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Corruption delaying criminal justice in Nigeria — CJ

Written By Joseph Y. Musa on Thursday, May 02, 2013 | 5/02/2013 10:44:00 am

Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, on Tuesday identified corruption as the single most important factor delaying criminal justice administration in the country.

Auta stated that sleaze in the system cut across judicial officers, police, lawyers, prisons officials as well as in government agencies.

Justice Abdul Kafarati represented the chief judge at the public hearing.

The hearing was on ‘Bill for an Act to Repeal The Criminal Procedure Act, Cap C41LFN, 2004; The Criminal Procedure Code, Cap C42LFN, 2004; The Administration of Justice Commission Act, Cap A3LFN, 2004; and Enact The Administration of Criminal Justice Act Applicable in Federal Courts and Courts of the Federal Capital Territory, to make provisions for speedy and efficient administration of criminal justice and provide for other matters related thereto, 2013’.

It was organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice chaired by Mr. Ali Ahmad.

Auta noted that while the proposed bill was relevant, what the criminal justice system needed was how to eradicate corruption through a change in attitude from the present way of dispensing justice.

He said some provisions in the bill were already captured in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and would have been unnecessary but for the fact that corruption had rendered them ineffective.

Auta said, “Corruption is the only reason that can explain the snail’s speed at which the administration of criminal justice is moving in Nigeria.

“If corruption is not effectively checked, it will be the curtains for judicial growth in Nigeria.”

According to him, corruption has compounded problems of endless adjournments and awaiting trials, forcing simple cases to drag in court for many years.

He named prisons and police personnel, lawyers, government agencies and “my colleague judges, who are not ready to do their job” as being responsible for the delays.

Auta noted that while some judicial officers “farmed out” cases, some lawyers too preferred to go after fast moneymaking contracts to preparing their briefs.

The judge added, “Instances abound where a lawyer will attend court unprepared and such a lawyer goes through the motion asking the court for adjournment upon adjournment.

“Some judges are looking for the slightest opportunity to avoid sitting.”

The Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, who declared the session open, said the House pushed the bill in order to treat the “several afflictions” in the country’s judicial system.

He said, “Our criminal procedure has remained largely old and unresponsive to the quick dispensation of justice.”

Tambuwal noted that the slow growth of the Nigerian economy was could be tied to the ineffective justice system.

He argued that investors would not risk their money in a system that could not guarantee them justice in times of litigation.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), praised the “innovative ideas” in the bill, saying they could address the inadequacies in the existing Criminal Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Act.

The AGF cited poor investigation by the police, awaiting trials and absence of alternatives to prison sentence as some of the impediment to quick criminal justice administration.

Adoke, represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Abdullahi Yola, said the new bill made clear provisions for the length of time a case could spend in court.
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