Condemnation continues to trail the recent siege on the residence of Supreme Court Justice, Mary Peter-Odili, by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and members of a purported panel under the Ministry of Justice.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke; President of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), stakeholders and experts in the field of criminal justice joined their voices in condemning the act which many believed is an attempt to muzzle the Judiciary.
They all spoke at a one-day workshop to review the proposed amendments to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.
Luke, in his speech as chairman of the occasion, said that the incident is “very troubling” because the major law enforcement agencies including the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation have all denied having a hand in the siege.
“Further adding insult to the injury is the flimsy grounds of ‘illegal activities’ which the application for the warrant was founded on.
“The siege, reminiscent of 2016 incident where in the dead of night security agencies simultaneously invaded private residence of judicial officers, is condemned in strong terms. The action is a major setback to the attainment of judicial independence and a further blot on the nation’s democratic credentials,” the lawmaker said.
While advocating a complete overhaul of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, to fill some lacuna created by the current Act, Luke suggested a reform of the process of application and issuance of search warrant in order to weed out abuse in the process.
He said: “The primary function of every government is to maintain peace, order and good government. This function cannot be attained without a criminal justice system that addresses violence, disorder and criminal misbehaviour, which are the antitheses of peace and order in a system.”
While commending the Centre for Socio-legal Studies and its erudite Akinseye-George for spearheading the amendments to the Act, the lawmaker said for the law to be more effective, it should be repelled and re-enacted.
“It has been discovered along the line, however, that the ACJA has not effectively achieved the objectives for which it was enacted. It is pleasing to see the centre leading the charge in the amendment of the Act.
“Several and important amendments have been proposed to the Act, which I strongly believe that when passed, will put the Act right back on the faster lane to achieving its purpose. For instance, the proposed abolition of trial within trial, allowance of some part-heard matters to be continued by a new judge, requirement for filing of defendant’s statement by the defence, etc., will definitely promote speedy dispensation of justice,” Luke said.
In a welcome address, CSLS President, Akinseye-George, earlier lamented the worsening insecurity in the country, calling on the federal government to adopt a more comprehensive strategy to tackle the challenge.
While commending the approach of disrupting communication channels and supply network to bandits and terrorists, Akinseye-George said: “It is imperative to build the capacity of local communities to protect themselves and take proactive measures which can nip criminal activities in the bud.
“Suspected criminals must also be brought to justice without delay by the criminal justice system.”
He however advised against the creation of state police because it can easily be abused by governors against their opponents.
He suggested the implementation of the community policing provisions of the Police Act, 2020, adding that the communities must be organized to defend themselves and protect their economic activities.
On the welfare of judicial officers, Akinseye-George, while stressing that the country cannot afford another strike by judiciary workers, advocated that the third arm of government be given its institutional freedom from unwarranted interference by the other arms of government.
“We therefore condemn the recurring attempts by the executive to intimidate judges, including justices of our highest courts,” he said.