AN OVERVIEW OF THE PLATEAU STATE ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAW (ACJL) 2018 WITH PARTICULAR FOCUS ON THE INNOVATIONS IN THE ACJL, PRESENTED BY GEDALIAH D. FWOMYON, ESQ, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS OF PLATEAU STATE TO THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, YOUNG LAWYERS FORUM, JOS BRANCH, DURING THE NBA JOS BRANCH LAW WEEK HELD ON WEDNESDAY 5TH, DECEMBER, 2018 AT MILLENNIUM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, JOS.
It is imperative and expedient to start with a brief preface of the criminal procedure law in Plateau State.
The consistent complaints over the inadequacy of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code Law, Laws of Northern Nigeria 1960 to adequately address the problems associated with criminal procedure in the State, have been of great concern to the Prosecutors, Judges, Magistrates, Lawyers and other members of the society over the years. Many felt that the provisions of the old Criminal Procedure Code Law were inadequate, obsolete and irrelevant, given the ever increasing crime rate and their sophisticated Modus Operandi.
It is embarrassing, that about fifty eight years after independence, and over thirty eight years after Plateau became a State, we are still using the Criminal Procedure Code Law, Laws of Northern Nigeria that was enacted in 1960.
The process for the review of the said Criminal Procedure Code Law started in 2014, with my humble self as the Secretary who, coordinated the work with all steadfastness when the Law was reviewed, approved by the State Executive Council and sent to the State House of Assembly for passage into Law, but was not so passed because the tenure of the 7th Assembly expired when the Bill was still under consideration.
One of the important things amongst many that the Current Administration of Governor Simon Bako Lalong set out to do, from inception, is Justice Sector Reform. For this purpose, His Excellency in line with the resolution of the Northern Governors’ Forum to domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015, sponsored the participation of the Attorney-General of Plateau State at the sitting of the Committee set up by the Governors’ Forum in Kaduna State to come up with a proposed harmonized Administration of Criminal Justice Law, to be adopted by all the States in Northern Nigeria.
It is gratifying that it was the copy of the Criminal Procedure Code Law, reviewed by the Ministry of Justice in 2014, that was used and solely relied on by the Governors’ Forum Reviewing Committee to achieve its assignment of producing a draft Bill for a Law to provide for the Administration of Criminal Justice Law in various States in Northern Nigeria.
Several efforts have been made towards the realization of the Plateau State Administration of Criminal Justice Law. Between 2016 and 2017, Prof. Akinseye George organized a Stakeholders Forum in Silk Suit Hotel Jos in collaboration with the State Ministry of Justice to collate proposals towards the development of the Law. Having harmonized the proposals, he organized another four day workshop at Abuja to scrutinize the proposed draft Bill. The proposed Bill was scrutinized in comparism with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the Lagos and the Kaduna States Administration of Criminal Laws.
The conclusions and resolutions of the Abuja Workshop in the proposed Bill was further considered by another workshop of the expanded stakeholders held at Crest Hotel, Jos in 2017, which subjected the draft Bill to further serious scrutiny. After this workshop, Prof. Akinseye George sent the clean copy of the proposed Plateau State Administration of Criminal Justice Bill to the State Ministry of Justice for further necessary action.
While the above efforts were still in progress, the Governor upon the receipt of the Bill proposed by the Committee set up by the Northern Governors’ Forum, set up a State Committee in 2017 to come up with the Plateau State Administration of Criminal Justice Bill. The copy of the ACJB proposed by the said State Committee was forwarded to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice for his necessary action.
