The Magistrates’ Courts in Ondo State have rejected all the criminal cases forwarded to them by the Police Command because of the withdrawal of prosecutors attached to the courts by the legal section of the command.
Therehavebeendisagreements between the Police Command and magistrates over the withdrawal of prosecutors from the lower court by the Officer-in-Charge of Legal Department of the force, Mr Theophilus Oteme.
Personnel in the legal section are mostly lawyers who represent the police in all legal matters in courts. There are other policemen who are not legally trained – they prosecute criminal cases at the various Magistrates’ courts across the state.
Sources said Oteme, a Superintendent of Police, who is in charge of the Legal Department, withdrew all police prosecutors attached to the courts, leaving the courts without prosecuting counsel or prosecutor.
A lawyer told New Telegraph that the withdrawal took effect from October 17 when the State Police Command, throughtheO/CLegal, withoutreasonableexcuse, removed over 24 police regular prosecutors from different Magistrates’ courts in the state. As a result, the source said the Magistrates’ courts could not sit throughout the state, leaving suspects in criminal cases in police or correctional custodieswithnodatesforthe trial of their cases.
Aside the removal of the prosecutors without replacement, the two lawyers in the service of the state police command have been posted outsidetheheadquarters, leaving both criminal and civil cases againstthepoliceinabeyance.
The source said: “The new postings done by Oteme did not exclude the only two lawyers in the section. One is now posted as a resident prosecutor of Magistrate Court 1, Ikare Akoko, while the other one is posted to Magistrate Court 1, Ondo.
“The question is: What happens to the numerous cases being handled by these lawyers in the Federal High Court and State High Courts?
Last is yet to be heard on the Legal/Prosecution Section of the State CID, Akure.” The Chairman of Akure Branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Banjo Aiyenakin, said the lawyers have waded into the dispute between the magistrates and the Officer-in-Charge of the Legal Department, with a view to finding amicable solution to the problem.
Before now, he said there was a good working relationshipbetween the police and the courts. Aiyenakin said the vice chairman of the branch, who is also Chairman of Human Right Committee, Chymeze Obiaganwa, had met with the officer-in-charge and would meet with the Commissioner of Police today.
However, the magistrates have promised not to entertain cases from the police untiltheredeploymentof Oteme from the legal section of the Command.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Funmi Odunlami, did not respond to calls put across to her to get the formal reaction of the Command to the withdrawal of the prosecutors