Today, the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) celebrates with civil society and the whole nation over the news that President Goodluck Jonathan signed the landmark Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, 2013 (ACJ Bill) on Thursday, 14th May 2015.
The passage of the Bill into law marks a milestone in the fight to cleanse the criminal justice system as it will drastically address many challenges in the administration of criminal justice at the Federal level and in the FCT. The ACJ Act will ensure the speedy dispensation of justice, protection of society from crime and the protection of the rights and interests of both the defendant and the victim.
The new Act, which 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, is intended to apply uniformly in all Federal Courts across the country.
The ACJ Act also 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.
Now that we have the ACJ Act, HRAN calls on the new administration and civil society to take steps to ensure the immediate effective implementation of the Act.
The network takes this opportunity to commend all law makers who have supported the Bill both in the House of Representatives and Senate, particularly the Chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Senator Umaru Dahiru who personally demonstrated commitment to the passing of the Bill over the years.
The journey on the ACJ Bill started in 2004-05 with the National Working Group on the Reform of Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria, which was chaired by HRAN’s current Chair and was set up by the then Hon Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo SAN, with the financial support of John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation.
HRAN also takes this opportunity to congratulate Prof Yemi Akinseye George SAN; HRAN Steering Committee Member and former Attorney General of Ekiti State, Olawale Fapohunda; the NBA President, Mr Augustine Alegeh SAN; HRAN Chair, Mr Chino Obiagwu; and all HRAN members who have been deeply committed to the passing of the Bill both at the House of Representatives and the Senate.
While commending the President for taking the laudable step of signing the landmark law, HRAN urges the President to also assent to the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition Bill) which was passed by Senate on the 5th May, 2015. Time is of the essence as it is important that landmark justice sector Bills such as the VAPP Bill is signed before May 29th to ensure the protection of all persons from violence which is not or not appropriately catered for by extant legislation.
We also call on the lawmakers to pass all other justice sector bills pending before them, including the Equal Opportunities Bill, Prison Act (Amendment) Bill, Police Act (Amendment) Bill, Legal Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliator Bill, Torture Prevention Bill, among others.