Being aware of the existence of the copies of the Bills proposed by the Ministry of Justice and the State Committee for the same Law, the current Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Chrysanthus Ahmadu, constituted a Committee of unceasing practicing Counsels including himself and the Solicitor- General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice to harmonize the two Bills into one for onward presentation. The Committee sat almost from day to day, including Sundays and Saturdays for several weeks in order to accomplish its assignment promptly in view of the need to have it passed into law in time. The ACJL 2018 is therefore a harmonized version of the Bills separately prepared by the State Committee and the Ministry of Justice, which was approved by the State EXCO and forwarded to the Plateau State House of Assembly, which swiftly subjected same to serious scrutiny through various hearings before passing same into law. The ACJL which was promptly assented to by our able Governor, came into being as the result of the hard work, dedication and commitment of the lawyers in the State Ministry of justice, the unprecedented interest of the current Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Chrysanthus T. Ahamadu in Law reforms in the State, the great love of the present speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Joshua Madaki in making of useful and relevant Laws in the State and the amazing enthusiasm of the Executive Governor of Plateau, Rt. Hon. Barr. Simon Bako Lalong in Justice Sector Reforms, development and stamping out crimes in the State for peace and prosperity of its citizens.
SYNOPSIS OF ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAW
The Administration of Criminal Justice Law is a new Criminal Procedure Code Law, which is a radical improvement upon the old Criminal Procedure Code Law 1960.
Criminal Trials are conducted on the basis of criminal procedure Laws, which the Administration of Criminal Justice Law represents.
The Plateau State Administration of Criminal Justice Law (hereinafter referred to as “ACJL”) 2018, domesticates the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (hereinafter referred to as “ACJA”) 2015, which is applicable to criminal trials involving offences established by an Act of the National Assembly and other offences punishable in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, It is worthy of note that the ACJA 2015 merged the two principal legislations i.e the CPC and CPA which guide the Administration of Criminal Justice in the States of the former Northern Nigeria and the States of the former Southern Nigeria in respect of Federal offences respectively. The ACJL introduces some novel provisions which are not captured by the ACJA itself.
PURPOSE OF THE ACJL
The Plateau State ACJL 2018 is tailored towards enhancing the efficiency of the justice system in Plateau State. This is in tandem with the objective of the Law as provided in Section 19 (1) thus:
“The purpose of this law is to ensure that the system of administration of criminal justice in Plateau State promotes efficient management of Criminal Justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and protection of the right and interest of the Suspect Defendant and Victim”.
In the ACJL 2018, the interests of the Suspect, Defendant and the Victim are considered and the Law aims at achieving restorative justice while paying attention to the needs of the society, victims, vulnerable persons, rights/ interest of the Defendant and witness protection.
By Section 19 (2), of the Law, the Courts, Law Enforcement Agencies and other Authorities or persons involved in Criminal Justice Administration shall ensure compliance with the provisions of the Law for the realization of its purposes.
The provisions of this Law shall apply to criminal trials for offences established by the Laws of the State House of Assembly and other offences punishable in the State except as otherwise provided by any other Laws. The Law is made up of 491 sections divided into Fifty One (51) Parts with Four (4) Schedules, thus:
Parts I – III Contain the Citation, Commencement and Interpretation of words and phrases used in the Law. The provisions in respect of the Constitution and Powers of Criminal Courts and the Purpose and Scope of the Application of the Law are provided under these parts.
Parts IV – V Contain provisions for Arrest, Bail, Preventive Justice and Warrants generally;
Parts VI – VIII – deal with prevention of Offences, Security for good
behaviour and proceedings in all cases subsequent to
Order to furnish security for good behavior;
Parts VIII – IX – Contain provisions in respect of Nuisance and
Attachment of Properties where a person disobeys
Summons or Warrant to stop Nuisance, award of compensation to victim of Nuisance.
Parts X – XI Contain Provisions relating to Criminal Trials or
Inquiries and the place for such Trials or Inquiries;
Parts XII – XIIl Provide for powers of the Attorney-General and his
control of Criminal Proceedings;
Parts XlV – XVII Contain provisions on how to institute Criminal
Proceedings: either by way of First Information or filing
of charges, Compelling Appearance of Suspects and the
Issuance of and Service of Summons;
Parts XVIII – XXII Contain provisions relating to Miscellaneous Provisions Regarding Court Process, Saving or Validity of Process, Search Warrant” Bail, Recognizance generally and’ Property of Persons;
Parts XXIII – XXVI Contain provisions in respect of the Charge, its
alteration or amendment, conviction based on charge
with one or several offences and how the Court will treat a person with previous Acquittal or Conviction;
Parts XXVII-XXIX Deal with Witnesses, compelling their attendance, taking their oaths or making Affirmation, their examination, Expenses and protection.
