Legal Experts Demand Designated Courts to Try Criminal Cases

As the trial of criminal cases continues to be delayed in most courts, some legal experts, Monday, demanded designated courts to try criminal cases and assign judges appropriately. They made the demand at the Cleen Foundation and the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, bi-monthly meeting on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, held in Abuja. They asserted that criminal cases should be given more priority based on the issue of the delayed dispensation of justice, which ought not to be, which they called on Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, to add their weight to press on the judiciary to have special courts to speedily try criminal cases. Also speaking was the Legal Adviser of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Tosin Olufon, said the slow pace in trial of criminal cases has made the ACJA Act not meeting its objectives. Olufon added that if judges are appointed for criminal cases it would greatly take away workload that will also enhance speed in trying other cases in courts. The Secretary of the Monitoring Committee of the ACJA FCT, Suleiman Kuku Dawodu, pointed out some militating factors bedeviling the smooth implementation of the ACJA Act, which include lack of discipline of Defence lawyer; lack of designation of court for criminal cases; lack of Prosecutors; lack of judges; lack of data; and the lack of the political to reform the judiciary. According to Dawodu there is an increase of corruption at the lower courts, which is becoming worrisome, as defense counsels most times to bribe court officials to get court sittings postponed and also to defer judgment. The Data Officer, Cleen Foundation, Chukwuma Ejerinwa, also highlighted some issues affecting the smooth implementation of the ACJA Act; lack of witnesses, lack of good interpreter, abuse of remand warrant, lack of electronic recording of the confessional statement, keeping central registry, and database of a criminal record. However, participants recommended that the judiciary and anti-graft agencies need to be properly coordinated to harmonise and synergise for greater impact in the system. some of the recommendations include continuous training of anti-graft agencies on ACJA 2015; accelerated hearing for effective dispensation of justice; litigants to accept plea bargaining for effective and accelerated cases in courts; pay witnesses stipends as motivation; adequate enforcement of section 16 of the ACJA; proper keeping of central criminal registry and database of criminal records. Meanwhile, Programme Analyst, ANEEJ, Aitopa Henry Paul, traced delay in the criminal justice system too bureaucratic bottlenecks in government that have negatively impacted the implementation of the ACJA Act. “There is a need for the capacity of the anti-graft and security agencies, the Police, EFCC, CSOs on the ACJA for instance on the interrogation of the suspect by the police, how the correctional service address the prison inmates. CSOs are working with them to bring about change”, he added.