if they include sureties who must have landed properties or must reside within a particular jurisdiction will have to be verified by the Police Prosecutor who in most cases demand an average amount of N20, 000 (Twenty thousand naira) before they can verify such sureties – meaning that the Defendant will remain in detention until the Police Prosecutor is mobilized(bribed) to go and do his duty.
Another example is the situation where Police Prosecutors demand huge sums of money from Defendants so that they can draft a letter of withdrawal and tender it to the Magistrate to have the matter struck out. Some Magistrates strangely do not request further particulars once they sight a letter of withdrawal from a Police Prosecutor.
In all of these, so much damage is being done to justice because unfair and undue discretion is being left to the Police Prosecutor is who is a party in the matter and is unfairly granted the power of quicken or slow down the bail of the Defendant whose family or legal representative are mandated to first grease the palms of the Police Prosecutor.
Justice requires that any obligation that will affect the welfare of the Defendant should be performed by a neutral party like an officer of the Court e.g Bailiff, Court Registrar.
Author: Folayemi Esuola