In Nigeria’s jails, around seven out of every ten prisoners have not been convicted. They are in pretrial detention, waiting for a trial date—a wait that can stretch from days to months to years in some cases. Most are too poor to afford “the three B’s” of Nigeria’s criminal justice system: bail, bribe, or barrister.
In 2004, Nigeria’s Legal Aid Council and the Open Society Justice Initiative began a joint project to address the overuse of pretrial detention. In 2006, Nigeria’s Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE) became the main implementing partner for the project, which set out to demonstrate that things can be different.
The central element of the project, the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS), sought to reduce the excessive use of pretrial detention by providing free legal advice to suspects at police stations—the point at which the decision to detain or to release pending trial is made. This 12-page illustrated briefing summarizes the successes achieved.