In furtherance of its mandate to ensure the domestication and implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 across the 28 states in Nigeria, the NBA-MacArthur project team was on Wednesday 14th February 2018, in Lokoja, Kogi State for a ‘State Validation Public Forum.’
It will be recalled that, the Governor of Kogi State signed the Administration of Criminal Justice bill into law on the 29th of December, 2017.
The ‘State Validation Public Forum’ was held to to highlight some of the Implementation Strategies.
The Chairman of the NBA Lokoja Branch; M. Y. Abdullahi Esq, gave the welcome address. He expressed his gratitude to the National leadership of the NBA for organising the Public forum in Kogi State. He maintained that the Kogi State ACJL 2017, is a cure to all the ailments hindering the efficient administration of criminal justice system in the state. He commended the efforts of the Attorney General of the State; Ibrahim Sani Mohammed SAN, in ensuring that the law is passed.
NBA 3rd Vice-President, Ben Orji Esq who represented the NBA President A. B. Mahmoud OON, SAN, apologised for the absence of the President. He stressed the importance of ACJA in the Criminal Justice System and stated that it is very important that the state make available copies of the law to the general public for better appreciation and understanding of the law. 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. Ben Orji 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 implementing the ACJL 2017, in Kogi state.
The Project Coordinator, Muritala Abdul-Rasheed Esq, gave the project overview. He reiterated that, the ACJA is geared towards ensuring that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of all criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, and protection of the rights and interests of the suspects and the victim of crime.
He stressed that, “the ACJA will fall short of its potential if it only remains a federal law. In view of the need for uniformity, clarity, and better administration of justice throughout the country, it is essential for States to adopt this Law.”
He noted that, the successful passage and subsequent assent of Administration of Criminal Justice bill into law by the Kogi state Government on 29th of December, 2017 marked a new beginning, indeed a watershed in criminal justice delivery in the ‘confluence’ state. “I have seen the Kogi state ACJ law and is quite innovative, far sighted and will, without a doubt, promote access to justice. “
Mr. Abdul-Rasheed said the desire to turn things around, to bring new lease of life and enthrone a more humane and responsive criminal justice regime is the reason why Kogi state joined the league of adopting states in domesticating ACJA 2015.
He however note that, “with the adoption of the law comes great responsibility of funding and infrastructural development.
In his Goodwill message, the Attorney General of Kogi State; Hon. Ibrahim Sani Mohammed SAN who represented the Executive Governor of the State, welcomed participants to the confluence state and acknowledged the contribution of the State house of Assembly Speaker and the Chief Judge of Kogi State; Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah in passing the Kogi State ACJ bill into law.
He noted that Kogi State has gone far in implementing the innovations of the ACJL. He said in anticipation of the law and satisfying one of the provisions of the law, the state employed over 150 lawyers for effective prosecution of its criminal cases. He called for unalloyed support of the law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and the bar, in ensuring that the law is applied at every stage of the criminal justice delivery process.
The Honourable Chief Judge of Kogi State, Hon. Justice Nasir Ajanah, while giving a brief background of the Kogi State ACJ law said; on November 9th 2017 after he attended the Administration of Criminal Justice Conference organised by the NBA with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation in Abuja, he called on the Attorney General of the state to enquire about the status of the bill, and he was informed that the process has gone along a way and a month after, the State Governor assented the bill into law.
He expressed confidence that the judiciary will do its part in ensuring that the innovations introduced are fully implemented. He however implored the state government to do more in terms of funding and provision of infrastructures for better appreciation and implementation of the law.
Prof. Alphonsus Alubo, of the University of Jos who was the Keynote Speaker gave an overview of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
Prof. Alubo began by saying that, The ACJA is divided into 48 parts and 495 sections. “Broadly, the parts deals with issues such as Arrest, Bail, Preventive Justice, Warrants, public misance, Attachment following disobedience, Place of trial or inquiry, Powers of the Attorney General, institution of proceedings, First information report, Enforcing appearance of suspect, search warrants, Bail and Recognizance, the charge, Witnesses, Plea Bargain, Persons of unsound mind, Trials, Sentencing, Punishment, Trial of corporation, fees and Miscellaneous.”
