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The need to reform the Justice sector in Nigeria

The CLEEN foundation which seeks to contribute to strengthening the application of ACJA in Nigeria through systematically monitoring the key criminal justice actors to ensure the fulfillment of their roles under the law, organized the 1st Kaduna State quarterly working group meeting on the Administration of Criminal Justice on 25th of September, 2018, held at the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice, the meeting had representatives of the Attorney–General/Commissioner of Kaduna State, representatives of the Acting Chief Judge of Kaduna, representative of the Commissioner of Kaduna State Police Command, chairmen of both NBA branches in Kaduna, and media personalities, to discuss the implementation of the law in the state, and the digitalization of court proceedings to ease justice dispensation in the modern day era information communication technology (ICT).

Stakeholders present at the quarterly working group meeting unanimously agreed that the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice indeed intends to fasten up criminal proceedings in Nigeria with new initiatives of community service for minor offences, to option of plea bargain, and number of adjournments that should be allowed in a criminal trial.

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The challenges however remain how to effectively implement the provisions of the law, considering the inadequacies of the current Nigerian legal system. Take for example, Section 28 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kaduna State (2017) provides that a suspect must be informed by the investigative police officer that he has the right to remain silent, or make statement in the presence of his legal professional, or any member of his choice. Sadly this is not the case in our police stations, writing a statement is mandatory once a suspect is in police custody.

Another major setback to the digitalization of court proceedings is the inability for court staff to easily comply with modern day technology, some are still trying to understand and operate their smart-phones, not to talk of operating digitalized court proceedings, serving soft copy of hearing notices to counsels before the date of hearing notifying them if the court would sit or not, or file and serve soft copy of court processes to parties involved.

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Another challenge to ease of justice dispensation when the courts go digital, is the frequent epileptic power supply bedeviling the nation, which begs the question, would the court room switch back to analogue during court proceedings when our electricity distribution company ceases the light? Or would the court adjourn proceedings to when there is electricity? This and many more are the reasons why the Administration of Justice Law having being passed to law, is still yet to be effectively implemented.

To my mind, the fastest means to fast tracking criminal trial, apprehension of offenders, and passing judgment, is to go to the basics of crime prevention; the police are responsible for beginning investigation of an alleged offence before going to court; and until the Nigeria police are ready to start processing suspects arrested by taking mug shots, fingerprints, and other personal details required by the Administration of Criminal Justice Law with intent to create a database for all offenders registered in the system, for purpose of recording of arrest, and creating a central criminal record to assist the court in the speedy dispensation of justice.

Elijah, Karam Bakam, Esq, while delivering his speech at the stakeholders’ meeting, recommended an implementation drive which includes; (1) subsidiary instrument required for implementation like the state Ministry of Justice and the police to enter a memorandum of understanding stating the terms of collaborative investigation; (2) institutional structure(s) to be established by appointing a liaison officer who possess excellent administrative and communication skills for the purpose of creating an interface between the two officers for effective implementation of their investigative duties; (3) Human and material resources; (4) requirement for returns/report. (https://www.theediproofblog.com)

From the above, it is clear that all hands must be on deck to achieve the justice sector reform we desire. The executive ought to play their part by providing the structures needed for this innovative law to perform optimally; The police also ought to work towards the digitization of police stations; that way the courts can dispense justice accurately, in due time.

The prisons are filled with inmates awaiting trial who have spent years for minor offences, this is so because there is no synergy between the stakeholders involved in the dispensation of justice.  Fortunately, once the implementation of Administration of Criminal Justice takes full effect as it ought to, it will in turn lead to prison decongestion, and promote respect of human right.

Godspeed!

 

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