In furtherance of its nationwide sensitization programme for states that are yet to adopt the ACJA as their procedural law for the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria, The NBA-MAC ARTHUR project team held a one day sensitization workshop in Yola, Adamawa State yesterday 31st of January, 2018.The participants were officially welcomed by the NBA Chairman, Yola Branch, Everastus Odo Esq, who on behalf of the branch appreciated the National body for choosing Adamawa State for the sensitization workshop and was hopeful that at the end of the programme, the State will experience a smooth implementation of the Act.
After the welcome address, NBA 1st Vice-President, Caleb Dajan Esq who represented the NBA President A. B. Mahmoud OON, SAN, apologised for the absence of the President and congratulated the two branches in Adamawa State for the choice of their State as one of the phase one States to have the workshop. He stressed the importance of the ACJA in the Criminal Justice System and stated that it is the Association's desire that at the end of the day, the aim of the workshop will not only be achieved but contributions made will lead to a smooth implementation of the Act in Adamawa State. He ended his address by appreciating the presence of officers of various security agencies, who are also key partners/players in the administration of criminal justice.
Mr. Caleb Dajan later inaugurated the nine (9) member state committee assigned with state level tasks to build partnership and work in collaboration with key stakeholders working in the area of domesticating and implementing the ACJA 2015, in Adamawa state.
The Project Coordinator, Muritala Abdul-Rasheed Esq, in his address stated that the Criminal Justice System in Nigeria is bedevilled with several challenges including long adjournment of cases, congestion, long delays in the adjudicatory process, over reliance on technicalities, collapsing infrastructure, corruption in the system, congestion in courts and prisons, poverty of knowledge, culture of impunity and declining confidence of the citizenry in the efficacy and efficiency of justice institutions.
He described the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) as the much awaited revolution in the criminal justice arena as the criminal justice system existing before the coming into force of the law has lost its capacity to respond quickly to the needs of the society, check the rising waves of crime, speedily bring criminals to book and protect the victims of crime.
He urge Adamawa state to lead other states in the north east zone in the passage of the ACJA bill to law. He added: “Adamawa state is blessed with human capital who have all it takes to lead in the promulgation of laws that will promote access to justice, which the ACJ law when enacted represents. The NBA-MacArthur project will on its part, vigorously pursue the training and retraining of judicial officers, lawyers and other stakeholders in the justice sector in this State on the innovation introduced by the ACJA through its institute of Continue Legal Education (ICLE) with a view to making them friendlier with the users of the institutions of justice.”
In his Goodwill message, the Attorney General of Adamawa State S. S. D. Sanga,Esq who was represented by the Solicitor General welcomed the participants and informed the gathering that the State ACJ Bill is at the state House of Assembly and that in two weeks’ time the Act will be domesticated in the state. He urged participants to take full advantage of the workshop and participate fully.
The Honourable Chief Justice of Adamawa State, Hon. Justice Ishaya K. Banu, ably represented by second most senior judge, Hon. Justice N. Musa, commended the NBA for organising the sensitization workshop and encouraged active participation and contribution from all participants.
Mr. James Agaba, Senior Lecturer, Nigerian Law School, Yola Campus who was the Keynote Speaker gave an overview of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
He observed among other issues that, S.2 (1) is ambiguous and needs to be better couched for better interpretation. He proceeded to point out some innovations and controversial aspects of the Act. Some of the provision he flagged are Sections; 2, 6,8,10, 15,16,29,33,158, 187 and 207 of the Act.
He reiterated that; the ACJA, like the ACJL of Lagos State provides a model for the other states of the Federation to emulate. However, He opined that any state that wishes to emulate ACJA should take a more critical look at the provisions of sections 221, 222, 306 and 396 of the ACJA. There is also need for providing adequate infastructure for the implementation of the law.
He concluded by saying that; “the recent trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, has raised doubts as to whether the ACJA has not come to make life difficult for the defendant in a criminal trial. The refusal of the tribunal, pursuant to section 306 ACJA, to stay its proceedings pending the appellant’s appeal, sent jitters down the spine of the watchers of the criminal justice system under the ACJA. But, if we focus on such singular episode, we are likely to lose sight of the bigger and better picture. The ACJA has actually come to protect the rights of the defendant while, at the same time discouraging all from committing crimes with a threat of certainty of conviction and punishment or appropriate sanctions.”
Dr. Garba Tettengi SAN, mni, who chaired the working session said that the CPC and Penal Code were no longer serving its purpose in the Administration of Criminal Justice in the state, hence the need for reform. He noted some of the innovations in the ACJA 2015 to include: Right against self-incrimination, protection of witness and victims.
Finally, he stated that the Act is a laudable development that can advance the Criminal Justice System in Adamawa State, if implemented.
Mr. Everastus Odo, Chairman Yola Branch and a panellist said that states should weigh critically the financial implications of the ACJ bill before its passage to law.
Fatima Bello Raji, Esq who represented FIDA lauds the lead speaker for his elaborate presentation and reiterated the obvious fact that the ACJA is a laudable law and if implemented will advance the course of Criminal Justice in the State.
The workshop ended with Critical stakeholders in the justice sector in Adamawa state calling on the state House of Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the ACJ bill which is still at the committee stage.
Office of the President of the NBA [OPNBA]
1st February, 2017.