The Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Ngozi Emehelu, on Tuesday launched the Administration of the Criminal Justice Law with a pledge to ensure its effective implementation in the state.
The Chief Judge, represented by Justice Afam Nwobodo of the state High Court, said the law would bring about changes and improvement in the administration of criminal justice in the state.
“The law introduced numerous innovations aimed at fast tracking justice delivery with the goal of preserving the rights of accused persons who are now referred to as defendants.
“The new law provides that when any person is arrested and volunteers to make a confessional statement, the police shall ensure the making and taking of such statement.
“This should be done either through a video recorder or any other retrievable device and the devices produced at trial.
“This will take care of the rampant allegations of threat, duress and brutality in obtaining of confessional statements from suspects by the police,” she said.
Emehelu said to ensure effective implementation of the law, 10,000 copies of the law had been produced and would be distributed to lawyers in the state.
She explained that the gesture would act as a guide for lawyers to ensure effective implementation of the law.
Mrs Justina Offiah (SAN) a facilitator and trainer of the Enugu State Justice Reform Team (ESJRT) emphasized the need for training of lawyers on the application of the law.
Offiah, a onetime Attorney General of the state said that the training would help to clear technicalities of the law and make them familiar to lawyers.
She explained that the ESJRT was a body duly recognised by the criminal justice law of section 539 (1, 2,3) to identify issues that prevented effective, fair and efficient criminal justice in the state.
Other functions are monitoring, identifying the problems that militate against speedy, efficient and equitable administration of justice in Enugu State, initiate reforms and help identify reform options.
She pledged to work with the Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organisation (CAPIO) to monitor the process of implementation of the Criminal Justice Law (CJL).
Offiah therefore reiterated the resolve of ESJRT in pursuing its statutory responsibility so as to ensure the law does not become dormant and effective only on book.
Earlier, the Executive Director of CAPIO, Rev. Fr. Ambrose Ekereoku, expressed joy over the flag off of the law, 18 months after its passage by the Enugu State House of Assembly.
Ekereoku said the delay in the implementation and administration of the law was due to lack of funds by the state government.
“We made sure we got funds from Misean Cara in Ireland to put in place essential technologies and resources required for its full implementation and administration.
“For example, an aspect of the law requires that statements should be recorded and tendered in court as proof for immediate delivery of judgement.
“Reason being that, a case can be stalled if the suspect claims such confession was made under duress during interrogation or statement writing at the station,” he said.
The Clergy said that CAPIO would provide police stations with 75 units of digital camera and recording devices.
Ekereoku added that courts too would be provided with 25 television sets and multimedia for the purpose of playing recorded statements of suspects.
The executive director said that CAPIO, in partnership with ESJRT, would train police officers in 150 police stations within a period of three years on the administration the CJL.
He also said that the media, public and traditional rulers would be sensitized on the provisions of the law so they could be fully informed about their rights under the CJL.
The Clergy urged all stakeholders to create an enabling environment for the law to thrive and commended the Chief Judge of Enugu State for ensuring the implementation and administration of the law.
CAPIO is a non-governmental organisation who advocated for the quick passage of the Criminal Justice Law (CJL) that seeks to ensure prison decongestion through quick and effective delivery of justice.