Prior to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) becoming a law in 2015, Nigeria’s criminal justice system was largely governed by the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) applicable in the Southern Nigeria and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) applicable in Northern Nigeria. Despite these legal frameworks, the criminal justice system was faced with challenges related to inefficiency and lack of effectiveness. This situation was compounded by delays in trials and congested prisons just to mention a few. The need for effective criminal justice reformsbecame evident in view of these challenges and necessitated urgent actions and campaigns that led to the enactment of the ACJA-2015. Till date, about fourteen (14) states have domesticated the law or tailored their criminal justice laws to the ACJA with Enugu, Anambra, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos, FCT, Kaduna, Ekiti as focal states for CLEEN Foundation.
To foster collaboration among stakeholders across states in Nigeria and to ensure effective ACJA implementation, CLEEN Foundation inaugurated the state working group in Akure, Ondo state capital on the 19th March 2019. The meeting convenedselected participants amongst whom were the judiciary staff, anti-graft agencies- Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ministry of Justice, security agencies and the media.
Participants at the event shared testimonies of how the ACJA project in their state has contributed to improving the justice system in Nigeria. They pointed out how it has reduced corruption, promoted transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system in Nigeria. They pointed out that police prosecutors, the judges and lawyers are now aware that corruption cases in Ondo are now being monitored by NGOs and other stakeholders, therefore making them to avoid any form of corruption.
Mrs. Catherine Ogunjebi, legal practitioner, working with Ondo State Ministry of Justice in her presentation shared how ACJA was adopted in Ondo State as the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) in December 2015.
Mr. Gabriel Akinremi, CLEEN Foundation Senior IT Officer pointed out how digital technology has helped in improving ACJA implementation in Nigeria. The project through web and mobile-based platform (Uwazi) tracks court cases, such as completed cases, court trials/proceedings, injunctions relating to corruption cases, accountability and transparency in the administration of criminal justice system in Nigeria.
The platform enables court officials and stakeholders to scan, upload, publish court documents and create a table of contents online making it possible for the public to have access to the documents. This is with the aim to enhance transparency and promote accountability in the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
Some recommendations made at the meeting include:
- The need for synergy among criminal justice actors to ensure that the ACJL is implemented and becomes very effective in the state.
- Need for advocacy and awareness of the ACJA and ACJL, and that should be done through Social orientation through radio talk show
• Capacity building on ACJL, especially, the Ondo State Police Command
• Tracking of all criminal cases in relations to ACJL