Parts XXX-XXXII Provide for Plea Bargain’ and Plea generally; Procedure to be used for persons of unsound mind and Remand proceedings and time limits;
Part XXXIII Has provisions in respect of Presentation of case for
Prosecution, Defence and Conclusion of trial;
Part XXIV Provides for Cost, Compensation, Damages and Restitution;
Parts XXXV-XXXVI – have provisions relating to Custody, Disposal,
Restoration of Property and Seizure, Forfeiture,
Confiscation and Destruction of Instrument of Crime;
Parts XXXVII-XXXVIII- Provide for Summary Procedure in Perjury, Trials and Summary Trials generally;
Part XXXIX Provide for rules relating to Charges
Parts XL-XLII Have provision relating to Sentence of Death, Procedure to be followed where a woman convicted of a Capital -Offence is alleged to be pregnant and Sentencing generally for offences other than Capital Offence.
Part XLIII Has provision relating to Detention in a safe custody or suitable place other than Prison or Mental Health
Part XLIV-XLVI Provides for the procedure in respect of Victim-Offender Mediation: Probation and Non-Custodial Alternatives’ and Parole.
PART XL – VII Contains provisions in respect of the State Administration of Justice Sector Reform Team.
PART XL-VIII Provides for Trial of Corporations;
Part XLIX Provides for Appeal;
Part L Has Supplementary Provisions in respect of Compounding of Offences’; and
Part LI Has provisions for Fees and Miscellaneous Provisions.
HIGHLIGHTS ON SOME AREAS OF LANDMARK INNOVATIONS IN THE ACJL 2018
Provisions on Speedy Trial
Section 405 of the Law provides that upon arraignment, the trial of the Defendant shall proceed from day-to-day until the conclusion of the trial.
Where day-to-day trial is impracticable, parties shall only be entitled to 5 Adjournments from arraignment to conclusion of Trial, with the interval between Adjournments not exceeding 14 days. Where it is impracticable to conclude a criminal proceeding after the parties have exhausted their five adjournments each, the interval between one adjournment to another shall not exceed 7 days, with the Court given the power to award costs in order to discourage frivolous adjournments.
Abolition of Stay of Proceedings
Section 319 abolishes stay of proceeding in criminal matters and prohibits the Court from entertaining same, except where a petition in writing has been received in respect of a particular case and referred for investigation by an independent body of 3 reputable lawyers appointed by the Judge pursuant to section 113 of this law. This is targeted at dealing with the antics of Defence Lawyers mostly in trial of politically exposed persons in corruption cases, who have perfected the act of staying proceedings pending the determination of interlocutory Appeals by the Appellate Courts. In one Case, this caused a delay of 12 years in the Trial of a former Governor.
Time Limit for Issuance of Legal Advice
Section 309 makes provision for time limit for issuance of DPP’s Legal Advice; the Attorney-General shall within 14 days of receipt of Police Case File, issue and serve a Legal Advice indicating whether or not there is a prima facie case against a defendant; the Attorney-General shall serve a copy of the Legal Advice on the Police, Court and the Suspect. Where no prima facie case exists, the suspect shall be released, if he is in custody.
Elimination of Trial De nove
Section 405 (7) and (8) contain provisions aimed at eliminating trial de novo, giving the judge or Magistrate conducting trial who is transferred to another division the leverage upon being granted dispensation by the Chief Judge to conclude any part-heard matter in his last jurisdiction within a reasonable time after assuming office in his new jurisdiction.
Transfer of part heard cases
Again section 113 prohibits transfer of cases where the prosecution has called witnesses.
Similarly, a Judge of the High Court who is elevated to the Court of Appeal shall have dispensation to sit as a High Court Judge only for the purpose of concluding any part-heard criminal matter pending before him at the time of his elevation and shall conclude same within a reasonable time, even after assuming duty as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.
Section 77 introduces Electronic Recording of proceedings which may be
recorded electronically or verbatim. However, where not practicable, the Court shall in-every case take notes in writing of the oral evidence in a book or file to be kept for that purpose and the book, or file shall be signed by the Court at the conclusion of each-day’s proceedings.
