By Justice Usman Bwala,
Kaduna State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mrs. Aisha Dikko, has said that the deployment of the mechanism of plea bargain will go a long way in enhancing speedy dispensation of justice in the country, as the mechanism would save judicious time that would have been spent arguing cases in court.
Mrs Dikko said contrary to the misconception in some quarters that people think when you offer money, you are left off the hook, the system ensures that offenders are punished according to law but only get lesser punishment because they own up to the crime.
She spoke at a two-day workshop on Effective Administration of Criminal Justice in Abuja. The workshop was put together by AGA Africa in collaboration with the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice.
The Kaduna AG said the state government realising the important role plea bargain plays in administration of criminal justice had decided to train stakeholders in the justice sector in Kaduna state on the effective implementation of the mechanism.
“The Ministry of Justice shall soon commence trainings on Plea Bargain as enshrined in the Administration of the Criminal Justice Law, ACJL, 2017 in the state. We believe this effort will help in decongesting the dockets of our courtrooms.
“The Ministry has also commenced the use of ‘Case Management System’, a software that improves data collection and monitoring in the day to day handling of cases”, she said.
She further disclosed that the state as part of efforts at ensuring compliance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, which was domesticated in 2017 inaugurated a Monitoring Committee in 2018 that was saddled with the mandate of monitoring the implementation and adherence to the provisions of the Law.
According to her, the state government enacted the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law, 2018, the Kaduna State Child Welfare and Protection Law, 2018, among other legislations to improve on the overall administration of justice in the state.
She said although the state is still at the implementation stage of the ACJ Law, it nonetheless has recorded some gains, particularly in the area of synergy among all agencies in the justice sector.
“It was enacted in 2017 and we are still at the implementation stage but since it clearly defines the roles of all the actors in the judicial system, the police, the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and the prisons, we are making progress because it has brought us together and we are sitting together and finding ways to make it easier and better for us to do our jobs and enhance our collaboration”, she said.
She noted that with relevant and adequate training which the workshop is meant to provide, coupled with the availability of a sizeable number of judges and magistrate to handle cases in the state, the ACJ Law would be smoothly implemented in Kaduna State.
Also speaking, Coordinator of the Workshop, Mrs. Ebelechukwu Enedah, who noted that the problem with most Nigeria’s laws and in particular the criminal justice law is mostly with implementation, said the workshop is specifically designed to address this challenge.
“What we are doing here is to build capacity for the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice and their prosecutions on the administration of criminal justice to ensure that what they come out with is something that is workable.”
She added that facilitators from both the United States of America and Nigeria has been selected to share information on ways of making the law work.
Mrs. Enedah lamented that five years after the law was passed at the federal level and with more than 25 states of the federation having domesticated the Act, there is very little to show.
“Statistic on implementation of ACJA does not really look good, even after the law was passed and being implemented, it didn’t do anything to the statistics, it didn’t show more conviction, it didn’t show more trial, so you will see there is a problem and the problem is the implementation of the law. If you have a law, no matter how beautiful the law is, if you are not implementing it, it adds no value to the system.
“That is why the capacity building is very important because people need to actually know how to go about investigations, need to know how to use plea bargain, the restorative justice which will facilitate the implementation of the law,” she added.
One of the AGA facilitator from Iowa in the United States, Mr Olubunmi Salami, said justice is served when it is served timely and expeditiously.
Olubunmi commended the efforts being made by the Kaduna State government towards the effective implementation of criminal justice law.
“We are here to share idea on how we all can improve the system not just in Kaduna, but we want to take the information that we could share with other African nations.”
He disclosed that in the State of Iowa where he is from, when a suspect is arrested, within 24 hours that suspect has to appear before a judge and within 10 days that suspect is entitled to a preliminary hearing.
He stated that while the prosecution has 45 days from the day arrest was made to file an indictment or trial information or else the case will be dismissed, the defendant he said is given 90 days to decide for a jury trial or bench trial.
He said with such system justice is done and done expeditiously.