By Blessing Aderemi

Advocates for Children and Vulnerable Persons Network (ACVPN) was among several advocacy groups and security agencies that participated in a two-day orientation workshop on Nigeria Police Standard Operating Procedures (SPO) for handling children in conflict with the law.

The event was held at Police Training College, Ikeja Lagos State from 11th to 12th July 2023.

The facilitators are Deputy Commissioner Of Police (DCP) Rita Oki, a superintendent of Police, Babatunde Lasisi, both of Gender Unit Force Headquarters Abuja.

Another is Barrister Faith Dimka, a superintendent of Police, Legal and Prosecution Section, Abuja. The workshop was funded by European Union and UNICEF.

The programmes Officer of ACVPN, Blessing Aderemi, and the Head of Rescue and Referral ACVPN, Toyin Okanlawon were at the workshop.

Children in contact with the Law, whether in police custody, the Prosecution department or other Judiciary, required child-friendly procedures that are sensitive and responsive to their specific needs and circumstances.

The Standard Operating Procedures for Children in contact with the Law respond to the above needs.

The two-day workshop started with an energizer facilitated by the Deputy Commissioner Of Police in charge of the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (SCIID), Panti, Yaba in person of Ayilara Waheed.

He started by pointing out the keywords in the theme of the programme SOPs, Child, LAW.

Waheed gave a brief explanation of how Africans can manage their problems and resolve their challenges.

He gave a simple definition of police.  According to Waheed, Police are to protect life and property, and anything outside that was not their duty. He further encouraged officers to be diligent and focused.  He also encouraged agencies to generate ideas, constructive ideas to move society forward.

There were goodwill messages from the Office of the Public Defenders, FIDA, CECE-YARA, among others.

The police and other agencies were fully ready to adapt the SOPs in the best interest of children and case management.

The commissioner of police in Lagos State, Idowu Owohunwa was represented by DCP Waheed.

The NPF as the lead agency in times of security, is concerned with taking care of children very important because they are part and parcel of society.

Waheed said: “The right thing should be done with them in Lagos State, that’s why a centre has been created to attend to SGBV  international standard. The Nigerian constitution didn’t quantify who can enjoy Human Rights if you’re a Human! You have your fundamental right.”

Wahhed further encouraged and challenge the NPF not to lose focus because of #ENDSARS issues, but to put more effort to move to the next level.

SP Babatunde Lasisi began the workshop with an objective and overview of SOPs, benefits to children and families, and society at large.

Effective measures in supporting children as victims, survivors and witnesses of crime using the underpinning principle of the Child Rights Law.

Rita Oki threw more light on real-life scenarios, and how cases were managed successfully involving children, to protect children in police custody.

According to her, “the safety of the child comes first with prompt response.”

She encouraged the officers to collaborate with agencies to get results when attending to matters of children and GBV.

She said that they should leverage referrals. And practice proper documentation and follow-up. It was an interactive session driven to everyone which pointed to the facts of being passionate about the job in the best interest of the child.

Barrister Faith Umika(SP) from the Force Head Quarters Prosecution section started with the principles of learning stating that Awareness, Understanding, And Mastering are three major processes for effective learning. The session was mind-blowing regarding the Standard Operating Procedures for Handling cases involving children in conflict with the Law.

It was an eye-opening session. Umika ensured to point out the take-home point for a better understanding of participants.

According to Faith, the SOPs are practices that should be followed by all Police officers. She wrapped up her session by giving the Diversion definition, its importance, and when and how to apply it.

The programme rounded up with an interactive session and exchange of banter for effective workflows.

Rita Oki gave the honour of meeting a victim in Lagos State, listen to her case. And gave instructions that the case should follow due process for fairness, equity justice.

Goodwill messages were said by Mrs. O.A. Adesomoji, The director of the Office of Public Defender (OPD)

CP Ajaka Ayola Commandant of Police College and Barrister Chinese Efobi, The chairperson of FIDA Lagos state.

Mr. Dennis ONoise Child Protection specialist from UNICEF “B” FIELD spoke about the SOP for handling cases of children in conflict with the law.

He pointed out that the SOP is a complete document that will help in handling cases that have to do with children. He further gave examples of cases that were handled by officers in the past which was commendable.

Participants and other stakeholders gave examples of cases that were handled by some officers while some asked questions that has to do with cases that have been handled in the past, questions were also asked and pictures of cases were presented to know who is to do what, at what time, where and when.

The Deputy Commissioner Of Police DC Gender of the FHQ, DC Rita also gave practical examples of cases which served as an eye opener to participants who saw it never to prejudge or express emotions whenever cases are reported but should be professionally handled by competent and trained officers of JWC of the divisions or designated formations.

Mr. Denis Onoise from UNICEF handled the plenary wrap-up of the session.

The wrap-up and next step were attended to by Inspector Kunle of the Gender Unit, he further made it known that the unit is been built to international standards and expanded which will be able to accommodate Victims of defilement/Rape and both sexes of Domestic violence with proper shelter for a minimum time. The training closed for day 1.

He stressed that the training manual should be respected and adhered to for best practices in the best interest of the child.

Participants followed through with the manual while the slides were on, questions were asked while the session was on and all questions were attended to.

More of the case study were shared by facilitators and participants because experience also counts in case management.

Mr. Lato Issac the Coordinator of the Community rehabilitation programme Grace Spring shared with all participants what the diversion program is all about.

He pointed out the reason why children that get involved in crime are not meant for prisons but diverted to the program of rehabilitation and handworks with each child having a counselor to their peculiar challenges.

The programme runs for four to six months and then they graduate from the rehabilitation centre.

He mentioned success stories of how one of the rehabilitated children now trains others in the facility, another success story is of a rehabilitated child that later represents Nigeria at the Basketball tournament in Dublin.

Mrs. Giwa Ododo an assistant director of the Ministry of Youths and Social Development also gave a success story of a rehabilitated child who is now a final year student of medicine at Olabisi Onabanjo University.

More experience sharing took place during the session, police officers and NGO representatives of ACVPN also shared their experiences on a few cases which were promised to be attended to by the DC Gender of the FHQ.

The Prosecutor from FHQ Abuja also took participants on Guiding principles of Handling cases,  Stigmatization, Dos, and Don’ts of handling a case that has to do with children who are victims or witnesses, privacy, case file, treatment, age determination amongst others.

SP Lasisi advised all participants to Cascade to their colleagues the SOP at their various offices and formations. He further took participants on Police involvement in child protection cases and activities on arrival at the crime scene amongst others.

OC Gender of the Lagos State Command also attended to questions and also encouraged participants to do the best they can at all times.

DCP Rita, the OC Gender of the FHQ also berated why some DPOs truncated cases as reported by some participants, she therefore gave out her contact to be reached out to for further support and guidance on child-related cases.

The session closed with a closing remark by the Lagos state police command representative.

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