Saturday, 28 October 2017

Stakeholders Call for Innovative Approaches in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria

CLEEN Foundation organized a 2 day training workshop for Civil Society Organizations and Media practitioners on the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act, 2015 on 18th and 19th October 2017. The workshop sought to sensitize the participants on the provisions of the Act and work with them to develop strategies to increase advocacy for the full implementation of the Act and monitor the relevant agencies compliance with the roles as provided under the Act.

Fifty (50) participants drawn from civil society organizations across the six geo-political zones, media and Observatory on Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria over the two days of the training, were informed about the key provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act, 2015 and its application,  strategies for monitoring, advocacy and engagement with stakeholders on ACJA 2015, Data and Information Gathering and Collection using the ACJ Indicator System and Strategies for Effective Communication and Reporting on ACJA 2015.  Summary of findings from a first round of public perception survey on Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria conducted by CLEEN Foundation was also presented to participants.

At the end of the training, the following observations and recommendations were made:

Observations:
1. The Act provides for the promotion and protection of human rights of suspects/victims as enshrined in the Nigeria Constitution;
2. The sustainability of criminal justice reforms is hinged on the integrity and leadership of the key criminal justice institutions to make them work;
3. State administration of criminal laws are most important as 90% of criminal cases are prosecuted at the state level hence the need for states to adopt and domesticate the provision of ACJA 2015;
4. The current trend in states that have adopted the ACJA show that states are making fundamental variations to key provisions particularly in the area of Remand proceedings which is contravening the intent and purpose of the ACJA 2015;

5. The level of awareness about the ACJA amongst the relevant criminal justice actors and general public is very low which is also affecting the successful compliance and implementation of the Act;
6. The deplorable state and lack of infrastructure, logistics and knowledge gap in the criminal justice institutions are contributing factors to the slow implementation amongst the relevant agencies.
7. The media and civil society groups are key to driving advocacy for the ACJA to work
8. There still exist gaps in the ACJA such as in the area of payment of compensation for victims; payment of witness expenses etc which also impact on the law's successful implementation and areas that CSOs and media should also beam the search light on.

Recommendations:
1. Public sensitization and awareness creation on the key and innovative provisions of the ACJA 2015 for the personnel of the criminal justice agencies and general public is fundamental for the successful implementation of the Act;
2.  Monitoring state domestication of the ACJA is crucial to ensure that the object and intent of the law is not lost;
3. Need for CSOs and Media practitioners to be fully abreast with the provisions of the law to be able to strategically engage the different criminal justice institutions on their roles as provided in the Act;
4. The need for training and retraining of police personnel on the expectations of the Act as they are the gate keepers and entry point into the criminal justice system and other actors rely on them for prosecution of criminal cases;
5. The need to form synergy between the civil society organizations and the media to bring about the desired results.
6. Finally, participants agreed to use the lessons learnt to interface with relevant stakeholders in the criminal justice system (including the Observatory on Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria), popularize the ACJ Act among their stakeholders, and monitor its implementation while also advocating for adoption of the Act in states where it is yet to be passed.

The 2-day training workshop and other activities under CLEEN Foundation Project on 'Monitoring the Criminal Justice Administration Reform Process in Nigeria’ is supported by MacArthur Foundation.


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