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Human rights group hails Senate for passing criminal justice bill

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The Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) has applauded the Senate for passing the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, 2013 (ACJ Bill) yesterday.

The Network particularly commended the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, especially the Chair of the Committee, Senator Umaru Dalhiru, who personally demonstrated commitment to the passing of the bill over the years.

According to a statement endorsed by the head of the group, Chino Obiagwu, landmark Bill which seeks to promote the speedy dispensation of justice, protect the society from crime and protect the rights and interests of both the defendant and the victim, merges the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act (applicable in the South) and the Criminal Procedure Code (applicable in the North) into one principal Federal Act which is intended to apply uniformly in all Federal Courts across the country.

Obiagwu states “We are very hopeful that the imminent coming into force of the ACJ Act will drastically address many challenges in the administration of criminal justice at the Federal level and in the FCT. Already the ACJ Laws are in force in Lagos, Anambra and Ekiti States, and remarkable progress in criminal justice administration is noticeable in those states. We urge other states to adopt this law within this legislative year.’

The group said: “Given the recent prison breaks, most notably the attack on the Koton Karfe Prison in Kogi State on November 2, 2014, which set free 144 inmates, the importance of the Bill cannot be stressed enough as the State Controller of Prisons has been widely reported to have said that the attack on Koton Karfe was largely possible due to prison overcrowding.

“In fact, out of the said 144 inmates, 119 are reported to have been awaiting trial.”
The group said if signed by the President, the Bill has great potential to substantially reduce the number of persons in custody while awaiting trial as one of the many innovative provisions of the Bill requires the Comptroller General of Prisons to provide quarterly reports to the Chief Judge and the Attorney General of the Federation on all persons awaiting trial that have been held in custody for more than 180 days.

“The Chief Judge and the Attorney General are then required to take such steps as are necessary to address the issues raised in the report in furtherance of the objectives of the ACJ Bill”, it said, adding that the imminence of the forthcoming elections and the subsequent end of the present legislative assembly, time is of the essence to sign the bill.

It therefore urged President Jonathan to sign the Bill as a matter of urgency.



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