A member of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and one of the foremost advocates of the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Hon. Kayode Oladele, has said the new Criminal Justice Administration Bill will help expedite criminal cases and assist the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration in its fight against corruption and terrorism.
Describing the new law as very progressive, timely and in conformity with international best practices, Oladele said by far the most important part of the law are the sections dealing with the expedited hearing and speedy dispensation of criminal cases.
According to Oladele, who was the immediate past Chief of Staff at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, apart from the fact that the new legislation has abolished the dichotomy that presently exists between the Criminal Procedure Code (in operation in Northern Nigeria) and the Criminal Procedure Act (in operation in Southern Nigeria), by repealing both Acts, the new Act will root out malignancy of delays in the criminal justice administration in Nigeria.
In his words: “The repealed Criminal Justice Administration laws were very primitive and represented relics of colonial legislation that dealt with situations as they existed then, hence, many people currently manipulate the system to achieve their personal objectives at the expense of the state.
“These laws were, therefore, unable to cope with contemporary challenges in Nigeria, particularly considering the provision of Section 36 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states that whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall, unless the charge is withdrawn, be entitled to a fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal.
“So what the new Act has done is to amplify the provision of the constitution to ensure speedy dispensation of justice and I think this is very commendable as justice delayed is justice denied.
“Perhaps, the only beneficiaries of the slow dispensation of justice under the old criminal justice system were the money bags and powerful public officials.
“When I was at the EFCC, one of our challenges then, which is still a major challenge to the work of the EFCC, is the slow pace of criminal justice administration in the country.
“Powerful individuals standing trial for corruption cases often drag cases for years to the point that hearing becomes unlikely let alone conviction.
“These protracted cases have led many accused persons standing trial for corruption and related offences to contest and win elections into very sensitive positions in the country with many of them enjoying immunity from prosecution.
“What this means is that the new Act, if properly implemented without introducing the Nigerian factor into it, will ensure speedy trial of corruption, financial crimes, terrorism and narcotics cases, which will ultimately prevent unscrupulous people from manipulating the system to their advantage.”
Speaking on the establishment of the Central Criminal Records Registry, which is one of the highlights of the New Act, Oladele stated that the CCRR system, established in Part 2, Section 16 of the Act, will serve as an authentic database of all offenders in the country.
This, according to him, is to present a comprehensive criminal history of people and it will help the police and other security agencies in the country, including employers of labour, to conduct quick criminal record checks of offenders or persons seeking employment.
The international lawyer, who is representing Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency in the 8th National Assembly, while commending Nigerian Judges for their hard work even under such harsh conditions, urged the judiciary to embrace continuing legal education and also update their practice directions in line with the new legislation so that cases are handled more efficiently and speedily.