The Chief Judge of Bauchi State, Justice Rabi Talatu Umar has lamented that delays in the dispensation of justice and congestion of dockets of the courts and by extension congestion of Correctional Centres with a high population of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs) are the norm and the order of the day.
Rabi Talatu Umar was speaking at the official unveiling of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2022, Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law 2022 and the Penal Code Law 2022 of Bauchi State held at the NUJ Press Center, Bauchi on Tuesday.
According to her, “Some latest figures will give us an idea of where we are as a State in the administration of justice in Bauchi State. From our records in the Central Registry of the High Court where cases are registered and assigned to Magistrate and District Courts within Bauchi metropolis.”
Represented by the Chief Registrar of the State High Court, Barr Subilim Emmanuel, the CJ stated that, records show that from January 2021 to December 2021, 567 civil cases were registered, 1232 criminal cases were registered out of which 219 cases were GBV cases.
Also, between January 2022 to December 2022, 1319 civil cases were registered; 2416 criminal cases were registered out of which 184 cases were GBV cases while from January to 13 February 2023, 130 civil cases were registered, 275 criminal cases were registered out of which 17 are GBV cases.
According to her, “These statistics only cover 11 of the 35 sitting Magistrates in the State and over 100 Sharia Courts across the State. This is not even without any reference to the pending cases in the various courts.”
She narrated that the journey to the signing into law of these Laws was not easy stating that, in the case of Administration of Criminal Justice Law and Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law, the repealed laws when assented to were perhaps said to be recent existing laws only in the statute books.
The CJ stated, “however, the reality is that these laws only existed in the bookshelves of the Ministry of Justice as they could not be implemented after their assent. The major reasons in the legal cycle are primarily because of the multiple incurable defects associated with the Laws.”
She added, “On the other hand, our Penal Code never saw the light of amendment since 30th September 1960 when it was signed Into law. It appears no one ever saw the need to review the law.”
Rabi Talatu Umar, therefore, stressed the need for these Laws, therefore, is not only timely but a necessity in today’s Bauchi State.
She said, “The cheering news for us is that, with the support and doggedness of the Executive and Legislative Arms, the Bauchi State Judiciary can today of having laws at least that will not only stand the test of time but revolutionize the administration of criminal justice.”
“With all sense of modesty and without assuming that these laws are perfect, these laws will bring about a significant improvement in the administration of our criminal justice,” the CJ added.
She concluded by saying, “Let me conclude by saying that merely enacting a good lawyer does not necessarily translate to the effective application of that law. It is therefore necessary that all the agencies and stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice in Bauchi State must endeavour to study and understand the provisions of these laws and work in synergy to ensure the realization of their objectives. May on this note live you with the thought-provoking quote of Oputa JSC to wit:
“In a progressing world, the law and the administration of justice cannot afford to be static and retrogressive. The only option open to our jurisprudence is intelligent, mature and progressive activism. We are not to fold our hands and do nothing. No. Our judges have to so interpret the law such that it makes sense to our citizens in distress and assures them of equal protection of the law, equal freedom under the law, and equal justice.”
In his keynote address, Bauchi State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General, Barr Muhammad Bununu expressed happiness that a new dawn in the administration of the criminal justice system in Bauchi State has come with the passage and assent of the ACJL 2022.
He said that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2022 became necessary as a result of the challenges and lacunae associated with the ACJL 2018.
Some of the challenges of the previous enactment include; the exclusion of Magistrates Courts in the law Typographical and structural errors that affect the construction of some sections of the Law and the Need to increase the jurisdiction of Magistrates Courts to cater for current realities in our society.
The Commissioner who was represented by the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry added that the need to review sentences for offences, Needs to harmonize the dual judicial and criminal justice system that runs concurrently in Bauchi State by replacing Customary Courts with Shariah Courts to strengthen the administration of criminal justice in the State as well as the exclusion of prescribed forms etc in the 2020 amendment of the ACJ Law.
These challenges and more were resolved in the ACJI 2022 in a collaborative effort between all relevant stakeholders that resulted in a comprehensive Law that will promote effective, speedy and efficient criminal justice service delivery in the state.
The main purpose of the ACJL 2022 is to ensure that criminal justice is administered in a fair, efficient, and effective manner.
Some of the specific purposes of the ACJL include: Speedy dispensation of justice: The ACJL aims to ensure that
criminal cases are handled and disposed of promptly, without undue delay, and by the law.
Protection of human rights: The ACJL seeks to protect the fundamental human rights of accused persons, victims, and witnesses in criminal trials.
Elimination of delays and bottlenecks: The ACJL seeks to eliminate unnecessary delays and bottlenecks that often slow down the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria.