The CLEEN Foundation organized her second National Working Group Meeting on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act tagged: Securing Compliance to the ACJ Act 2015 and Promoting Transparency and Accountability in the Criminal Justice System on the 16th August, 2018 in Abuja. The objectives of the meeting were to discuss critical issues and challenges arising from the ACJ Act implementation across the 8 focal states of the project and proffer possible solutions, review progress on program activities and provide guidance as necessary, identify lessons learned and opportunities for improvement for CLEEN and enhance relationships between CLEEN and Stakeholders.
Mrs. Ruth Olofin, CLEEN Program Manager spoke on Project Overview/Synopsis; Mrs. Esther Mabadeje, CLEEN Asst. Legal Officer gave analysis on filled court observation forms and monthly reports submitted by the The purpose of the analysis on the reports of the court observers is to elicit useful data that could be relevant for further interventions especially with regard to the challenges of prosecuting corruption cases.
She also revealed that although the challenge of getting the full cooperation and willingness of court staff and defence lawyers in releasing information and data still persist. While Mr. Gabriel Akinremi, CLEEN Senior ICT Officer gave a presentation on UWAZI Web Platform. In his presentation he hinted that gathering that over 100 court cases has been uploaded on the platform on corruption cases and financial crimes cases in relations to ACJA 2015. The url to access the platform is https://cleen.uwazi.io
At the meeting, Mr. Yinka Lawal Esq made a presentation on “Curbing Delays In The Prosecution Of Corruption Cases Through The Effective Implementation Of ACJA 2015” and in his presentation, Mr. Yinka Lawal listed ACJA challenges with Criminal Justice delivery as follows; delay in the dispensation of justice; congested dockets of the courts; abuse of court processes – interlocutory appeals & stay of proceedings; abuse of arrest powers by the police; absence of witness protection measures; abrupt transfer of judges/cases and de novo trials; excessive use of imprisonment due to absence of alternatives and poor documentation of criminal records (Agbi V.Ibori).
He also listed some of vital recommendations
We can support effective implementation of the ACJA through the following steps:
• Advocate for strict compliance with the provisions of ACJA – investigators, prosecutors, defence attorneys, courts, prisons and detention centres;
• Providing support to justice sector institutions to implement the provisions that do not need new infrastructure – trainings, production of guidelines;
• Train lawyers on strict adherence to ACJA (No tactical delay to frustrate case e.g. lack of witness and unnecessary adjournments);
• Run an advocacy for the reform of our law (most of our laws are obsolete)
While some of our esteemed data collectors / Partners that participated at the meeting also used the gathering to share their lessons in relation to court observation in their various focal states of the project – Oyo, Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, Enugu, Anambra, Kaduna and FCT. They listed some of the challenges they encounter as follows
The need to bribe courts officials before getting a judgement can be frustrating and this is seriously slow down uploading and traffic on the uwazi web platform, which is purpose was to digitalized court judgements.
Defence counsels are not always willing to give information about their clients
Our partners in FCT highlighted the following – Poor prosecution, lack of experience, lack of witnesses or too many witnesses in court, duplication of charges, absence of counsels, irrelevant evidences, retirement/ transfer of judges, lack of accesses to information.
Some of the success recorded in the course of court observation, in Enugu we were informed that Federal High Court makes available court lists on corruption case available for our state partners.
Mr. Ademola Adewuyi, Assistant Program Officer, CLEEN also used the medium to inform partners on the need to carry out mapping / creation of resource centres in the 8 focal state of the project. The main objective of the resource centres is to set up centres that will serve as repository of the hard copies of court rulings on corruption related cases and or cases related to other aspects of the administration of criminal justice in both offline and online access.
Coming from the just concluded meeting CLEEN was cautioned on the creation of resource centres such that sustainability must be a key. We were advised to look beyond the project period and source for credible project working group that will run the centres perfectly with the necessary man-power in place. CLEEN is planning to kick start the process of resource centre creation with one state as a way forward. Going forward CLEEN need to invite Police to be part of this meeting.
In conclusion, National working group meeting is a bi-annual event and another one will hold next year.
Ademola Adewuyi, CLEEN Foundation