An emergency meeting was held comprising of the statutory members of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) and other stakeholders in the criminal justice sector to address the challenges in the criminal justice system which has led to a partial collapse of law and order in the country fuelled by the recent protests which confronted the nation.
During the meeting, the Committee deliberated extensively on the issues that have resulted in the decadence of the criminal justice sector. The Committee and stakeholders resolved to accept the grievances of the protesters as a wake- up call for an urgent intervention in the criminal justice system and to restore the confidence of the members of the public in the administration of criminal justice in the country.
Reasons for the surge of the protest were outlined as follows;
1. lack of funding for the criminal justice sector, especially the Police Force, Prosecution, Judiciary and Correctional Service.
2. dilapidated state of Police detention and correctional service facilities across the country.
3. total absence of requisite facilities, equipment and adequate training for the Police and other law enforcement agencies nation- wide.
4. lack of adequate prosecutors and support for witness allowances, to prosecute offences resulting in congestion of Court`s dockets and detention facilities.
5. lack of cooperation amongst the police and other criminal justice stakeholders, leading to suspicions and distrust amongst the organs of administration of criminal justice.
6. loss of confidence by members of the public in the administration of criminal justice based on the issues highlighted.
After deliberations and proper dissection of the catalysts fuelling the protests, 12 resolutions were reached by the Committee and other stakeholders as urgent steps to be taken to address the issues highlighted:
1. Creation of a special intervention fund for the criminal justice sector:
The President should approve the setting up of a “Special Intervention Fund for the Criminal Justice Sector” to cater for all the institutions in the criminal justice sector across the country. The Fund will be contributed to by the Federal and State Governments, private individuals, corporate entities and international partners/donors. The Fund will include fiscal and or specific infrastructural procurement. There will be a legal framework to implement and manage the fund by means of an Executive Bill by the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation to the National Assembly.
2. Decongestion of SARS detention facilities nationwide and other police detention facilities:
The SARS detention facilities in Guzape, Abuja and other parts of the country should be decongested. In the long term, the government should put steps in place to build court rooms in detention facilities that are known to have large detention capacity. In the short term, emergency courts should be set up in these detention facilities to address the large number of detainees in the detention facilities by granting remand warrants and having detainees sent to the correctional facilities, and conducting on the spot trials. It was further resolved that Heads of Court should facilitate the attachment of Magistrates to the SARS/SWAT detention facilities to issue remand warrants.
3. Providing adequate manpower for the prosecutors:
The inadequacy of prosecutors nationwide should be averted through provision of manpower for the prosecution team. One major innovation introduced in this regard is the introduction Advocate Panel from the private Bar as a support ad-hoc intern/staff after training programme is conducted for the junior lawyers. A government funded scheme should be created to engage more prosecutors for the government at a seemingly low cost rate. The passage of the Prosecution of offences Bill, 2020 which seeks to professionalize prosecution service was also recommended.
4. De-clogging of the dockets of the Director of Public Prosecution:
The need to de-clog ongoing cases of the DPP Federal/ States. The aim is to ensure matters which are considered generally non-prosecutable either because of the lack of evidence or witnesses are reviewed constantly by a standing committee and subsequently removed from the criminal justice system. The de-clogging exercise should extend to the terrorism cases identified by the Complex Cases Group (CCG) at DPP`s office to be carried out urgently.
5. De-clogging of Court dockets:
The Heads of Courts should take necessary steps to set up de-clogging team at lower and higher Courts for speedy disposal of cases that have dragged on in Courts longer than necessary.
6. Lack of communication between detainees and correctional service officials:
The need to afford inmates the privilege to know the timeline of their stay in correctional facilities was recognised. The application of prerogative of mercy, amnesty for condemned inmates and parole for first-time offenders should be prioritised. Governors should be more consistent in applying the powers of the prerogative of mercy.
7. Setting up of the National and State Committees on the implementation of Non-Custodial Sentences:
This is in line with the provision of Nigeria Correctional Service Act. The absence of the committee has been stalling the implementation of non-custodial sentences in our Courts.
8. Synergy amongst Criminal Justice Stakeholders:
The need to ensure synergy, transparency and cooperation amongst the criminal justice actors was resolved. The stakeholders agreed to set up a Criminal Justice Stakeholders Forum to be meeting regularly. The ACJMC will be the Secretariat for the Forum. All criminal justice stakeholders at Federal level will be represented. States are encouraged to established parallel structure at States level.
9. Role of Media in Criminal Justice Administration:
It was recognised that the media is slightly misinformed and not properly enlightened on the position and the impact of criminal justice actors in the society. The media and criminal justice actors should engage to play an important role of educating society and its stakeholders on criminal justice issues. In this regard, media representatives will also form part of the Criminal Justice Stakeholders Forum to be inaugurated. This will also bridge the gap between the public and the police/law enforcement.
10. Trust issues between the people and the police:
The need to bridge the trust gap between the general populace and the Police especially was recognized. It was resolved that a forum for regular interface between the Police and the citizens, in the form of Town Hall meetings should be funded and encouraged by the stakeholders.
11. Strengthen the criminal justice oversight institutions:
The absence of an effective and efficient oversight bodies within the criminal justice system to serve as checks on the excesses of the criminal justice actors was identified as a major gap that must be addressed. The need to empower bodies like the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) and National Human Rights Commission to be self- sustaining and effective agencies is a task that must be accomplished by the President.
12. Act now, avert disaster:
Finally, the Committee and stakeholders recognized the need to restore law and order in the country as a matter of urgency, in order to avert danger looming ahead in preparation for the ember period in December. The Committee calls on the security agencies and the President to take necessary measures to safeguard lives and properties by strengthening the Police Force and other security agencies ahead of this period.
The meeting had in attendance
1. Director of Legal, National Human Rights Commission (Member)
2. Legal Officer, Force Headquarters Legal Department (Member)
3. Representative of the Director of Public Prosecutor, representing Attorney General of the Federation (Member)
4. Director, Legal Aid Council (Member)
5. Controller of Correctional Service (Member)
6. Cleen Foundation, CSO Representative (Member)
7. The Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, Bwari Branch (Member)
8. Executive Secretary, Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (Representing Chairman ACJMC)
9. PPRO, Nigeria Police Force (Representing Commissioner of Police, FCT)
10. Commander of IRT Unit, Nigeria Police Force
11. Commander of STS Unit, Nigeria Police Force
12. Team Leader, FIB Nigeria Police Force
13. Officer in Charge of Legal FCT
1.Hon. Justice Ishaq U. Bello, Chairman, ACJMC and Chief Judge of the FCT
2. Chairman, Police Service Commission ( Musiliu Smith.)
3. Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes
A communiqué was issued after the deliberations on 22md October 2020