The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has stressed the need for all states to adopt the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to eliminate inconsistency and unpredictability in criminal trials.
NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN) said it was necessary that all states of the federation adopt the ACJA to ensure uniformity, clarity and better administration of justice throughout the country.
Usoro spoke in Dutse, Jigawa State at a sensitisation programme by the NBA and the Mac-Arthur project on the implementation of the ACJA.
The event was part of the mandate of the NBA-MacArthur project to ensure the domestication and implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 across the 28 states.
The Jigawa State governor signed a Bill of the state’s model of the ACJA – the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Jigawa Sate, 2019 – into law on June 27, preparatory to its implementation.
Represented by the Project Coordinator, Victor Abasiakan-Ekim, Usoro noted that ACJA will fall short of its potential if it only remains a federal law.
He stressed the importance of ACJA in the criminal justice system and stated that it is very important that the state make available copies of the law to the general public for better appreciation and understanding of the law.
Usoro explained that the ACJA is meant to ensure 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.
He noted that the successful passage and subsequent assent of Administration of Criminal Justice bill into law by the Jigawa State Government on June 27 marked a new beginning, indeed a watershed in criminal justice delivery in the state.
“I have seen the Jigawa State ACJ law and is quite innovative, far sighted and will, without a doubt, promote access to justice.
‘’With the adoption of the law comes great responsibility of funding and infrastructural development’’, he said.
Salman Rilwan of the Nigerian Law School, Kano Campus, delivered the lead paper, titled: “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and The Administration of Criminal Justice Law Of Jigawa State, 2019: A Perspective on Some Key Areas in the Laws”.
Rilwan dwelt on the application of the two laws; the purpose of their enactment; their relationship with the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and some other key areas of importance requiring special attention.
On the relationship between the ACJA/ACJL with the CPA and the CPC, he noted that there is confusion in some quarters as to whether or not that the ACJA has brought about the unification of the criminal procedure laws in Nigeria which means that the CPA and the CPC are now completely dead and that the ACJA is now the applicable procedural law all over Nigeria.
“This position may not be unconnected with the perception of the provision of section 493 of the ACJA. The section provides: ‘The Criminal Procedure Act (CAP. C41 LFN 2004), Criminal Procedure (Northern States) Act Cap C42 LFN 2004 and the Administration of Justice Commission Act (CAP A3 LFN 2004) are repealed.’ ”
Rilwan added: “The true position of the law is that as far as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja is concerned and as far as Federal Courts are concerned, the CPA and the other Acts mentioned in section 493 of the Act are no longer alive. But as far as the states are concerned, with the exception of Lagos, Kaduna and some other states that have amended their laws, including Jigawa now, whose new law is in the pipeline, the laws are still intact.
‘’The reason is obvious: the National Assembly only legislates for the Federation while the states Houses of Assembly make laws for the various states. By our Federal structure, a law made by the National Assembly does not bind the states unless a state House of Assembly adopts same or unless where the item in respect of which the National Assembly made that law is in the Exclusive Legislative List. Unlike evidence, criminal procedure is not on the Exclusive Legislative List. Therefore, it is a misconception to argue that there is a uniform criminal procedure rules in Nigeria.”
Section 479 of the Jigawa State ACJL has repealed the Criminal Procedure Code Law of Jigawa State CAP C19, Laws of Jigawa State, 2012, as soon as the former becomes effective. At that point the CPC in Jigawa State would be buried having died in law.
Siraj Sa’eda (SAN) noted that although ACJL brought some new revolutions, yet some works must be done, it is not just to applaud.
Sa’eda highlighted the innovations introduced in the Jigawa ACJL and described it as the dawn of a new era in the criminal delivery system in the state.
He pointed out some innovations introduced by the Jigawa State ACJL 2019, including unlawful arrest, notification of cause of arrest, power of the court to order person in custody to be brought before it and deal with same appropriately.