Justice Reform

Reforming Our Criminal Justice System

By Douglas Ogbankwa, Esq.

“The law is made for man, and not man for the Law “-Justice John Otutu Obaseki, Justice of the Supreme Court, as he then was.

I have studied the Nigerian Criminal Justice System with intense circumspection and I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that cases are won and lost in the offices of the investigating autthorities

There lies the dilemma of the System ,too much being left to few people to decide.

The way legislations empowering investigations are crafted, investigators are given unbridled discretion which could allow them to compromise a good case or use the powers as a means to pervert justice, perhaps, in order to answer to the whims and caprices of their paymasters.

We call for reforms.

In this light, we humbly request for the making of a Nigerian Official Investigation Guidelines to officially guide investigation activities.

This will synchronise investigation processes in all investigating authorities in Nigeria.

Apart from making Investigating officers to do the right thing, it will preclude them from doing the wrong thing.

We also call for the Amendment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, ACJL, of States of the Federation that allows a Judge to remand a defendant at first instance vide an exparte motion which, actually, in real fact is a modified Holding Charge.

The defendant is not given fair hearing not even through his lawyer. I have done and concluded matters where defendants are wrongly remanded and the truth surfaces, and atter just goes like that.

There is no provision in the respective ACJL for compensation or restitution for defendants wrongly remanded.

This should be provided for in the ACJL.

Frivolous adjournments to frustrate criminal trials among other things should also be abhorred.

In a bid to borrow a rope, from vomparative criminal jurisdictions, all around the world, it will be apposite for officers of the Ministries of Justice to provide legal advice all through an Investigation of a sensitive case that requires technical and legal expertise.

This is to guide the investigators all through the rigorous process of ensuring a water tight prosecution that will secure conviction.

The Police and other security agencies should investigate before arresting and not arrest before investigating, in order not to punish innocent people. Arrest should only be done ,only when the Police and other Investigating authorities can secure a conviction.

We should discourage the current arrest and bail system.

In this light, we must pay the Police and others very well and insist that funds meant for operational duties of the Police and others be released. This is very important, as it concerns the Police, to discourage and stop the current mobilisation culture which is open to corruption and perversion of Justice.

If you reported a case to the DSS or NSCDC, arrest might even be effected before you get to your house or your office from their Offices.

This is not so with the Police. We must insist that men of the Police, who in my view, work well when given the right motivation and support are given all that are budgeted for them, for them to work well!You can not keep doing something the same way and expect a different result!

The egg heads in the National Assembly must insist on the full release of all monies and logistical support budgeted for all Police gormations all around Nigeria.

If they connive to short change the Police, the blood of innocent Nigerians that die due to poor funding of the Police shall be on all their heads.

“When the rich fail to provide for the poor, the poor can not guarantee the safety of the rich “-Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Justice of the Supreme Court, as he then was.

Ogbankwa is the Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin branch

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