He said, it is illuminating to note that the Supreme Court gave strong imprimatur to the ACJA in Dr Olubukola Abubakar Saraki v FRN and advanced the prospects of the Act.
He continued; “It is axiomatic that the ACJA has been tour de force and made a constellation of laudable provisions. It is equally true that some of the provisions would need to be deepened.” One of such broad provisions, as noted by Prof. Alubo is the one relating to sentence. “It is critical that provision is made for sentencing guidelines. Most modern criminal justice legislation provides for sentencing guidelines that clearly exhibits factors to be taken into consideration in sentencing, such as the medical history, age, criminal records etc., the sentencing guidelines adopted for implementation by the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court in 2015 may provide a guide. What is more? The sentence guidelines of the federal High Court was made by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission after several roundtables and workshops that brought members of the academia, legal practitioners and Judges to interface on critical areas. As it is, the Act has not made provision r guidelines for representation by Legal Aid Council.”
He concluded by saying the fight against corruption goes beyond the Act. Prosecution, investigation and dedication are also key to ensure conviction and to deter others from committing offences bordering on corruption.
“Indeed at a recent seminar, Prof. Itse Sagay advocated the full implementation of S.306 [stay of proceedings] and S.396 (day to day trial), as he called for punishment for lawyers who frustrate high profile cases. That is my view too. The Judiciary, we must say, like ceasers wife, must be above board, in corruption matters. Recent events are disheartening.” Said Prof. Alubo.
Oluwafemi Adegboyega Esq, the Special Assistant to the Governor of Kogi State on legal matters and member of the Kogi State ACJL drafting committee gave a brief overview of the Kogi State ACJL. He highlighted the innovations introduced in the Kogi ACJL and describe it as the dawn of a new era in the criminal delivery system in the state.
Hussaini Alhassan, Chief Magistrate Lokoja, who presented his paper on the ‘Issues and Challenges in the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi state,’ said the Kogi State ACJL is virtually a verbatim reproduction of the ACJA, 2015. “The Kogi State ACJL contains 48 parts with eight schedules.”
He went further to point out some innovations introduced by the Kogi State ACJL 2017 to include S.18; Unlawful arrest, S.17; notification of cause of arrest, S.157; power of the court to order person in custody to be brought before it and deal with same appropriately, S.19 (2); A suspect is not to be arrested merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract, etc.
In terms of challenges in the Kogi ACJL, the Chief Magistrate said a major drawback to the law is what appears to be a twist of legal pluralism to the operative law. “Both the old and the new regime appear to exist co-timeously without the former expressly repealing the latter. The non-insertion of an express repeal clause in the operative law to do away with the criminal Procedure Code has been worrisome to both the bar and bench.”
Secondly, he noted that the Kogi state ACJL has jettisoned the provision of section 13 (1) (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code when a suspect is arraigned before a magistrate court or Area Court for offences under other law other than the Penal Code. He said the Kogi ACJL is silent on the issue of courts vested with requisite jurisdiction when dealing with any law other than the penal code.
He concluded by saying that, “what is important in the light of the seemingly short comings or controversy that may appear to have trailed the arrival of the Kogi State ACJL is to enjoin all and sundries to nurture it to an enviable growth. A legislative reform is hereby advocated to pave way to a good intention and a worthy course in other to allow the criminal justice system in the state thrives.”
F. O. Ekpa, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Kogi State University,who is a member of the panel advised the police and other security apparatus in the state to educate their officers and men on the role and obligations imposed on their agencies by the law and the need to strictly adhere to the tenets of the law as the only way to a more secured society. He equally extended the advice to lawyers to educate their clients and potential clients on their rights and duties under the new law and other laws.
Office of the President of the NBA [OPNBA]
15th February, 2018.