ACJMC Annual Conference: FCT CJ tells FG to address long-term pre-trial detention

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By Joy Odor

The Chief Judge (CJ), FCT High Court and Chairman, Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) Federal, Justice Baba Yusuf has called on the Federal Government to address the issues confronting the ACJMC which are long-term pre-trial detention and inadequate funding of the criminal justice system in the country.

Justice Yusuf who was represented by Justice Oriji made the call in his speech while declaring open the 2nd Annual General Conference of
Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) with the Theme: “Strengthening Co-ordination in the Effective Implementation of the ACJA and ACJL in Abuja on Wednesday.

According to him, other challenges include congestion of court dockets, congestion of custodial facilities.

” I am delighted to be chairing this occasion amongst ambassadors and assuredly together we can all achieve the set objectives of the ACJA/ACJL, through this strategic collaboration and concerted effort towards improving and reforming our criminal justice system, which has been beset by challenges such as congestion of court dockets, congestion of custodial facilities and long-term pre-trial detention.

“This is our priority whilst we engage this annual conference, to ensure that it is addressed by those charged with the responsibility.

“I assure you that I would continue to maintain the pragmatic leadership started by my predecessor over the years.

“I will also continue to ensure the synergy and cooperation that has ensued among all criminal justice stakeholders across the country, is continuously pursued and upheld vigorously.

“Most importantly, I take this opportunity to thank all our development partners within and outside the country particularly the Mac Arthur Foundation who have continuously supported our programs, also to mention NULAI, GiZ, RoLAC under the European Union, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and Juris Trust among others” he noted.

Earlier in his welcome address, Sulayman Dawodu, the Executive Secretary of ACJMC Federal informed that the ACJA 2015 Act was enacted to deal with the perennial challenges of which emanated from the proceedings under the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.

He explained that these challenges were incessant congestion of custodial facilities, congestion of court dockets, excessive use of imprisonment as the main tool for punishment due to lack of other alternatives, abuse of power by LEAs empowered to carry out arrests and also detain, among others.

“The objective of the ACJA is encapsulated under Section 1 which provides that “the purpose of this Act is to ensure that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria, promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and protection of the rights and interests of the suspect, the defendant, and the victim.”

“It is instructive to note that substantial progress has been made in the adoption of the ACJA by States, about 33 States have passed the ACJL. One of the major innovations of the ACJA/ACJL is the provision for a Monitoring Committee charged with the implementation of the ACJA/ACJL.

“It is also on record that over 24 States have inaugurated the ACJMC and over 20 States have established their Secretariats.

“The 2nd Annual Conference is holding today to assess the level of implementation of the ACJL by various States and also provide a platform for addressing cross-cutting challenges confronting all the States including the Federal ACJMC. It is reminding us that if the purpose of the ACJA/ACJL must be fulfilled, we have a duty to ensure that it is done effectively. There is an ongoing amendment of the ACJA which the ACJMC Federal is involved in, and some States as well.

“The inaugural Annual Conference which was held same time last year made the following resolutions:Adoption of the ACJA by all States Inauguration of the ACJMC in all States across the Federation, minimum target is 30 States by 2022 Establishment of ACJMC Secretariat in all States, minimum target is 22 States by 2022Budget line for the State and Federal ACJMC by 2022Creation and launching of ACJMC Network in Nigeria as a legal entity Implementation of joint portal network Ensure the declaration of state of emergency of the criminal justice system viz: advocating for the establishment of Criminal Justice Trust Fund through legislative process and mentoring/monitoring of regional cooperation among ACJMC States Advocate for a Witness Funding Scheme (7 States already have it), minimum of 12 Sates by 2022 Advocate and promote the implementation of non-custodial measures Advocate and promote a plea bargain mechanism Advocate and support for Practice Direction to guide trial-within-trial Advocate and promote criminal divisions or designated courts (4 States already have), minimum of 12 States by 2022 Key into the national minimum standard of the ACJMC for uniformity across all States of the Federation.

“This is the time for assessment with those resolutions and benchmark ourselves in performance so far and most importantly putting heads together to map out further strategies for future accomplishment of greater heights in the reform of our criminal justice system and that is the legacy we all could leave behind at the end of the day” he stressed.

In his goodwell message, the Program Manager GIZ, Alhaji Idris Bawa informed that one of the foundermental challenge GIZ is trying to address looking at preparations of the law when confession statement are to be made by a suspect, is that a lawyer has to be present at such confession or an NGO person or a family member of such suspect and should be recorded to tackle issues surounding trials within trials in Nigeria judicial system.

” Some judges have spoken on pre-trial issues surounding trials within trials in Nigeria judicial system during their speeches, pointing out that one of the foundermental GIZ try to address looking at preparations of the law when confession statement are to be made by a suspect, is that a lawyer has to be present at such confession or an NGO person or a family member of such suspect and should be recorded.

” And we know that such process of this nature, funding is always difficult and we have tried to see how we can come in to ensure that we support justice institution to see that recording of confession statement are done to avoid issues of trials within trials.

” My Lords, we have encountered two conflicting judgment before surounding issues of colloboration by the Court of Appeal where is one is saying colloboration is necessary and the other judgment said colloboration is not necessary, this is some of the challenges we face when we want to implement some of these laws.

” With all due respect sir, my worries are not about it trials within trials, in correctional services, have we taken time out to do a research to know the cost implications of imprisoning and detaining one person. When you talk about the budget implications from the Federal Government, the social impact and among others.

“When l go to Portharcourt prison for a example, l saw over 1,500 inmates and majority of them are our young vibrate men and yet we are saying that men are fewer than women in Nigeria. How would our ladies and girls have or find a husband when our young men are pilling up in prison day in day out without proper and timely trial.

” Not all these young men are convict but have some minor issues that can be sorted out” he lamented.

Alhaji Bawa was of the opinion that GIZ would continue to ensure that they can effectively deal with some of the challenges that the ACJA is bringing to the conference.

GIZ is a Germany Government Organization that support development partners in Nigeria, working around police reforms and, capacity building to ensure justice prevail on ordinary people lives.

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