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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The CPA and CPC did not specifically state the purposes which the laws were intended to serve. The ACJA in section 1(1) provides a clear statement of its objectives or purposes. These indicate a deliberate underlying philosophy of criminal justice administration in the country from punishment of the offenders to the broader objective of restorative justice and protection of larger society. Restorative justice is a way of responding to criminal behavior by balancing the needs of the community, the victims and the offenders. Thus the system of criminal justice administration will not merely punish the offender fro the offence committed; the system will also consider the rights and interests of all the stakeholder of the criminal justice system: the society, the suspect, the defendant, the victim.
Delay is endemic in the administration of justice in Nigeria. It is therefore common for the members of the public to openly express their concern over the problem of delay and palpable inability of the criminal justice system to conclude cases within reasonable time, especially corruption cases involving high profile defendants. The ACJA is aimed at addressing this concern amongst others.
The Act in section 1(2) imposes a duty in all criminal justice institutions to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law for the realization of its purposes. Hence, it is imperative for all the authorities to be familiar with their relevant roles under this Act. They must also be familiar with the roles of other agencies with they are required to work. The criminal justice system functions as a chain. Any weak in the link will hinder the efficiency of the entire system.
Unlawful arrest is one major problems of the Nigerian criminal process. It is one of the reasons why police stations and prison are overcrowded. Arrests are sometimes made on allegation that are purely civil in nature or on frivolous grounds.
One of the innovative provisions of the ACJA is the express prohibition of arrest of a person in place of the suspect. Section 7 prohibits the arrest by proxy or arrest in lieu. It is a common practice in Nigeria that parents, siblings, friend or relation of persons suspected to have committed a crime are sometimes arrested where the suspected persons cannot be found or jump bail. This practice is in breach of fundamental human right of the person arrested in lieu as he does not fall within the classes of persons that may be arrested.
Section 6(2) of the ACJA makes elaborate provisions for the protection of constitutional rights of citizens who are arrested. The Act imposes a duty on the arresting officer or the person making the arrest to inform the suspect of the reason for his arrest. The Act imposes a duty on the arresting officer or the person making the arrest to inform the suspect of the reasons of his arrest. The arresting officer must also inform the suspect of his rights to remain silent or avoid answering any question or making, endorsing, or writing any statement until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice; as well as his rights to free representation by Legal Aid Council of Nigeria where applicable.
Section 8(1) of the Act reiterates the constitutional provision of the right to dignify of person. It states that a suspect shall be accorded humane treatment, having regard to his right to dignity of his person and not to be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
In order to encourage accountability and transparency, section 10 of the Act places a legal duty on a police officer making an arrest or receiving an arrested person it record information about the suspect including an inventory of all items property recovered from the suspect the inventory must be signed by the police officer and the suspect, but the mere fact that the suspect refused to sign the inventory will not validate. [
Section 15 (5) of ACJA provides that were confessional statement is volunteered by a suspect, such must be in writing and may be recorded electronically on a retrievable video compact disc or such other audio-visual means. An oral confession of an arrested suspect is nevertheless admissible in evidence.
Section 17 of the Act stipulates that where a suspect wishes to make a statement, such statement must be taken in the presence of a legal practitioner of his choice, or an officer of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria: or an official of a Civil Society Organization: or a Justice of Peace, or any other person of the suspects choice.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 is a revolutionary piece of legislation which has brought about significant improvements in the Nigerian system of criminal Justice administration. However, merely enacting a good law does not necessary translate to effective application of that law. It is therefore necessary that all agencies of criminal justice administration must endeavor to study and understand the provisions of the Act and also work in synergy to ensure the realization of the objectives of ACJA.
To start court proceedings a solicitor will file a Statement of Claim. If someone serves you with one of these, you shouldn’t ignore it. If you do, the creditor can apply to the court for a judgment against you. You usually have 28 days to take action after someone serves a Statement of Claim on you.