The passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice(ACJA) 2015 came with a lot of high hopes and expectations and rightly so, with its many innovative provisions which significantly alters criminal justice administration with a view to raising efficiency and effectiveness in the quality of justice delivery in Nigeria.
Almost 3 years after its passage, implementation of its provisions by the relevant implementation agencies remains at snail speed and the reformed and improved criminal justice system we desire to see still remains an illusion. Many experts, including the Civil Society Observatory on the Implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 have observed that of all the criminal justice agencies expected to implement the Act, the Judiciary has made the most efforts towards complying and implementing the provisions of the Act ahead of the Nigeria Police and Prison Service.
Many criminal justice experts have argued that for the objectives and benefits of the ACJA, 2015 to be realized and enjoyed nationwide, the systemic and institutional challenges experienced by the various criminal justice agencies must be urgently addressed and also most importantly, states need to take decisive steps to domesticate the law.
Why is it important for States to domesticate the ACJA 2015?
- States adoption of the ACJA 2015 would ensure the uniform criminal procedure the ACJA brings toward ensuring speedy criminal trials
- States adoption of ACJA 2015 will address the debate on its applicability in state courts
- Increased oversight of State leadership of criminal justice institutions
- It would ensure harmonised rules and procedure for criminal cases across courts and across States
- Guarantee the protection of the rights of citizens and improve public confidence in the justice system
With the many benefits and advantages that the ACJA 2015 can bring for the Nigerian Criminal Justice System at Federal and State levels, it is interesting to note that only 13 out of the 36 states and FCT have domesticated the ACJA 2015 or enacted other state administration of criminal justice legislations.
It, therefore, becomes pertinent to ask – Why are States slow to domesticate the ACJA 2015?
A few reasons have been identified for the slow response of States:
- Lack of political will on the part of States
- lack of awareness amongst citizens and stakeholders on the objective and provisions of the Act
- Criminal justice reforms not a priority of some States
- Lack of advocacy to policymakers and legislators because some are unaware of the provisions of the ACJA 2015 and its benefits
- Nonchalant attitude of policymakers
- Few CSO groups working on criminal justice issues in some states which contributes to the failure
How can States be encouraged to domesticate ACJA 2015?
- Increased sensitization, public awareness and advocacy for all relevant stakeholders – citizens, government at all levels( executive, legislature and judiciary), CSOs, and CBOs.
- Increased and continuous follow up by CSOs with relevant arms of government to ensure domestication of the Act
- Concerted efforts from CSOs to expedite action on domesticate of the Act across the country
- State citizens should be sensitized very well on ACJA for them to know its relevance and pursue its adoption
- All stakeholders should be involved in encouraging states to replicate ACJA as it is a collective responsibility
Written and published by the Civil Society Observatory on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 supported by CLEEN Foundation and MacArthur Foundation