CLEEN Foundation with support from MacArthur Foundation is implementing in Ekiti State the Project, “Promoting Accountability and Transparency in the Administration of Criminal Justice System in Nigeria.” As part of the project activities, CLEEN Foundation set up a State Working Group to monitor the effective implementation of Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) in Ekiti State. The Group consists of stakeholders in the justice sector and meets bi-monthly to deliberate on the effective implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, and to explore strategies for collaboration with partners towards the attainment of the ideals of ACJL in Ekiti State.
It is pertinent to note that the usual Bi-monthly meeting could not hold before now, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the State.
At the meeting for the review of the progress of the implementation of ACJL in Ekiti State as regards compliance with the Ekiti State Government Directives on COVID-19, the Group observed as follows:
1. That both the coventional and State security outfits were not trained before being deployed to enforce the COVID-19 Lockdown directives in the State.
2. A commendable substantial compliance with rules of engagement and ACJA by the security agents, particularly the Police and the NSCDC in the enforcement of the COVID-19 Lockdown directives, as Ekiti State witnessed minimal human rights violaitions by security agents, including no record of extra judicial killings as witnessed in some other states.
3. Condemned the use and involvement of the Military in the enforcement of the COVID-19 Lockdown directives. This is against the tenents of civil engagements, as some of the human rights violations witnessed in the state were mostly perpetrated by the Military and the State’s security outfits
4. That though Court sittings during the COVID-19 Lockdown was commendable, however alleged violators of Lockdown directives were denied legal representation. This negates the principles of access to justice; particularly the right to fair hearing as preserved under the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
5. That following the gradual ease of the Lockdown by the Government and the full return to work, that Courts have commenced full sitting in all cases, including corruption cases.
6. The commendable efforts of Ekiti State Governor and the Attorney General’s issuance of periodic statements calling on security agents to respect the principles of human rights in the enforcement of the Lockdown directives.
Sequel to the above observations, the Group recommended the following;
1. That in case of future special duties, security agents both conventional and State security outfits be specially trained by Government before deployment.
2. That the Military should not be involved by Government in the enforcement of special duties which are entirely civil in nature.
3. That Goverment should categorize lawyers as essential workers, should there be need for future Lockdown.
Furthermore, the Group proposed a training session on ACJA for security agencies in Ekiti State, particularly the Police and NSCDC.
The working Group which is coordinated in Ekiti State by Gender Relevance Initiative Promotion (GRIP) had the following partners in attendance; Ekiti State Judiciary, Police, NSCDC, FIDA, NYSC Legal Aid, NHRC, Ministry of Justice, NBA, Office of the Public Defender, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Correctional Services, CLEEN Foundation Data Collector, CSOs and the Media.
The meeting was held in strict compliance with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guildlines on COVID-19 and the Ekiti State Government Directives.