Some civil society organisations (CSOs) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have advocated for the signing of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Bill 2014 into law by President Goodluck Jonathan before leaving office on May 29, 2015.
Speaking on behalf of the group at a press briefing organised by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU), the Director at the Centre for Social Legal Studies, Prof Yemi Akinseye George, who commended the National Assembly for passing the bill into law, hinted that the ACJ Bill would be on Mr President’s desk before the week runs out for presidential assent.
The don explained that if passed into law, it would address most of the problems currently faced in the administration of criminal justice in the country.
He lamented that the dysfunctional criminal justice system has contributed to the problems of impunity which, he noted to be on the increase.
“The criminal justice system works very unfairly in the sense that the majority of those who fall victims of the criminal justice system are those who cannot afford to pay for the services of legal practitioners. In other words, the Nigerian justice system hurts the poor much more than it hurts those who have the economic means to engage the services of legal practitioners,” he remarked.
George said that the development has created a bad image for the country “such that we have a huge population of awaiting trial persons without access to justice.”
“This discredits our country; this discredits democratic system that is evolving in the country. The image of the country depends very much on how it treats its vulnerable citizens; the prisoners, the poor, and other people who come in conflict with the law.
“This has also affected the performance of the economy because those who would have invested in the country will not do so because they are not sure that their rights will be protected; they are not sure if they will have access to justice when there is an infraction of their rights,” he added.
He said the bill would address the delay in investigation and prosecution of criminal cases, the long period of remand of suspects in prison custody without trial, and will provide for alternative sentences other than prison custody, ensure witness protection, among others.
George, who called on the Clerk of the National Assembly to ensure that the bill is submitted to the presidency for assent, urged Jonathan to sign the bill before leaving office.
“If the president signs the ACJ Bill into law, it will be an enduring parting gift to the Nigerian people, especially to the most vulnerable citizens who usually bear the brunt of inefficient criminal justice system,” George said.
Present at the occasion included the first vice president of the NBA, Francis Ekwere; Chino Obiagwu of Legal Defence and Assistance Project, among others.
“IPOB is being sponsored by those I will call the Coalition of the politically disgruntled and the treasury looters. They believe that by sponsoring this group to destabilize the country and trigger chaos, they will realize their ambition of escaping justice and then be free to dip their hands into the nation’s treasury again.”
-Lai Mohammed(Nigeria’s Information Minister on IPOB)
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