New Ebonyi State Law Disqualifies Police from Prosecuting Criminal Matters
By the repeal of all existing laws and procedures in the administration of criminal justice and subsequent replacement with the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ebonyi State, otherwise known as law 014 of 2019, Police no longer have power to prosecute criminal matters in the state.
The State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Cletus Ofoke, made this known Friday at a media briefing on the provisions of the new law.
According to Ofoke, who is also the Chairman, Ebonyi State Criminal Justice Sector Reform Committee, the new law is a replica of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of the Federal Government, which was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
Mr. Ofoke stressed that the main aim of the law is to enhance the protection of citizens’ rights while fostering quicker dispensation of criminal justice as well as eliminating prisons congestion.
According to the Commissioner the Nigeria Police under the new law was no longer qualified to prosecute criminal matters in the courts on behalf of the State except as a lawyer, emphasing that all criminal matters henceforth were to be prosecuted by lawyers from the State Ministry of Justice.
Ofoke further explained that the law, apart from providing for a mechanism for effective reformation of prison inmates, also provided for the adoption of alternative dispute resolution system while also introducing the application of compensatory instrument as a means of appeasement in criminal justice administration.
Governor David Umahi assented to the law on September 6 2019 after passing through the State House of Assembly.
He also emphasized that the law, which was a domestication of criminal justice administration in the State, emanated from the Administration of Criminal Justice Reform act of the Federal Government.
“This morning, it is my privilege to talk to you about the innovations in the administration of criminal justice in Ebonyi State….By this law, Police officers are no longer qualified to prosecute criminal matters in our Courts. All criminal matters henceforth are to be prosecuted by lawyers from the Ministry of Justice. This law has made provision for compensation to victims of crime.
“You will recall that before now the end of criminal justice was incarceration of the perpetrator in the Nigeria Prison Service, now Nigeria correctional Service, while the ultimate end is sentence but this law has deviated from that.
Now apart from all that, one can also be asked to adopt the alternative dispute resolution system which is embedded in this law. In other words, victims of crimes can now get compensation just like victims in civil cases in the form of payment for damages.
“It emphasises restorative justice system. Before now there is an assumption that an inmate serving a particular sentence has no other right to do any other thing apart from serving out his sentence. But by this law, a convict can now be reformed while in custody of the Nigeria Correctional Service. The essence of all these are to make sure that citizens of this country are given adequate protection in terms of their fundamental rights.
“With this law, all former laws that have hitherto been guiding administration of criminal justice in the Magistrate and High Courts in the State have been repealed and henceforth replaced by this new law.”
Ofoke, while commending the Governor for giving assent to the very important law, advised the Ebonyi public to access a copy of the law in the Ministry of justice for further guidance.
He enjoined all and sundry, especially critical stakeholders in the justice sector: the police, Army, Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Correctional Service, Nigeria Immigration Service among others to avail themselves of the provisions of the law in their service delivery.
Editor’s note: Is the Justice Revolution setting in? Will this critical move by Ebonyi State Government advance the rule of law? As we are aware, the rule of law is what Nigeria needs most, at this time.