* Type a keyword then press Enter
The Role of ACJMC
THE ROLE OF THE ACJMC
The Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) was established by s.469 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. Its powers and functions are spelt out in s. 470 of the same Act. It has its composition listed out under s. 469(2) of the Act which includes the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory as the Chairman, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Inspector General of Police, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Prison Service, the Director General Legal Aid Council and the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission amongst and a representative of Civil Society Organization.
The Role of the ACJMC
In considering the role of the ACJMC, it is important to consider s. 470 of the ACJA which succinctly spells out the role of the ACJMC in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria.
Section 470 ACJA provides as follows:
(1) The Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of ensuring effective and efficient application of this Act by the relevant agencies.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, the Committee shall ensure that:
(a) criminal matters are speedily dealt with;
(b) congestion of criminal cases in courts is drastically reduced;
(c) congestion in prisons is reduced to the barest minimum;
(d) persons awaiting trial are, as far as possible, not detained in prison custody;
(e) the relationship between the organs charged with the responsibility for all aspects of the administration of justice is cordial and there exists maximum co-operation amongst the organs in the administration of justice in Nigeria;
(f) collate, analyse and publish information in relation to the administration of criminal justice sector in Nigeria; and Functions of the committee.
(g) submit quarterly report to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to keep him abreast of developments towards improved criminal justice delivery and for necessary action; and
(h) carry out such other activities as are necessary for the effective and efficient administration of criminal justice.
Flowing from the above, it is clear that the ACJMC is mandated to ensure the effective and efficient application of the entire ACJA. Thus every provision of the ACJA becomes an implementation priority for the ACJMC.
With specific regards to what the ACJMC has done to ensure that each of the item contained under s. 470 are achieved, it would be very good to consider each of those items specifically.
- Criminal matters are speedily dealt with:
In order to ensure that criminal matters are speedily dealt with, the ACJMC has begun full engagements with all the stakeholders who hold key responsibilities to ensure that criminal matters are speedily dealt with. These engagements have been across a broad spectrum of stakeholders to include; Heads of Court, Judges and Magistrates, Registrars, Clarks, Prosecutors, Defence Counsel, Correctional Service etc.
From these engagements, the ACJMC was able to ascertain what kind of support was needed by each stakeholder to make them effective and efficient in the discharge of their duties. The needs ascertained ranges from budgetary needs, to technical needs and even capacity needs. These needs were indeed accessed as germane an in order to immediately address these needs, the ACJMC has partnered with support organisations and development partners including the European Union funded Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Partners West Africa Nigeria etc.
These support organisations have been able to meet capacity building needs by organising several trainings, seminars and retreats where the participants are trained on specific provisions relating to speedy trial thus their capacity becomes enlarged to accommodate the new set of skills required of them to comply with the key speedy trial provisions.
With regards to infrastructure support for speedy trial, the ACJMC with the support of and in collaboration with ROLAC, has been able to set-up two state-of-the-art Statement Taking/Interview rooms in the Wuse Police Division and also in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Facility. These Statement Taking/Interview rooms serve to record by audio visual means the Statement Taking/Interview process for inmates. This means that once a statement is obtained from a suspect and questions arise as to the voluntariness or otherwise of such statement, the recording from these rooms would be referred to immediately and used as evidence to determine if the statements were voluntarily made or made by virtue of duress, force or compulsion. This is no doubt shortens largely the length of trial because not only would the need for trial-within-trial be dispensed with, it would also shorten the length of the main trial as the admission or otherwise of guilt by the accused can be tendered in evidence before the court and also considered by the court in arriving at its conclusion in the trial.
Beyond these kinds of engagement and interventions, the ACJMC is also exploring the possibility of advocating for the adoption of case management in all criminal trials. This would greatly organise the trial process and bring a level of predictability to the time-span of a trial. This is still a work in progress but hopefully very soon, massive gains would be made in this regard in the FCT and around the Federation.
