Release date: April 18 2016
LEDAP CODEMNS NASS BILL TO AMEND ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT
Lagos April 18, 2016: The Legal Defence & Assistance Project (LEDAP) condemns the move by the National Assembly to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (ACJ Act), describing it as self-serving and contrary to paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. The purpose of the amendment is to exclude the Code of Conduct Tribunal from the application of the ACJ Act. It is clearly a move by the leadership of the Senate to frustrate at all cost the trial of the Senate President, Olusola Saraki at the Tribunal.
The desperation with which the Senate President and his supporters are throwing tantrums and seeking to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, simply for the purpose of seeking ways to frustrate his trial at the Tribunal, raises the impression that he is guilty of the offence charged and they are only working to stop his trial. By amending the ACJ Act, the Senate will end up frustrating the good intentions of the Act simply because of the pursuit to stop Mr. Saraki’s trial.
The bill to amend the ACJ Act, titled ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and other related matters, 2016 (SB.249)’, sponsored by Senator Isah H. Misau (Bauchi Central) passed through second reading on Thursday 14 April 2016. Also on the same day, the Senate adopted through second reading the ‘Bill to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act,’ all geared towards ensuring that the Senate President’s trial for false declaration of his assets at the Tribunal is derailed at all cost.
The bill to amend the ACJ Acts seeks to revise section 2 (2) of the Act by substituting the subsection with the following , “The provisions of this Act shall not apply to a Court Martial and such other Courts or Tribunal not being courts created and listed under section 6(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended”.
The current provision of this section 2 of the Act, which is sought to be amended, provides that: “(1) Without prejudice to section 86 of this Act, the provisions of this Act shall apply to criminal trials for offences established by an Act of the National Assembly and other offences punishable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. (2) The provisions of this Act shall not apply to a Court Martial.”
By removing the application of the ACJ Act from courts other than the Federal and State High Courts, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, which are the only courts with criminal jurisdiction listed under section 6(5) of the Constitution, the proposed amendment will narrow the application of this very laudable legislation, and restrict its application to many courts and tribunals.
LEDAP draws the attention of the National Assembly to their oath of office, and that they are elected by the people to make laws for ‘order and good governance of Nigeria’ and not for self-serving interests. By pursing the amendment of the Acts in this manner, the legislators are simply abusing the privilege of law making. Furthermore, the amendments violate paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers enshrined in Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, which stipulates that “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.“
LEDAP calls on the Senate to withdraw the bill to amend the ACJ Act 2015, and that of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, and allow justice to take its course at the Tribunal. The law presumes Mr. Saraki innocent until his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. By embarking on desperate actions to frustrate the trial and the Tribunal, Mr. Saraki is sending the message to Nigerians and the world that he is guilty and cannot stand to face justice. Under our constitutional democracy, no person no matter how highly placed, is above the law, and the National Assembly cannot amend the law just to suit the whims and caprices of one man.