By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) has called on the Kebbi state government to domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The call was made in Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State at the State Legislative Advocacy and Sensitization Workshop on Promotion and Domestication of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (“ACJA”), 2015 organize by the Nigerian Bar Association with support from the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
While addressing participants, the Project Coordinator of the NBA- MacArthur Project, Victor Abasiakan-Ekim Esq. gave an overview of the extant criminal justice system in the state, and unveiled the objective of the workshop which according to him, is to sensitize stakeholders in the criminal justice system in Kebbi State and the importance of having an administration of criminal justice law of the State that conforms to modern reality.
Ekim, who also represented of the NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN, welcomed members of the bar, stakeholders, speakers and invited guests and expressed optimism that the workshop will achieve the desired objective.
In his address, he said 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.
However, he noted that, ACJA will fall short of its potential if it only remains a federal law.
In his goodwill message, Acting Chief Judge of Kebbi State, Justice Muhammad Suleiman Ambursa, said the workshop couldn’t have come at a better time, assuring that he will muster the needed support and assistance towards ensuring that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is domesticated in the State.
Professor Alphonsus Alubo, SAN, who was the Keynote Speaker gave an ”Overview of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015” with specific emphasis on some innovative provisions of the Act, such as Section 6 of the Act which mandates an arresting officer to promptly inform the person being arrested of their right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of their choice.
According to him, the landmark innovations of the ACJA notwithstanding, certain provisions thereof need to be amended so as to bring the Act in touch with societal realities.
Some of the sections identified in this regard are: Section 293 of the Act which empowers a magistrate to remand a suspect in respect of an offence which the magistrate is not competent to try.
Although holding charge is not expressly mentioned, it is the belief of the erudite professor of law that the section introduces the practice of holding charge through the backdoor and is therefore of dubious utility.
Also, section 270(2) of the ACJA provides to the effect that resort could be made to plea bargain if the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to prove the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt. It is the opinion of the learned silk that this provision should be jettisoned as it turns long established legal principles on their heads.
He said section 148 of the Act which states that a search warrant may be issued and executed at any time and on any day, including a Sunday and a public holiday, is capable of being used by law
enforcement agencies to infringe on citizens’ rights to privacy at ungodly hours.
According to him, the provisions of section 111 of the CPA are more apposite and should be substituted with section 148 of ACJA.
He also said section 492(3) is vague, and gives too much latitude to a judge in the event of a lacuna in the Act.
According to him, the provision that the court may apply any procedure that will meet the justice of the case is a carte blanche that is susceptible to abuse as the judge may rely on same to adopt despotic and oppressive procedures.