Compensation for Victims of Crime
Under the current dispensation, victims of crimes are neglected without any form of compensation even when the offender has been found guilty. This Law addresses such anomaly in Sections 95 and 332-334, by broadening the powers of the Court to award costs, compensation, damages and restitution in deserving cases.
Section 51 Empowers the Zonal Magistrates to visit Police Station and Prisons within their jurisdictions every quarter, to ensure that there are no cases of wrongful detention of suspects.
Bail, conditions of and compounding offences – The provisions relating to the grant of bail in capital offences have been strengthened to ensure the appearance of the defendant in court until the final determination of his case. Section 176 (1) and (2) provide the following conditions to be fulfilled by an applicant thus:
(1) “A suspect arrested, detained or charged with an offence punishable with death shall not be released on Bail. He may, however, be admitted to Bail by a Judge of the High Court only under exceptional circumstances.
(2) For the purpose of exercise of discretion in sub-section (1) of this Section, “exceptional circumstance” includes:
(a) Ill-health of the Applicant which shall be confirmed and certified by a qualified Medical Practitioner employed in a government Hospital,. Provided that the Suspect is able to prove that there are no Medical facilities to take care of his illness by the authority detaining him.
(b) Extraordinary delay in the investigation, arraignment and prosecution for a period exceeding two years; or
(c) Any other circumstances that the Judge may, in the particular facts of the case consider exceptional.
Parties to compounding offences will now be guided by the general principles of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the process of compounding such offences to ensure justice, fairness and equity to the parties and the society at large.
Persons qualified to stand sureties
Section 182 (6) provides that no person shall be denied or prevented or restricted from entering into any recognizance or standing as surety or providing any security on the ground that the person is a Woman
The conditions to be fulfilled by a surety are also provided for under section 182 (1) – (6) thus:
(1) A Defendant admitted to bail may be required to produce such surety or Sureties as, in the opinion of the Court, will be sufficient to ensure his appearance as and when required.
(2) The Defendant or his surety or Sureties may be required to enter into Recognizance, accordingly.
(3) Where a Defendant is granted Bail, the Registrar shall cause to be taken in the prescribed Form, the following records of the Surety:
(a) his full name, occupation and residential address; and
(b) for the purpose of identification, his:
(ii) passport photograph;
(iii) full fingerprint impressions;
(iv) bank verification number;
(v) telephone number: and
(vi) other means of identification
(4) The Prosecutor and the Registrar of Court shall verify the information supplied by the Defendant or Surety.
(5) Where ownership of a landed property is stipulated as one of the conditions for Bail, the title document submitted by the Surety or Defendant to the Court shall be forwarded to the land Registry for necessary verification.
(6) A person shall not be denied, prevented or restricted from entering into a Recognizance or standing as Surety for any Defendant or Applicant on the ground only that the person is a woman.
Women can now stand sureties as of right for bail granted to any Suspect/Defendant.
Reward for Supporting Law Enforcement Agencies and Protection of Informant
Section 121 of the Law provides for Reward for Supporting Law Enforcement Agencies in the discharge of their duties to protect lives and properties in the society. It provides thus:
(1) The Attorney-General may recommend to the State Executive Council for an appropriate reward in cash or in kind any person who provides:
- information leading to recovery of: illegal weapons, prevention of violence, social unrest, communal or religious conflicts or clashes between groups of persons in the state;
- information of other assistance’ to the Law Enforcement Agencies for preventing serious crimes, injury to communal relations or social harmony or damage to public property; or, other forms of support or aid to the Law Enforcement Agencies towards peace and social harmony in the State.
(2) The Attorney-General shall provide easily accessible facilities for the reception of such assistance from the Citizens.
(3) Where necessary, the Attorney-General shall advise or work with the Law Enforcement Agencies to provide protection for any person who provides the assistance referred to in sub-section (1) of this section.
(4) Any person, who, discloses the identity or otherwise exposes an informant to danger of reprisal attack or victimization is guilty of an offence and shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of not less than 3 years without an option of fine.
