“Delay in the dispensation of justice is one of the major challenges facing the Nigerian criminal justice system and has been a subject of several discussions and interventions in recent times. Criminal trials are often delayed especially in cases where persons standing trial have the means to engage the services of legal practitioners who could exploit the gaps in law to the advantage of their clients especially in delaying proceedings.”
These were the words of Justice Muntar Abimbola, the Chief Judge of Oyo state while moderating at a workshop on the implementation of the administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Laws organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) with support of the MacArthur Foundation at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Ibadan.
The training which the Director General of NIALS, Prof. Adedeji Adekunle (SAN) said is aimed at deepening the understanding of the ACJA and strengthen implementation of the act in line with the aim of the institute to undertake research in law and other related studies and expand the frontiers of knowledge of law, had in attendance prosecuting officers, judges and senior lawyers from Oyo, Ogun and Lagos states. He added that since the act was established in 2015, many states have adopted it with important variations and differences.
Speaking further on the issue, Justice Munta Abimbola stated that delay is especially common in high profile corruption cases involving politically exposed persons, adding that the Supreme Court has in recent times lamented and frowned at these delay tactics by legal practitioners, noting that “the criminal justice system was faced with several challenges and delays in trials had unnecessarily lengthened the trial processes and this no doubt portrayed justice delivery as being ineffective which promoted the negative perception of the public in this sector,” he said.
“It becomes necessary to have a holistic and innovative reform of the existing legislation in order to address the incidences of delayed trials and improve the efficiency of the Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria. Thus the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of May 2015 is a product of these efforts which have as its objective to ensure the Administration of Criminal Justice System that promotes efficient management of the criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice protection of society from crime and protection of the rights and interest of a suspect, the defendant and victims of crime in Nigeria,” Justice Abimbola stated.
Then Chief Judge concluded that the South-west is a leading light in the judiciary system in Nigeria, noting especially the exploits of the Lagos judiciary which is being replicated in Oyo state, adding that there is no going back on the steps already taken.
Also speaking, the Director of Public Prosecution in Oyo state, Mr S.O. Adeoye, his counterpart from Ogun state, Olusegun Olaotan and the representative of the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution, Bunmi Olugasa, all highlighted the need for the sensitisation that the workshop is offering and the need to share information on advancements and share experiences in an informal setting while learning.
Adeoye specifically noted that since the Oyo state judiciary passed the law in 2016, they had read through and the Ministry of Justice had ensured strict compliance with the provisions.