There are also plans by the ACJMC to seek for the full implementation of sections 306, 383, and 396 of the ACJA. These sections deal with speed trial and when fully implemented, the trial process would undoubtedly be fast and effective. The ACJMC has kick-started its campaign for full implementation of these key provisions by creating awareness, holding regular consultation meetings with stakeholders as well as relentless advocacy especially at the policy level. It is hoped that in the not too distant future, these sections would be fully implemented.
- Congestion of criminal cases in courts is drastically reduced:
The ACJMC has spearheaded and partnered in many efforts targeting the reduction of cases in court dockets. Practically, many declogging exercises have been organised by the ACJMC for the courts and this has resulted in the massive decongestion of cases within the dockets of the courts. This sort of efforts are still being put in by the ACJMC and it results in
- Congestion in prisons is reduced to the barest minimum;
The ACJMC has been engaging actively with the Nigerian Correctional Service on this point, particularly dealing with s. 111 of the ACJA which mandates a report from the Comptroller General of all persons who are awaiting trial and have been in detention for a period of over 180 days from the time of arraignment. The Nigerian Correctional Service has been cooperating with the ACJMC for this purpose and has submitted the first set of this report to the ACJMC secretariat so that same can be escalated across all institutions or agencies responsible for the trial of suspects. There is also the collaborative move to synchronize the ACJMC Portal with the Correctional Service Information Management System (CIMS) so that the records of these detainee’s whose cases fall within the category provided for under s. 111 would automatically be highlighted on the ACJMC portal so that actions can be taken to resolve that lengthy detention.
There have also been partnerships between the ACJMC and other Civil Society Organisations who deal with the decongestion of the Correctional Service facility and this has yielded some enviable results.
It is hoped that all of these engagements and future plans by the ACJMC regarding decongestion of the Correctional Service Centres would yield the much desired results in a not too distant future.
- Persons awaiting trial are, as far as possible, not detained in prison custody:
This has been one of the major targets of the ACJMC even as it looks at fully implementing the ACT. In order to achieve this, the ACJMC has been liaising with prosecutors and prosecutorial agencies as well as the courts so that this desire can be achieved. The prosecutors have been encouraged to carry out more thorough investigations before arresting/charging the suspect to court. This would automatically reduce the length of time for the trial so that the defendant does not stay in the awaiting trial category for more time than is necessary. Also the courts have been greatly sensitized on the need to grant bail to suspects when they are arraigned instead of remanding them in custody. This has a direct impact on how many suspects would be awaiting trial with the detention facilities.
- The relationship between the organs charged with the responsibility for all aspects of the administration of justice is cordial and there exists maximum co-operation amongst the organs in the administration of justice in Nigeria;
The ACJMC has been at the centre-stage of this and has been achieving great milestones in this regard. It engenders cordiality and cooperation amongst stakeholders by organising several stakeholder roundtables, dialogues and other forms of engagement which witness the coming together of several key justice stakeholders. This inadvertently engenders communication amongst these stakeholders and fosters a cordial relationship between them.
This cooperation is also witnessed by how willing many criminal justice institutions are to share information, collaborate and partner with other agencies to achieve progress in the administration of justice in Nigeria.
For example, the Nigerian Correctional Service which would naturally be distant from other criminal justice institutions is no longer distant but is actively collaborating with other criminal justice institutions to make major gains in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. Specifically speaking, the Correctional Service has agreed to link its Correctional Service Information Management System (CIMS) with the ACJMC portal so as to facilitate better communication and information sharing across board.
- Collate, analyse and publish information in relation to the administration of criminal justice sector in Nigeria; and Functions of the committee:
The ACJMC achieves this objective by virtue of its Annual Report. In this report, the ACJMC details all its obligations and all the work it has done within the year to achieve them. It also publishes information relating to the work of other criminal justice stakeholders in advancing the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
This Annual Report is written after collaboration and engagements with stakeholders so as to put clearly, the true and accurate picture of criminal justice in Nigeria.