This innovation is very timely with the security challenges the state is facing and it will go a long way in involving citizens and communities in law enforcement and ensure peaceful co-existence amongst Citizens of the state. It will encourage Citizens to provide vital security information that will assist the Law Enforcement Agencies in discharging their duties diligently.
Prohibition of Arrest in Lieu
Section 28, provides that:
“No person shall be arrested in place of a suspect”.
With this novel provision in the Law, no Police Officer will arrest the spouse or another relation of a Suspect in order that the Suspect makes himself available for arrest. Before now, the Police had used this method to infringe on the rights of Citizens. The Courts have also frowned at this.
Prohibition of Arrest in Civil and Contractual Cases
Section 29 (1) of the Law provides that arrested persons should be given humane treatment and sub two (2) prohibits arrest in civil wrong and breach of contract cases. This section targets the elimination of the rampant practices where the Police abandon their core mandate of crime detection and crime prevention and use their powers in aid of contract enforcement and loan recoveries out of ignorance of the law.
Mode of Instituting Criminal Proceedings
The ACJL expunges the provisions relating to holding of preliminary enquiry, giving or filing of motion exparte for leave to prefer a charge in the High Court. See Sections 119 and 212 of this Law. Section 236 provides that objection on ground of imperfect or erroneous charge shall be entertained only where it occasions a miscarriage of justice. Section 212 (1) and (4) make provisions for front loading by the prosecution and defendant respectively in criminal proceeding. The innovation in this procedure is that in addition to the List of Witness, Exhibits, Summary Statements of the witnesses and the Defendants etc., that the Prosecution intends to use; the following particulars in sub-section (1) (a) (v-viii) must also be filed:
(v) “particulars of Bail or recognizance or Bond or Cash Deposit;
(vi) particulars of place of custody, where the defendant is in custody;
(vii) particulars of Plea Bargain arranged with Defendant if any; and
(viii) Particulars of any previous’ interlocutory proceedings including, remand proceedings, in respect of Charge or any other relevant document as may be directed by the Court…”
The ACJL increases the jurisdictions of the Upper Area Court and Magistrate Court to try certain offences hitherto not triable by them in order to decongest cases in the High Court and for expeditious dispensation of criminal cases. However, certain offences such as rape which were triable by both Upper Area Court and High Court, are now triable only by the High Court.
It is now mandatory for all Courts to pass sentences in accordance with the enormity of the offences provided in the Penal Code Law, 2018. This is to take care of the Lacuna which has often led to the public outcry when Judges for no fault of theirs, pass sentences as provided by the Law and the public feels otherwise.
Procedure relating to punishments by haddi lashing and canning, which are inconsistent with fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and which are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience has been abolished.
Video Recording of Statement of Suspect
This is provided for in Section 38 where the Police are to ensure Video Recording of the Confessional Statement of the Suspect. This is to prevent the often reported cases of human rights abuse whereby the Police are alleged to obtain confessions by torture, for crimes the Suspect may not have committed and which may lead to conviction. It also eliminates chances of suspect denying having made a Confessional Statement, which often leads to Trial –within -Trial, with the attendant delays in Trial of the substantive case.
The Section further provides that:
“in the absence of a video facility, the said statement shall be in writing and made in the presence of a Legal Practitioner of his choice who shall endorse same by appending his:
- telephone number; and
- signature with date “.
However, where the Legal Practitioner refuses to endorse the Confessional Statement, it shall not affect the admissibility of the Confessional Statement. In the absence of a Legal Practitioner of the Suspect’s choice, the Confessional Statement shall be made in the presence of an Officer of the Legal Aid Council; an Official of a Civil Society or a Traditional Ruler of the locality, a community member or any other person of his choice provided that such a person shall not interfere with the process of making the Statement.
Section 284 provides that Plea Bargain is the negotiation of an agreement between the Prosecution and-the Defence (Suspect) whereby the Defendant is allowed to plead guilty to a lesser/reduced Offence/Charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges against the Defendant.
This procedure was first introduced into Nigerian Law with the establishment of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Similarly, the Plateau State ACJL, 2018, by its Section 284 has also introduced the procedure in our Criminal Justice System.
