By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, in Abuja, advocated the introduction of state police, adding that there were ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to reform the Criminal Justice System in Nigeria. This, he said, will help in repositioning the courts and the entire judiciary.
According to him, the reforms would also take into consideration the methods of appointing judges, their salaries and other welfare packages.
Osinbajo said the new justice system will ensure stiffer penalties for corruption.
The acting President who fielded questions from participants of Course 25 of the National Defence College, NDC, Abuja, after he delivered a lecture entitled “Economic Dimension of the National Security: The Nigerian Experience,” said “The criminal justice system as you know is policing, it is prosecution. It touches on our jails and so on. One of the most important things that we have always talked about in the criminal justice system is community policing. State police is very important because there is no federation of our size that does not have state police. You need community policing to be able to be more effective just in detection.
“If you look at the countries of the world, it is important for there to be a police force in the local community that is homegrown and understands the language, whereas the army can be a national army because the army hardly engages itself in internal issues except in extreme situations. The police cannot afford to be a federal force, there must be a community force. That is one aspect.
“The other aspect of it is the prosecution and detection. Of course there are so many issues around detection which we cannot go into now. Let’s just talk about prosecution.
“The prosecution of cases usually is a state affair and you find that if you have an effective investigation system, prosecutors will usually have good materials to work with but you also need the court system, the court system that is efficient. When a court system is inefficient, it is either for two reasons. One is structural and the other is an administrative issue.
“So, we need to build a system that is based on consequence for misdeeds and rewards for good conduct. Once that is put in place, most people are rational, there is nowhere in the world where people will run around doing what they like and the reason why they don’t is because there is a system in place. But once there is no system or the system doesn’t work, they do what they like.
“So, one of the critical things that we need to do is to ensure that people know that there is consequence for corruption especially within our system of justice. Once that is clearly outlined, it becomes easier to find judges or persons who will do their jobs diligently and who will not compromise.
“So, in the reform of the criminal justice system, we are in conversation with the relevant stakeholders, the Attorney- Generals and others, looking at what to do, how to do it, looking at the remuneration package, the appointment of judges, discipline and all that.
“Also, there are issues around the appellate system, trying to stop frivolous abuse of trials and the appellate courts must refuse any attempts to frustrate progress of trials in the lower courts. It is a whole comprehensive set of reforms that will be required.”
The acting President also admitted that there were divisions amongst the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, saying that a new orientation was needed to tackle the issue.