By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The ingenious application of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) by judges at various detention centres granting bail, setting many free, and remanding others saved the nation’s capital from implosion from angry detainees, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Salisu Garba, has revealed.
Justice Garba spoke in Abuja at a two-day workshop on pre-trial issues and the effective implementation of the ACJA for FCT Magistrates.
His words, “It is important to stress that within the last two months of JUSUN strike, a lot of pre-trial issues took the centre stage especially as crimes continue to soar in our country. A lot of arrests were made by the police on different allegations of crime. Issues of bail and remand became matters of concern.
“At different jurisdictions, the ingenious provisions of ACJA which allow Magistrates and Judges to carry out visits to detention facilities became handy. And it is through this process that many suspects were granted bail, set free or ordered to be remanded.
“This saved detention facilities across the country especially police stations the challenges of implosion that the strike would have caused if not for the innovation in the law,” he said.
The FCT CJ noted that the nation’s criminal justice system has witnessed monumental improvement since the introduction of ACJA in 2015, adding that most of the problems currently being witnessed from arrest to prosecution would be gravely reduced, if the law is religiously applied.
He explained that the workshop was intended to improve participants’ understanding and horn their skills on the workings of ACJA on pre-trial issues, noting that rights of suspects would be better preserved where the provisions of the ACJA are well applied.
He added: “The courts especially Magistrates must be well informed of the requirements of the law in this area and not unnecessarily insist on formalities thereby defeating the aims of the law.
“The role of defence counsel is not less important; he or she must know what points to canvass towards ensuring compliance with the requirements of the ACJA.
“The attainment of the lofty ideas of the ACJA is a continuous process which will require constant engagement of stakeholders in fora such as this, which can best assess compliance, interrogate areas of difficulties, identify points where mutual cooperation is required and generally foster understanding for an improved implementation of the Act,” he said.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Jibrin Okutepa, in his presentation, titled: “Wrongful arrest and detention,” regretted the prevalence of such practices among the nation’s law enforcement agents despite the lofty provisions in the nation’s laws the prohibit such arbitrary use of powers.
“As I said earlier, nobody respects the law of Nigeria. Whatever remedies that there may be, as pronounced by our courts in favour of victims of wrongful arrests and detentions, will always be a barren victory.
“This is because in Nigeria, it is much more difficult to enforce judgments and orders than getting judgments in courts. In other cases, you get judgments devoid of justice,” Okutepa said.