Prior to May 2015 when the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ( ACJA) was signed into law by Fmr. President Good luck Jonathan, the Criminal Justice Act (CPA) and the Criminal Procedure Code(CPC) were the laws that dominated the Nigerian’s criminal justice framework. These laws were inherited from the erstwhile British Colonial administration. Upon Independence, in 1960, the CPA continued to apply in the Southern States of Nigeria whilst the CPC held sway in the Northern States.
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Several factors compiled the change from the old criminal procedures laws (CPA and CPC) to the new one (ACJA). These include delay in the dispensation of justice, congested dockets of the courts, abuse of arrest powers by the police, excessive use of imprisonment due to lack of alternatives, congestion of prisons, and high population of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs), lack of witness protection, and above all, anachronistic and convoluted procedures. But by far the most notorious feature of the old criminal procedure system was the ability of the courts to conclude trials which involved high profile defendants. These defendants were able to delay their trials for several years through the filling of various interlocutory applications and appeals which stalled the substantive criminal proceedings.
After several decades of applying CPA and CPC, defense lawyer had perfected the art of exploiting the loopholes in these laws to the advantage of their clients, especially the wealthy ones. As a result, the criminal justice system of the country became ineffective and literally lost it’s capacity to wrongdoers and bring them to book.