On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill amending the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 to make it more effective and humane.
This came after the sponsor, Sen. Orji Uzo Kalu, presented the lead debate on the general principles of the bill during plenary.
The bill is known as the ‘Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (Amendment) bill, 2020.’
Leading the debate, Senate Chief Whip Kalu stated that the bill would be read for the first time on June 30, 2020.
According to Kalu, the bill’s goal is to create criminal justice administration legislation that is both more effective and more humane.
“By more effective, I mean that we should respond to crime in ways that result in socially desirable outcomes such as greater safety, less fear, less suffering, greater respect for the rule of law, and less injustice.”
He pointed out that this was the first attempt to change the law since it was passed in 2015.
“The bill seeks to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015, with sections that contradict the constitutionally mandated principles of fair hearing and court jurisdiction.”
“This is to further avoid some squabbles between the Criminal Justice Act and the Constitution.”
The bill includes the following recommendations: “That Section 8 (4) of the Principal Act be amended to provide that the arraignment and trial of a suspect for a crime shall be in accordance with the provisions of this Act unless otherwise stated in this Act.”
“It should be amended by replacing “unless otherwise stated in this Act” with “and the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution.”
“The reason for this is that Section 1(1) of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, states as follows:
“This Constitution is supreme, and its provisions shall bind all authorities and individuals throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“In light of the preceding Constitutional provision, all authorities in Nigeria shall conform to the Constitutional provision.”
“As a result, the administration of criminal justice Act must also comply with the supreme provision of the Constitution of 1999, as amended.”
Contributing Sen. Gabriel Suswan (PDP-Benue) stated that the act must be amended because some of its provisions are no longer applicable.
“It is not simply a matter of amending some sections as proposed by the bill’s sponsor.”
“There are numerous errors in the Act, and people have been wrongfully convicted not because of the errors, but because they have not been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.”
“We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct those mistakes,” he said.
According to Suswam, most states have not domesticated the Act because it has failed to meet the state’s aspirations.
After that, Senate President Ahmad Lawan referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters, which was given four weeks to report back.