Ibrahim Muhammad, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), says there is a need for a thorough review of the criminal laws in the country.
Speaking on Wednesday at a special session held to mark the commencement of the supreme court’s 2021/2022 legal year and the swearing-in of 72 new senior advocates of Nigeria, the CJN described some of the laws as obsolete and “literally offensive to modern civilisation”.
He said despite the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA) six years ago for the speedy dispensation of criminal trials, “there is really not much to cheer about, particularly in the area of holistic implementation”.
“I must admit that, this is, indeed, a very sad narrative that is not suitable for the ears, to say the least,” he said. It is equally sad to note that Nigeria has inadvertently earned a reputation for churning out several laws that are either partially implemented or not implemented at all.“Even though we see ACJA as a major boost to the criminal justice system in the country, the effective implementation of its provisions has remained a major cog in the wheel of progress.“In one of its provisions, for instance, the Act sets time limit for carrying out investigations, arraignment, and prosecution of criminal suspects.
In the same vein, it mandates the police to record every confessional statement offered by a suspect to the police in the course of investigation in video, or the statement should be endorsed by a legal practitioner, as a way of decreasing the incidents of use of force or torture to compel suspects to confess to crimes that they may not have committed.
“In all sincerity, are we really adhering to these provisions and the general tenets of the Act? We urgently need to conscientise ourselves and do a cursory self-assessment to turn a new leaf because we cannot keep repeating the same method and expect to get a different result.“Nigeria, as a country, has done too many experiments. That primordial mindset must be changed in order to permit modernisation to occupy a place in our hearts.
“Even with the ACJA, I will still suggest that our entire criminal laws should be thoroughly appraised and updated so that those antiquated aspects that are no more in tandem with modern trends can be changed.“This exercise has to be carried out regularly to completely stamp out those obsolete criminal laws that are literally offensive to modern civilisation.“Permit me to use this medium to call on our esteemed legislature to intensify effort in making people-oriented laws.
“In the same vein, the various ministries, department and agencies under the executive arm should show more than a passing interest in the general wellbeing of the citizenry by executing all the laws made, without any selectivity, exclusionism or isolationism.”
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