Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has called on judges to fully utilise the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Addressing judges at the opening of the 2016 Refresher Course for Judicial Officers on Current Trends at Law and Administration of Justice, the CJN said the ACJA provided a chance for all judges to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
“I expect that the provisions will be fully utilised,” he added.
He said the leadership of the judiciary would continue to introduce measures to make sure that the judiciary delivers on its mandate.
Mohammed said: “Another development which I am excited about is the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act into Law.
“The purpose of the Act is clearly stated as follows: ‘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.”
He reminded the judges that the judiciary has had to “endure intense, largely unjustified and grossly uninformed criticisms regarding delay in the administration of justice.”
Despite describing the criticism against slow dispensation of justice uninformed, the CJN said that he was proud that the “Judiciary was well ahead of the curve when the 2013 Practice Directions on Serious Crimes were adopted as the directions were aimed at reducing criminal trial delays.”
The CJN added that nevertheless the new Act strengthened the judiciary’s resolve to improve justice delivery as “it provides that applications for stay of proceedings shall no longer be heard in respect of a criminal matter before the court.
“This unprecedented provision puts a stop to the delays occasioned by interlocutory applications to stay proceedings pending appeal on preliminary matters when the substantive issues are yet to be tried on the merits.
“Upon arraignment, the trial of the defendant shall proceed from day-to-day until the conclusion of the trial, while each party is entitled to only five adjournments not exceeding two weeks each. Where the trial is still not concluded, the interval for adjournments will be reduced to seven days each.
“As such, the Act provides a chance for all judges to ensure speedy dispensation of justice and I expect that the provisions will be fully utilised.
“I must similarly urge your lordships to treat cases related to economic crimes and corruption with the necessary urgency that the previously mentioned 2013 Practice Directions mandate us to apply.
“Judges must also be stringent in applying the law strictly in order to render justice in a satisfactory manner to all parties whether they are the state, the accused or the victim.”
Justice Mohammed pointed out that negative effects of corruption had been experienced by every Nigerian in one way or the other.
He also told the judges that the judiciary had been judged harshly and on the receiving end of allegations of corruption in its operations.
The CJN said: “At this crucial time in our nation’s history, we must show the red card to corruption, while joining hands as patriotic citizens to campaign for zero-tolerance for corrupt practices within our courts.
“We must not forget our noble duty as ministers in the Temple of justice to uphold the rule of law impartially and without fear, in order to establish and sustain public confidence in the judicial process,
“Judges must live above board, shun corruption and avoid corrupt practices and misconduct.”
While welcoming participants, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Justice Rosaline Bozimo (rtd) said law reforms and innovations in the judiciary were a necessity for the purpose of enhancing and promoting judicial performance.
She said the Nigerian judiciary had experienced innovations and reforms in recent times, prominent among which she cited the passing into Law the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in 2015.
According to her, the high point of this Act was the merger of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) into one principal Federal Act, which apply uniformly in all federal courts.
She said: “While preserving the existing criminal procedures, it introduces new innovative provisions that will enhance the efficiency of the justice system.”
As part of its criminal justice and police reform agenda, the federal government has commenced a new training initiative that will better equip the Nigeria Police Force to effectively discharge its functions while becoming a more potent tool in fighting corruption within the force and in the country.
The training programme designed to improve policing and the effective implementation of the administration of criminal justice commenced during the week, March 9, under a collaborative effort between the presidency and the Nigeria Police Force.
A statement issued yesterday by the Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the first in a four-part series of courses on strategic leadership and management had been completed last Friday.
The training programme, also organised with the support of the Ministry of the Interior and CLEEN Foundation, a law enforcement non-governmental organisation, was sponsored by the Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reform Fund administered by Trust Africa.
In its first part, 20 police officers of the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police drawn from across the country were taken through seven modules.
Each of the modules was designed to sharpen the skills of the senior police officers and enable them translate the strategic vision and policing agenda of the Police High Command into manageable and measurable operational directives with the goal of overall nationwide effective criminal justice administration.
A total of 100 senior police officers will be trained over the duration of the courses and at the end of the fourth course, the training programme will be transferred to one of the police training institutions along with a standardised curriculum and training manual.