The Chief Judge of Delta State, Marshall Umukoro, has advised that the police be stripped of their power to prosecute criminal cases.
Mr. Umukoro gave the advice in a lecture he delivered at the 2017 Aquinas Day Colloquium of Dominican Institute in Ibadan on Tuesday.
He said that the measure would reduce the number of accused persons awaiting trial while decongesting prisons.
The title of the lecture was “The Judiciary and the Criminal Justice System: Odds and Ends.’’
The chief judge said that the police have the challenge of lack of technical knowhow to handle the job of prosecutors.
“Some police prosecutors who are not lawyers and are new on the job have no mastery of the game of prosecution.
“This situation puts the magistrates in the position to play the role of assistants to the prosecutor.
“Some magistrates have, in the process, descended to the arena of conflict, thereby hampering the justice of the case.
“Another challenge of a police prosecutor is that the police force is a federal institution, and as such, not answerable to state institutions like the state Attorney-General and Department of Public Prosecution (DPP).
“This affects the transfer of case files between the IPO and the office of the state attorney-general.
“After arraignment by the police and remand by the magistrates, sometimes, the original case file is never kept in the court’s custody for transmission to the office of the attorney-general.
“This causes delays in rendering legal advice by the DPP and leads to having more accused persons in prison custody awaiting trial,’’ Umukoro said.
He said that a police prosecutor, who is not a lawyer, would not respond to legal issues and might not appreciate the legal argument.
The chief justice said that the defence counsel often take advantage of this to defeat the prosecutor.
He suggested that a single and unified prosecutorial agency be established in the country, pointing out that prosecutorial powers in the nation were in the hands of many agencies.
Mr. Umukoro said that Nigeria operates an adversarial system of adjudication and should borrow a leaf from the United Kingdom, particularly England and Wales, which established the Crown prosecution service.
“The abuse of prosecutorial powers, especially by the police, will be best curtailed if the police are stripped of that power,” he added.