NBA Holds Workshop on the Domestication and Implementation of the ACJA in Owerri

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L-R: Chief Judge of Imo State; Hon. Justice Pascal O. Nnadi and Hon. B. N. Ukoha, High Court Judge of Imo State

The nationwide sensitization programme for states that are yet to adopt the ACJA as their procedural law for the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria, took the NBA-MAC ARTHUR project team to Owerri, Imo State on Thursday 23rd May, 2019 for a one-day sensitization workshop.

The NBA Chairman Owerri branch; Damian O. Nosike Esq gave the welcome address and noted that the workshop couldn’t have come at a better time than this, because; “our ACJL Review Committee has already come up with a draft of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Imo State”. He said; “it is my sincere belief that a workshop such as this, further enrich the minds of the Committee and speed up its passage into Law in our state”.

Victor Abasiakan-Etim Esq; the Project Coordinator of the NBA-Macarthur Project team gave the welcome address on behalf of the NBA President, Paul Usoro SAN. He stressed the importance of the ACJA in the Criminal Justice System and stated that it is the Association’s desire that at the end of the day, the aim of the workshop will not only be achieved but contributions made will lead to a smooth implementation of the Act in Imo State. He ended his address by appreciating the presence of officers of various security agencies, who are also key partners/players in the administration of criminal justice.

Okechukwu Uzoechi Esq, program officer of the Nigerian Bar Association, gave the project overview. He noted that, the uniform adoption of the ACJA in all 36 States of the Federation has been hindered by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which vests the States Houses of Assembly with the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State among other legislative provisions.

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In view of the foregoing, he said “the NBA identified the need to promote and advocate for the domestication and implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 across 28 States in Nigeria with the theme; Promoting the Domestication and implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Legislation in States of the Nigerian Federation”

Mr. Okechukwu noted that, Imo State will need a procedural law that can cope with modern realities which the ACJA represents. He continued; “We therefore urge Imo State to join the band wagon of states that have commenced the process of adopting the ACJL.”

The Honourable Chief Judge of Imo State; Honourable Justice Pascal O. Nnadi commended the NBA project team for organising the sensitization workshop and encouraged active participation and contribution from all participants.

He noted that the innovations introduced by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, cannot be over emphasized. He said already Imo state is observing some of the novel practices; he said magistrates are already visiting prisons in compliance with the directive of the Chief Justice of the Federation.

Dr. C. K. Okorie Esq, who was the Keynote Speaker gave an overview of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

He said; “Underlying in the criminal law is the principle that there can be neither crime committed nor punishment meted out except in accordance with the law. It is against this backdrop that the basic premise of criminal law which forms the basic foundation of criminal responsibility was structured. In the same vein, practices and procedures in criminal proceedings are fashioned out to ensure that justice which is the overall task of a legal system is achieved.  Against this backdrop the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was enacted by the National Assembly in 2015”

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He maintained that, one essential feature of the Act is its paradigm shift from punishment as the main goal of the criminal justice to restorative justice which pays serious attention to the needs of the society, the victims, vulnerable persons and human dignity generally.

After giving an overview of the innovative provisions of the Act which he said was landmark, he concluded by maintaining that; “The Act is full of sound innovations with provisions geared towards curing most of the anomalies and lacuna in the existing criminal laws. But as we all know, in Nigeria, the problem is always not with the law but with the implementation of the law. This new law is very progressive, timely and in conformity with international best practices but implementation will be a big obstacle for the realization of its noble purpose. It is suggested that all stakeholders should assist in ensuring that the Act is implemented fully devoid of any sentiment on sex, colour or position.”

In her Presentation, High Court Judge, Hon. B. N. Ukoha said for ACJA to be very successful, the members of the police service must be trained and equip to be able to perform effectively.

C. Ijeize; Acting Director Public Prosecution (DPP), Ministry of Justice Imo State in his observation said the keynote speaker pointed all the inadequacies of ACJA, meaning it is not yet the Eldorado, but still ACJA is a welcome development that Imo state needs to look critically and develop the right attitude to implement the provisions of the law.

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O. B. Okey; O/C Legal of the Nigerian Police Force, Imo State Command; said the ultimate goal is to have an ideal police, which is possible. He said the idea of ACJA is commendable, and whatever lapses the keynote speaker mentioned can be amended. He also said the idea of a unified legal system is enough to commend ACJA.

On confessional statements, he said the ACJA provision will do away with trial within trial.

The workshop came to an end after questions and answers session.

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