Sub-section (1) (a) and (b) provide that:
(1) “Notwithstanding anything in this Law or in any other Law, the Prosecutor may:
(a) receive and consider a Plea Bargain from a Defendant
charged with an offence either directly from that
Defendant or on his behalf; or
(b) offer a Plea Bargain to a Defendant charged with an offence…”
Plea Bargain is not applicable to certain cases
The procedure is used in offences that do not affect human body, except the consent of the Victim is first sought and obtained. Where the Prosecutor is of the view that the offer or acceptance of a Plea Bargain is in the interest of justice, the public interest, public policy and the need to prevent abuse of legal process, he may offer and accept the Plea Bargain. The procedure shall not be applied in case of Capital offences and Sexually- related offences.
Plea Bargain Agreement is entered into before the plea of the Defendant is taken in Court; however, it is subject to the overriding discretion of the Judge who is usually not part of the negotiation. Plea Bargain saves time and resources, reduces trauma to Victim of Crime, aids prison decongestion and reduces the number of inmates awaiting trial.
Probation and Non-Custodial Sentences
Another novel provision of interest in this Law is Part 45 (XLV) Sections 445 and 448, provide for Probation and other Non-custodial Sentences given by Court. These are alternative sentences to imprisonment. These alternative sentences are Probation, Suspended Sentences, Community Service and Parole. These provisions can also be used for Plea Bargain.
Non-custodial sentencing also helps in decongesting our prisons and helps Convicts to contribute to societal good using Community Service, and saves the State the expenses of maintaining prisoners in prison.
This is another novel provision introduced to Criminal Procedure Law by this Law in Part 44 (XLIV). Section 447 of the Law, which provides thus:
(1) A Court may refer a criminal matter that is pending before it to Mediation for an amicable settlement between the Victim, Suspect and their relatives to be facilitated by a Civil Society Organization engaged in Access to Justice or Mediation and Reconciliation or the National Human Rights Commission:
Provided, the offence with which the Defendant was charged is punishable with a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years…
The Victim- Offender Mediation also saves time, aids in prison decongestion, helps in case management and reduces the number of inmates awaiting trials. It also restores broken relationships.
Recording of Arrest:
Section 36 of the Law makes provision for the recording of all arrests made with or without Warrants and taken to a Police Station or any other Agency effecting the arrest. Section 36 (1) provides thus:
(1) Where a Suspect is arrested, whether with or without a Warrant and taken to a Police Station or any other Agency effecting the arrest, the Police Officer making the arrest or the Officer in-Charge shall Cause to be taken immediately, in the prescribed form, the following record of the Suspect arrested:
(a) the alleged offence;
(b) the date and circumstances of his arrest;
(c) his full name, occupation and residential address; and
(d) for the purpose of identification, his:
(iii) full fingerprint impressions;
(iv) Bank Verification Number;
(v) telephone number; and
(vi) other means of identification … “
The process of recording the arrest shall be concluded within 24 hours from the time of the arrest of the Suspect.
Central Criminal Records Registry:
This is a new development in the Criminal Justice System provided by this Law. There is established in Section 37 (1) ACJL a Central Criminal Records Registry at the Police Station where all information of all persons who encounter the Criminal Justice processes are stored and managed.
Section 37 (2) provides that the Registry shall maintain in electronic or manual form or both forms , a record of all persons arrested, discharged, or acquitted or convicted in the State.
Section 37 (3) creates Criminal Record Registry in the State Command, where all the data collected of all arrested persons from the Police Posts and Divisions are transmitted to the State Command Registry and then collated and stored at the Central Registry at the State Command Headquarters.
Section 37 (4) ACJL makes it mandatory for the Police to ensure that the decision of the Court in all criminal trials are transmitted to the Central Criminal Records Registry within thirty days of delivery of the judgment.
This will help the Police, the Attorney-General, Court and members of the public to know the people they are dealing with as one can easily go to the Central Criminal Records Registry to know the criminal record of Suspects or Defendants. The collection of vital data of Suspects will also help in crime detection by the collection of samples and use of forensic evidence analysis in Forensic Laboratories.
