The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative, also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), has asked the Federal Government to make Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law a mandatory programme in judicial institutions. This recommendation was made through its Programme Officer, Ms. Tolu Ojeshina, recently in Abuja at the public release of findings made from the observations of courts in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from October 2018 to June 2019.
She said the Act was a compulsory programme which should be studied at the National Judicial Institute, the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and all legal training institutions to further educate law officers on the Act.
According to findings by the organization, it was observed that only 71 per cent of judicial officers have read the Act while the remaining 29 per cent read only the provisions of the ACJA that applied to their functions and powers.
Ojeshina said only 24 of the 36 states of the federation have so far adopted the law, the most recent being Bauchi State. According to their findings, it was also discovered 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.
She however described that as a remarkable improvement when compared with the report of the past four observation periods. On her part, PWAN Executive Director Kemi Okenyodo said the criminal justice system was too important and crucial in the fabric of a democratic state to have agencies that are inefficient and are not being held accountable. She said there was an urgent need to critically review the legal aid system in Nigeria, including the Legal Aid Council to find out how its mandate was being utilized. According to her, a total of 65 courtrooms were being observed in the three states hence the case monitoring approach was adopted to monitor the level of compliance of the ACJA/L.