- Submit quarterly report to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to keep him abreast of developments towards improved criminal justice delivery and for necessary action;
Just like the Annual Report of the ACJMC, this report is written after wide consultation and engagements with stakeholders within the quarter. This report captures burning issues within the criminal justice sector for the quarter and it analyses these issues while trying to propose solutions which can be adopted and implemented by the Chief Justice of Nigeria if he pleases.
The report usually would capture issues ranging from the assignment of cases in court, to speedy trial, bail and bail reform etc.
- Carry out such other activities as are necessary for the effective and efficient administration of criminal justice:
The ACJMC has done a tremendous amount of work in this regard. I would highlight below some of the work which the ACJMC has done or is still involved with which seeks to ensure the effective and efficient administration of criminal justice. Some of these activities include;
- Creating sub-committees: These sub-committees draw its membership from a broad spectrum of criminal justice stakeholders. These sub-committees are given mandates from the broad mandate of the ACJMC and it comprises of a chairman and secretary. They steer the work the Committee does with respect to their terms of reference.
These sub-committees include;
- Investigation and Prosecution Sub-Committee:
- Monitoring and Evaluation Sub-Committee
- Speedy Trial Sub-Committee
- Prison Decongestion Sub-Committee
- Media Sub-Committee
- ACJMC Mapping of Police Stations in The FCT: This was done in 2019 with the support of the EU funded ROLAC programme. ROLAC provided a vehicle to the secretariat for this purpose. The vehicle was provided for four (4) weeks so that to all the Police Divisions in the FCT can be visited. The ACJMC in this project embarked on inspecting facilities, ascertaining challenges, mapping needs, evaluating compliances with ACJA provisions especially, Reporting obligations and Human Rights issues. The findings were analyzed and recommendations proffered. This also helped the ACJMC to gather data for policy making decisions. Follow up monitoring was conducted subsequently. Embarking on this project enabled the ACJMC form a good relationship with the divisional heads and engendered good working relationships. The report of these visitations is contained in the 2019 Annual Report of ACJMC.
- ACJMC Support to the Section 34 Oversight Visit by Magistrates: This started in 2018 with a pilot visit in the FCT. This was followed by training of all the magistrates who were nominated to carry out these visits across the FCT. These visits also led to the development of the section 34 visitation template by the ACJMC after consultation with the magistrates. There was also training organised for the Magistrates based on the experiences gleaned from the initial deployment of magistrates for these visits. Their clerks and registrars were also trained so that they can provide the much needed support to the magistrates during these visits. The visits have gained more traction and their advantages are so numerous. The ACJMC has been steadfastly supporting this process from inception till date.
- ACJMC Portal: The ACJMC with the support of development partners like Trust Africa and ROLAC amongst others developed an electronic filing, processing and analytics database called the ACJMC Portal. This portal is meant to be used by all stakeholders who have any reporting obligation under the ACJA 2015. Training has begun on its use and it is hopeful that it would be much utilized in the coming weeks. This would obviate the need to make voluminous print outs, take long drives etc. all in a bid to submit these reports.
- Reporting Obligations: Pending the full use and deployment of the ACJMC Portal, the ACJMC went round the Police Divisions in the FCT and Law Enforcement agencies to share the reporting template with them and showed them how it can be used in making the statutory reports required under sections 29 and 33 of the ACJA and in line with s. 15 of the ACJA. This has witnessed great and increasing levels of compliance.
- Custody Management: The ACJMC in the discharge its duties carried out baseline assessment of the current practices by the law enforcement agencies in relation to compliance with the provisions of ACJA on arrest protocols and custody management. This involved assessment of process of arrest, detention, questioning and charging or bail. It also includes the process or mechanism of keeping records of these processes and procedure. This culminated in the development of the recently approved Custody Management Guidelines and it is ready for adoption by the Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies.
