Chairman House Committee on Justice, Ahmed Ali and other major stakeholders made the call while speaking at a press conference, last week, in Abuja organized by the Technical Working Group of the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform (PIJR) and supported by the Justice for All of DFID, United Nations Office Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Centre for Socio-legal Studies.
Others present at the conference are Mrs. Stella Dorgu, member, House Committee on Justice, Prof. Yemi Akinseye George SAN, and convener of the technical working group of panel on the implementation on justice reform and Mr. Godwin Odo from Justice for All.
Ahmed Ali, a former Attorney General (AG) Kwara State said that the ACJ Bill if passed by the senate will revolutionize the administration of criminal justice system in the nation by tackling the anachronistic tendencies that are replete in our criminal justice system.
He mentioned that the House of Representatives has since 2013 passed the ACJ Bill into law due to its importance, adding that it was imperative for the senate to do same before the end of the life span of the current National Assembly (NASS). He mentioned that if the Bill was not passed within the next four months, then the passage will have to wait till the next NASS.
The bill is designed to reform the criminal procedure system, remove archaic provisions from the existing criminal procedure laws and introduce modern measures for speedy, efficient and uniform administration of criminal justice in the country.
The bill deals with the problem of delay in the dispensation of criminal justice, which unarguably remains the most perturbing aspect of criminal justice delivery. It contains several innovative ideas and promises to significantly improve the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
The bill prohibits the arrest of family members or associates in lieu of the person suspected to have committed a crime. It also prohibits torture and all inhuman treatments of arrested persons.
As a way of halting the practice of torture of suspects in police custody in the process of extracting statements and evidence, the new law imposes a duty on the police to electronically record or video the making and taking of confessional statements from suspects.
The proposed law provides that it is the duty of the arresting officer to generate full record of arrest with dates and photographs of the person arrested for proper documentation.
In the light of this, the bill also provides for the establishment of a Central Criminal Record Registry at the federal level and Criminal Records Registry at every State Police Command where this record of arrests would be kept. It also imposes a duty on Court Registrars to transmit court decisions in criminal trials to the Central Registry within 30 days or face disciplinary measures by the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
The bill also contains a provision for quarterly reports by all authorities and agencies having power of arrest to the Attorney General of the Federation. Section 29 states thus: “The Inspector General of Police and head” of every agency authorized by law to make arrests shall remit quarterly to the Attorney General of the Federation a record of all arrests made with or without warrant in relation to federal offences within Nigeria.
Other clauses of interest include the provision of mechanism for improving prosecution by ensuring that only legally trained persons prosecute; mechanism for improved regime for the protection of victims of rape and other sexual offences and rule on convicted pregnant women.