Administration of Criminal Justice Act Amendment Bill scales 2nd reading in Senate

A bill to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 to make it more effective and humane scaled second reading in Senate on Wednesday.

This followed the presentation of the lead debate on the general principles of the bill by the sponsor, Sen. Orji Uzo Kalu during plenary.

The bill is entitled, ‘Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (Amendment) bill, 2020′.

Leading the debate, Kalu who is the Chief Whip of the Senate said that the bill was read for the first time on June 30, 2020.

Kalu said that the bill was aimed at creating a criminal justice administration legislation that was both more effective and more humane.

“By more effective I mean that we should respond to crime in ways that produce socially desirable results greater safety, less fear, less suffering, greater respect for the rule of law and less injustice.”

He noted that this was the first time attempt to amend the law since it was enacted in 2015.

“The bill seeks to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015; the sections contradicting the principles of fair hearing and court jurisdiction as provided in the Constitution.

“This is to further avert some loggerheads between the administration of criminal justice Act and the Constitution.”

The lawmaker named some recommendations in the bill to include: “That Section 8 (4) of the Principal Act which provides;  that arraignment and trial of a suspect for a crime shall be in accordance with the provision of this Act unless otherwise stated in this Act be amended.

“It should be amended by deleting “unless otherwise stated in this Act” by inserting “and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

“The reason is that the Constitution, the Supreme law of the land provides in section 1(1) as follows;

“This Constitution is Supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“In view of the above provision of the Constitution, all authorities in Nigeria shall conform to the Constitutional provision.

“Therefore the administration of criminal justice Act shall also conform with the supreme provision of the Constitution 1999 as amended.”

Contributing Sen. Gabriel Suswan (PDP-Benue) said that the act has to be amended because some of its provisions had became obsolete.

“It is not just about amending some sections as proposed by the sponsor of the bill.

“There are a lot of mistakes in the Act and people have been unjustly convicted because of the mistakes, but because they have not been challenged up to the Supreme Court.

“We now have the singular opportunity to as proposed here to correct those mistakes,” he said.

Suswam said that most states have not domesticated the Act due to the fact that it had failed to meet up with the aspirations of the state.

President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan, thereafter referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human rights and legal matters to report back within four weeks.