Group canvasses inclusion of ACJA mandatory course in judicial institutes
The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN) has tasked government to make Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a mandatory programme in judicial institutions.
The law group made the recommendation last week at the public release of findings made from the observations of courts in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from October 2018 to June 2019.
Speaking through its Programme Officer, Ms. Tolu Ojeshina, PWAN held that the act as a compulsory programme should be studied in National Judicial Institute, the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and all legal training institutions to further educate law officers on the act.
In a presentation made at the event, it was observed that according to findings made by the group, only 71 per cent of judicial officers have read the act, while the remaining 29 per cent read only the provisions of ACJA that applied to their functions and powers.
Ms. Ojeshina said 24 of the 36 states of the federation have so far adopted the law, the most recent being Bauchi State. “This speaks to the important role the act plays in Nigeria’s justice sector,” she added.
The group also discovered in the course of her research that High Courts sat for 484 days out of 769 days while Magistrate Courts sat for 343 days out of 477 days within the period under review.
“This is a remarkable improvement in magistrate courts sitting when compared with the report of the past four observation periods. One of the objectives of ACJA is to ensure speedy dispensation of cases. The major innovation of the act is the day-to-day adjournment of criminal cases to ensure that there are no undue delays. About 25 per cent always or sometimes adjourn criminal cases daily while 50 per cent rarely do,” the findings showed.
The court observations research process being carried out by Partners West Africa Nigeria is part of the organisation’s Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in the Justice Sector Project, a project implemented with support from the Macarthur Foundation.
Earlier, the Executive Director, PWAN, Kemi Okenyodo, emphasized that the criminal justice system is too important and crucial in the fabric of a democratic state to have agencies that are inefficient and are not being held accountable.
“There is an urgent need to critically review the legal aid system in Nigeria, including the Legal Aid Council to find out how its mandate is being utilized,” she said.