The State Justice Sector Reform Team
Part XL VII (Sections 464 – 471) of the Bill provides for the establishment of the State Justice Sector Reform Team. This team is to ensure smooth process in the Administration of Criminal Justice.
Witness and Victim Protection
There are adequate provisions in the Law for witness protection and expenses for effective, smooth and uninterrupted prosecution of criminal cases in the State. Section 247 (1) – (6) provide:
(1) A trial for the offences referred to in sub-section (4) of this section may not, where the court so determines, be held in an open court.
(2) The names, address, telephone numbers and identity of the Victims of such offences or witnesses shall not be disclosed in any record or report of the proceedings and it shall be sufficient to designate the names of the Victims or witnesses with a combination of alphabets.
(3) Where in a proceeding the Court deems it necessary to protect the identity of the Victim or a Witness, the Court may take any or all of the following measures:
(a) receive evidence by video link or other electronic means.
(b) permit the witness to be screened or masked;
(c) receive written deposition of expert evidence; and
(d) any other measure that the Court considers appropriate in the circumstances.
(4) The provisions of this section shall apply to:
(a) offences mentioned under section 246 of this law;
(b) offences of Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, Abduction and other crimes involving the use of or threat of violence;
(c) offences under the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act;
(d) offences relating to Terrorism under the Penal Code Law;
(e) offences relating to Economic and financial crimes
(f) Trafficking in persons and related offences; and
(g) any other offence in respect of which a Law of the State House of Assembly permits the use of such protective measures or as the Judge may consider appropriate in the circumstances.
(5) Any contravention of the provisions of sub-section (2) of this section shall be an offence and liable on conviction to a minimum term of 1 year Imprisonment.
(6) Upon the conviction of a sex offender, his particulars shall be entered into a Sexual Offenders Registry in the State which shall be published and kept in the public domain.
Pursuant to Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), Section 120 (1) of this Law provides that private prosecution shall be instituted upon the written consent of the Attorney-General first had and obtained. Therefore, the right to file a charge by private person provided under Section 124 (d) is subject to the provisions of Section 120.
Registration of Bonds Persons
Section 202 provides that the Chief Judge shall make Regulations for the Registration and Licensing of groups of reputable persons or corporations as Bonds Persons, who may stand sureties for persons released on bail by the Court, Police or any other Agency empowered to arrest suspects of crimes.
Time limit for trial in lower courts
Section 125 (5) provides that trial shall commence in Magistrate Court within 30 days of institution and conclude within 180 days from the date of arrangement.
Substituted Service in Criminal Law
Substituted service and other services of Legal processes by reputable registered currier companies are provided for under Sections 139, 143 and 256 respectively of this Law, failure of which the Magistrate must submit a written report to the Chief Judge explaining with reasonable proofs why the trial was not concluded within the stipulated time.
Penalty for witness who refuses or neglects to come to court
Section 260 (1) provides that deliberate refusal or neglect by a witness served with summons to come to court attracts a fine of N50,000.00.
Section 35 (5) provides that failure to produce property released on bond or to attend court by such witness is an offence of interfering with the cause of justice punishable with imprisonment for 90 days without option of fine.
In conclusion, I want to quote the beautiful comment of our A.G. Hon. Chrysanthus Ahmadu, made during the presentation of the Bill at Exco with slight modification. “The State Government must be commended for taking this bold step to not only domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, but for ensuring that the ACJL is swiftly gazzetted. Its impact on Criminal Trials promises to be revolutionary, as it introduces tremendous improvements and efficiency in the Administration of Criminal Justice in the State. The Law does not only enthrone a new regime of effective and efficient Criminal Justice Administration, it also enhances the ability of the State to adequately deal with Criminality and ensure that Criminals and the guilty do not escape the punishment they richly deserve. This law could not have come at a better time than now, given the backdrop of the menace of ever increasing rate of Criminality in the State”.
Prof. Akinseye George at the expanded stakeholders meeting to scrutinize the Bill giving rise to the ACJL, 2018, described, it as “the best”, because it has more innovations and improved provisions over that of the ACJA and the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of other States that have domesticated the ACJA before the ACJL of Plateau State came into force.
Thank you for your kind audience.