Proposed Reforms to the Nigerian Criminal Justice System By Douglas Ogbankwa Esq
The Nigeria Criminal Justice System has endured Legislations foisted on it by colonial legacy .
Thus ,our Body of Laws that drive our Criminal Justice System are stern ,inflexible and impose grave punishments that may not be commensurate with the alleged crime committed .
Another issue is that the Criminal Code in many States of the Federation, has not been amended to meet with the Changing Society.
While one concedes that punishment is a deterrence in curbing crime ,it is not in every case of conviction that a Convict should be sent to Prison.
Premium should be placed on non -constodian sentencing,where a convicted person can be sentenced to Community Service to either sweep public places ,clear public places or even do other menial public jobs.This will reduce prison decongestions and save Government money used in employing those who do these jobs for Government. It will also provide a better reformatory process for the Convict ,as most times taking them to Prison makes them even more hardened.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Implementation Committtees of States should insist on going on the stipulated routine checks of Facilities of the DSS,EFCC ,Customs ,Immigration NSCDC and any other Agency of Government that maintains a holding facility,to ascertain the level of compliance with the ACJA and ACJL and abhor arbitrary detention of Citizens as this is only done with the Police .
The Law should also be amended to ensure that an Officer or Officers of an Agency of Government that orchestrates arbitrary dententions of Citizens should all be jointly ,personally and severally liable for any litigation that may accrue therefrom and not necessarily the Agency.This is stop the arbitrary detentions of Citizens with out just cause.
The Law should also be amended to allow for a parole system to be put in place ,to allow convicts to be given a new lifeline to have their prison sentences suspended and they released before time ,subject to good behaviour .This will also ensure a decongestion of our prisons,also.
Bail should now be treated as a right and not as a privilege as it is presently treated for Bailable Offences. To this end ,the current practice of filing Motions to admit to Bail when a formal Charge has been proferred should be jettisoned .
Once an arraignment has been done ,the Defence Counsel should apply orally for Bail and if there is no cogent opposition ,it should be granted with a Bench Ruling as is done world wide and the Defendant released to Surety and Sureties present,especially Family Members of the Defendant. The current trend of Motion for Bail ,Counter Affidavit and Reply to Counter Affidavit for almost every Bail Application in a Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria,makes mockery of the Criminal Justice System as it does not fester in any other place in the World .
The needless rigidity of Bail Conditions only makes for a proliferation of Professional Sureties who may not be able to produce Defendants when the need arises.Bail conditions should therefore be liberal.
This brings us to the issue of obnoxious Bail Conditions,like the one recently that ordered for a Bond one Billion Naira Bail Bond.This scenario looks like a persecution than a prosecution!
If a party needs to recall a witness,he should make the Application orally and same accordingly granted and if the witness is in Court and his deposition is before Court,he should be taken immediately and witness concluded with .
Sentencing and granting of Bail Guidelines should be issued in all States of the Federation,to streamline the issues of sentecing of convicts and granting of Bail to Defendants. The Discretion allowed currently for sentencing of Convicts and granting of Bail to Defendants, has been abused by Some Judicial Officers.It is either they are too liberal or they are two obnoxious. There should be a suncronisation of the process , by way of guidelines in form of practice direction to ensure unanimity of purpose in each State ‘s Criminal Justice System.
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