23rd July 2024
Business & Economy Crime & Investigation Eastern News

How we fast-tracked Kalu’s, others’ trials, by Justice Bulkachuwa

How we fast-tracked Kalu’s, others’ trials, by Justice Bulkachuwa

Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

 

The President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa has given hints on how the Judiciary was working to eradicate delay in criminal trials.

Bulkachuwa gave hints about how her court has been able to avert delay that would have clogged proceedings in criminal cases including the recently concluded trial of former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu, who is currently a serving Senator.

“I was part and parcel of the making of the ACJA from inception. I have also witnessed its implementation.

“So, I was very much interested in what will come out of it. And, I had the chance to fully participate when applications were made by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), Federal Ministry of Justice and other prosecuting bodies, that our Justices, who were appointed from the High Courts, and elevated to the Court of Appeal, be given fiats to go back to the various High Courts and conclude the case they have started.

“First, we had to determine at what stage they could go in. After looking at the ACJA, we saw that once all the prosecution’s witnesses have testified, there will be no need to start the matter de novo (start afresh) again. We felt it was more in the interest of justice to have the matter completed.

“Most of the matters may be because they are not high profile cases, nobody heard about them. But, I have given fiats at least, more than 50 times, for Justices of the Court of Appeal to go back and complete their assignments.

“The most recent is that of Justice (Mohammed) Idris when he completed the case of former Governor Orji Kalu. But, before then, I think he has completed not less than 12 or 15 of such matters…”

“I think this is a big plus for the Criminal Justice Act, because matters now get to be completed within the shortest time possible and decisively.”

The PCA spoke in Abuja at a workshop on: “Towards national minimum standards for effective implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJLs).”

The workshop organised by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) is meant to rally stakeholders in all states and at the Federal Government level for the development of basic or common minimum standards for the effective implementation of the ACJA and ACJLs).

Other speakers, including the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, Chief Judges of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Borno State – Justices Ishaq Bello and Kashim Zannah, CSCL’s President, Professor Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN) and the Director General, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Prof Muhammad Ladan suggested ways to derive more benefits from the application of the ACJA.

Malami, represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF), Dayo Apata (SAN), hailed the many innovative provisions of the ACJA.

He noted that 30 states have adopted the Act and urged the remaining states to speed up the process of enacting their versions of Administration Criminal Justice Act.

Malami noted that the adoption of the ACJA was a initial step in reforming the criminal justice system. He added that the most important part was the implementation.

“The application of the law in the country has been slow. The Federal and state governments must put in place structures to guarantee the successful implementation of the laws,” Malami said.

Akinseye-George noted that “several of the developmental challenges facing our country are due to the low capacity of the criminal justice system to prevent or punish wrongdoing and reward positive contributions.

He warned against any act on the part of the Executive or any other arm of government to trample on the independence of the Judiciary.

“Let me seize this opportunity to appeal to the Executive arm of government, particularly the security agencies not to undermine our hard-earned democracy by desecrating the courts.

“They must learn to resist the temptation of using the coercive powers of state to interfere with the other arms of government particularly the judiciary.

“The action of some security personnel, who allegedly invaded the Federal High Court to arrest a defendant, must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.

“It is barbaric and unacceptable in a democracy as ours. If they must arrest a suspect, why must they do so right inside the court?

“It must be made loud and clear that any attempt to trample on the independence of the Judiciary will not augur well for democracy,” Akinseye-George said.

 

–  Nation

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