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Stakeholders call for swift implementation of ACJ law in Akwa Ibom state

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Since the introduction of the ACJA 2015, only selected States of the Federation have successfully domesticated the Act; thus making it imperative for increased sensitization to promote the domestication and harmonized implementation of the ACJA 2015 across Nigeria, in order to tackle existing and emerging areas of crime and criminality as well as ensure the effective and efficient administration of the criminal justice system. This was the objective of the NBA-MAC ARTHUR project team when it held a one day "State validation Public forum with relevant stakeholders on the Implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice in AKWA IBOM STATE". These auspicious engagement took place on Tuesday 16th January, 2017.

The workshop is also scheduled to take place in other phase1 states of Bayelsa, Edo, Ogun, Kano, Kogi, Jigawa, Bauchi and Adamawa

In her welcome address, Eno-Obong Akpan, Esq, Chairman of Uyo Branch of the NBA, noted that the state validation public forum is timely and entirely appropriate in providing a platform for participants to discuss elaborately, share ideas and best practices that will assist the various institutions in the criminal justice system to effectively implement the administration of Criminal Justice (ACJA) 2015, which has been domesticated by various states across the Federation.

Delivering the opening remarks, NBA 3rd Vice President; Ben Orji Esq, who represented the President of the NBA, A. B. Mahmoud OON, SAN at the State Validation Public Forum said that; "the administration of criminal justice project supported by MacArthur Foundation falls squarely within the thematic areas set out in the NBA strategic plan and include: Justice sector reforms, rule of law and access to justice, elections and democracy, human rights, anti-corruption and, lastly, conflict resolution and transitional justice."

Muritala Abdul-Rasheed, Esq, who gave the overview of the project stated that; "it is a three (3) year NBA Administration of Criminal Justice project supported by MacArthur Foundation, which aims to strengthen the Nigerian criminal justice system and promote wide-spread criminal justice reform across Nigeria."

He added that: "The purpose of today's validation public forum with stakeholders in Akwa Ibom state is to assemble key stakeholders, ACJ practitioners and members of the public at state-level to validate the Akwa Ibom ACJ Law."

In his opening speech, the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Umemedimo Nwoko, Esq commended the executive Governor of Akwa Ibom and the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for partnering together to enact and bring into effect the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Akwa Ibom State, which he said, came into effect on the 21st of March, 2017. He expressed confidence that, the state will in no distant future, begin to reap the proceeds of its implementation. He then went on to declare the workshop open on behalf of the State Governor.

Former first Vice President of NBA, Mr. Francis Ekwere, moderated the plenary session which attracted some of the finest brains in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Akwa Ibom State. He advised the state government to make available copies of the Akwa Ibom State Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) to the public for effective implementation.

Hon. Justice Ifiok Ukana, delivered the keynote address in which he declared that the present criminal procedure Law is obsolete, inadequate and completely unresponsive to these times.

"The desire to turn things around, to bring a new lease of life and enthrone a more humane and responsive criminal justice regime can only come about through comprehensive overhaul of the existing Criminal Procedure Law in our state." said Hon. Justice Ifiok Ukana.

He noted that, one of the major malice of the criminal justice system has been holding suspects in custody for inordinately long period with or without a trial." He said "it needs to be mentioned that conducting trial within a trial in the course of the main trial has great effect on slowing down the pace of trial. It is time consuming. Yet, determining the voluntariness or otherwise of the confessional statement of an accused person cannot be dispensed with. It is itself a measure of fair trial."

Dr. Uwem Udok of the faculty of law, University of Uyo, who is the lead speaker believes that the word adoption should replace domestication. He said that he had always advocated for the use of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) as the working document into which practitioners could incorporate elements of CPC or CPA as the case may be, and not the other way round, in order to produce acceptable statute for administration of criminal justice.

Director Public Prosecution Akwa Ibom state, Uduak Eyo Nsa Esq, who is a discussant, agreed that sensitization workshops like this should be carried out in all the nooks and crannies of the state to intimate the public of their rights which the ACJL introduced for effective implementation of the law. She also advocated the setting up of community service center; "We need to have community service centers to monitor noncompliance of the provisions of the law for effective implementation of the ACJL in Akwa Ibom state.

Godwill Umoh, Esq, a Lecturer with the Faculty of Law, University of Uyo said the committee set up by the state for implementation should go beyond implementation and look at the society on how not to breed more criminals. He noted that, the rate at which criminals proceedings are going on in court is alarming and required societal reorientation as well as government effort in tackling unemployment.

Hon. Justice Achibong Achibong, the judge who heads the Criminal division of the High Court wondered why the governor will sign a bill in March 2017 and nobody would hear of it. He posited that it portends a frightening consequences. He urge lawyers to quickly find a way to grab a copy of the law and get accustomed to it as the new innovations introduced have conditions lay out that will affect their fillings.

He also urged the DPP to demand for more funding, as this has become a law and is no longer a government policy.

The General Secretary of the NBA; Aare Isiaka Abiola Olagunju gave the closing remark. He thanked the speakers and panel members, while noting that, their presence has been invaluable and, without any doubt, has helped to make the event a great success. The General Secretary also expressed his appreciation on behalf of the NBA to all those who have been involved in the organization of the event, especially the Chairman of Uyo Branch of the NBA, members of staff of the NBA National Secretariat and OPNBA as well as the other branch chairmen in the state.

The workshop brought together members of the private and public bar, key members of the Judiciary and House of Assembly, Legal Practitioners, ACJA Practitioners, Academia, Civil Society Organizations and a rich mix of other key stakeholders from the Police, EFCC, ICPC, CCB, Prisons, Law Reform Commission, Naval Officers from NNS Jubilee and about 300 Lawyers who ply their trade in Akwa-Ibom State etc. The next State engagement will hold in Bauchi on the 25th 0f January, 2018

Communications Team
Office of the President of the NBA [OPNBA]
16th January, 2017.