- Resolving the Area Court Jurisdiction in criminal matters: For a long time, the Area Courts have had to deal with the issue of jurisdiction for criminal matters. There was a suit which challenged their jurisdiction especially in the light of their extant law and a decision was given to the effect that the Area Courts have no jurisdiction in criminal matters. However, that decision was appealed against and the area courts kept entertaining criminal cases. Albeit, by the intervention of the ACJMC through its chairman, the Hon. Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, a resolution was reached to the effect that Area Courts who are manned by lawyers may have and exercise jurisdiction in criminal cases and this is the applicable position on this now.
- Monitoring of Anti-Corruption Cases and Creating a Legal Framework: The ACJMC is leading the process of strengthening Anti-corruption legal framework in conjunction with the Legal Drafting Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Law Reform Commission. The aim of this is to strengthen the institutional framework of the criminal justice system through a robust Legislative framework.
The following Bills were passed through the contributions of ACJMC with other stakeholders:
- Proceeds of Crime Bill (this was passed at the National Assembly but it was not assented to by the President. It is currently involved in the present review as an Executive Bill.
- Mutual Legal Assistance Bill: this was passed and assented by President.
- Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill; this was passed and assented by President.
- Money Laundering Bill: This was not passed in the 8th Assembly. It is currently undergoing review for transmission as an Executive Bill to the National Assembly;
- Whistle-blower Bill (Public interest disclosure Bill): This Bill was passed by the Senate in the 8th National Assembly, but it was not concurred to by House of Representatives. Presently, it is undergoing review by stakeholders for transmission as an Executive Bill to the National Assembly.
- Witness Protection Bill: This is undergoing review as an Executive Bill.
- Other legislation proposed for review, which ACJMC will be collaborating with other stakeholders are:- EFCC Amendment Bill, CCB, CCT, NDLEA and Special Crime Court Bills.
Other Anti-corruption activities/programs of ACJMC include; monitoring of corruption cases with a view to expediting their speedy disposal. This was commenced with engagement and meetings with relevant stakeholders including CONTRIMCO, NBA, CSOs with Anti-corruption mandate including ANEEJ, CISLAC etc. and Development Partners like ROLAC and MacArthur Foundation. The Judiciary are also engaged including Federal High Court Headquarters, where cases on Anti-corruption are provided to the ACJMC for monitoring purposes, the Court of Appeal is also engaged.
The monitoring of Anti-corruption cases is placed as a top priority in view of the present administration agenda and recognition of its pivotal position within the dockets of Higher Courts. We shall continue to monitor this pointedly in collaboration with other stakeholders stated above moving forward.
i. Criminal Justice Legislative Framework for Review: There are laws identified for review or enactment in order to strengthen the criminal justice system and it’s institutions in line with the mandate of the ACJMC to include;
- Sentencing Guidelines as a stand-alone legislation
- Witness Protection Bill to include robust framework for allowances of witnesses
- Prosecution of offences Bill, to professionalize the work of Prosecutors and making it attractive as a career by creating Directorate of Public Prosecution. The Bill is before the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation for endorsement as an Executive Bill
- Review of Penal and Criminal Codes, currently led by the Center for Socio-Legal Studies and the Nigerian Law Reform Commission
- Probation and Parole Board Bill etc.
The cumulative effect of these Bills along with the institutional legal framework will set the pace for the desired criminal justice reforms in the country.
- Some other activities of the ACJMC include:
- Setting up of a quarterly criminal justice stakeholder’s forum that brings together JSA to discuss reforms and foster synergies amongst stakeholders.
- Setting up of functional Secretariat and sub-committees.
- Quarterly statutory meetings with its statutory members under the Act
- Monitoring of Terrorism cases
- Trainings and Workshops for justice sector agencies depending on the needs of the JSA.
- Development of the capacity of criminal justice actors involved in counter terrorism cases with the support of international donor organizations.
- Support and interface with JSA on compliance with reporting obligations under the ACJA in FCT including South-South and South East zones.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the ACJMC is not only fulfilling its roles under the ACJA in terms of implementing the Act, but it is also doing all what is necessary to ensure that there is a holistic reform of the Nigerian Criminal Justice System.