This long essay aims to examine the existence of rights, under the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, accorded to victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants and analyze them through comparison with both the antecedence of Nigerian administration of criminal justice as well as global and international standards on these rights through a qualitative doctrinal research of said Act. The purpose of this is to explore the provisions of the ACJA to investigate whether the Act lives up to the many accolades it has received from legal scholars and jurists since its enactment. This is because, the furtherance of the rights and interests of such parties – victims and defendants especially – is part of the purpose set out in section 1 of the Act. In addition, this long essay will examine if the Act is in line with global and international standards to accord a set of rights to witnesses, a class of parties to criminal proceedings who is not covered by the innovative purport of the ACJA.
In order to achieve the above research objectives, this long essay has explored the Nigerian administration of criminal justice system, from the precolonial era of criminal justice administration and examine the evolutions until the present regime of the ACJA. The purpose is to provide a background and foundation for the evaluation of how much progress the system has made due to its enactment. This long essay then identified the established rights of the concerned parties internationally as well as the rights provided for by the ACJA in order to demonstrate how well the Act has done in comparison to these standards, which are the goals of States in the present global legal climate. After identifying the aforementioned facts, this long essay then undertaken a critical analysis on the performance of the ACJA regarding the provided rights of each class of individuals researched upon.
On this, the long essay posits that the ACJA has achieved much in comparison to both its past and its goals for the future. However, some critical observations and findings as to its specific performance regarding each party concerned will be highlighted. As a result of the findings in this study, this long essay recommends amendments to the Act regarding the rights of victims and witnesses as well as towards elevating the status of witnesses under the Act. It is believed that this will go a long way in moving the Nigerian administration of criminal justice system closer to the goal of meeting global and international standards.
Keywords: ‘Administration of Criminal Justice Act’, ‘Rights’, ‘Victim’, ‘Witness’, ‘Defendant’.
- CHAPTER INTRODUCTION 13
- CHAPTER INTRODUCTION 22
- THE ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT (ACJA) ERA 26
- CHAPTER INTRODUCTION 30
- ACJA – Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015
- ALL NLR – All Nigeria Law Reports
- Anor. – Another
- CA – Court of Appeal
- Cap. – Chapter
- CCCJ – Court of Civil and Criminal Justice
- CFRN – Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) 2011
- CPA – Criminal Procedure Act
- CPC – Criminal Procedure Code
- DPP – Director of Public Prosecution
- E.A. – Evidence Act, 2011
- ed. – Edition
- etc. – Etcetera (including other things)
- FRN – Federal Republic of Nigeria
- GJISS – Global Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
- Hon. – Honourable
- i.e. – That is
- Ibid. – Above
- IPO – Investigating Police Officer
- JSC – Justice of the Supreme Court
- LFN – Law(s) of the Federation of Nigeria
- LPELR – Law Pavilion Electronic Law Report
- NLR – Nigerian Law Report
- NWLR – Nigeria Weekly Law Report
- Op. Cit. – Opere Citato (in the work cited)
- Para. – Paragraph
- Pg. – Page
- P. – Page
- Pp. – Page
- Pt. – Part
- SC – Supreme Court
- Supra. – Above
- UN – United Nations
- UNLSJ – University of Nigeria Law Students Journal
- UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
- U.S.A. – United States of America
- US – United States
- v – Versus or Against (used in citing case law)
- Vol. – Volume
- WACA – West African Court of Appeal
- Aminu Ogwuche v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2013)————————————– 37, 38
- Gabriel Torwua Suswam v Federal Republic of Nigeria and Anor. (2020) LPELR 49524 C.A.-43 3. Godwin Josiah v the State (1985) I NWLR 125———————————————————— 2, 10
- Kabiru Umar v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2013)—————————————— 10, 37
- Okon v The State (1988) 1 NWLR Pt 69 18
- Sambo Dasuki v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2018) LPELR 43969 C.A———————– 37
- Suraju and Olanrewaju v The State (2020) LPELR 49569 S.C———————————– 43
8. R v Okoye (1950) 19 NLR 103 17
- Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015—————————————————- 1,
2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43,
44, 45, 46, 48
- Criminal Code Act 7, 22, 24, 26
- Criminal Procedure Act Cap. C41 LFN, 2004—————————————————- 2,
3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 33, 34, 43, 45, 46
- Criminal Procedure Code Cap. C42 LFN, 2004————————————————– 2,
3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 33, 34, 43, 45, 46
- Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) 2011 Cap. C23 LFN, 2004-
-7, 25, 38, 39, 41, 42
- Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000————————————— 36
7. Evidence Act, 2011 17, 18
- Penal Code Act 7, 22, 24, 26, 32, 33
- Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013———————————————– 36, 37
- United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, General Assembly Resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985——————————————- 16, 17
As a country with deep cultural history and ancient ethnic civilizations, Nigeria’s administration of criminal justice system dates back to the pre-colonial times in African antiquity. Before the European conquest and division of the African continent, the ethnic nations that built their civilizations in the region known as Nigeria today had their various social operations and systems, including one to administer criminal justice: ‘Customary law’. Nigeria’s administration of the criminal justice system in the precolonial era was predominated by the procedure of using local chiefs, tribunals, deities and their priests.1 The criminal procedure governed by customary law was chiefly adversarial with the burden of proof placed on the accused, who, in today’s legal context, was deemed guilty until proven innocent.2
In the present era, however, things are vastly different. The current legal scene is dominated by statutes and legislations inspired by the English legal system but is constantly being revamped and reformed for the laws to conform to the current indigenous Nigerian values. Thus, it is no secret or surprise that the Nigerian legal system – and the administration of the criminal justice system by extension – has gone through an enormous evolution. The kinds of rights and obligations existing now are not exactly as they were in precolonial times. An apt indication of this evolution is the recently enacted Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.3
The ACJA is a statute that truly marks a new era for the Nigerian legal system – and the administration of the criminal justice system by extension. It has been praised by many scholars as revolutionary legislation in the Nigerian legal extraction because of its various innovative provisions which according to many, 4 have done much in pushing Nigeria forward onto the desired goal of meeting up with international and global standards.5 A large number of these innovative provisions involve or constitute the enforcement of human rights and other constitutional rights which have been violated
1 See S.G. Barnabas, A. N. Obeta, ‘An Examination of the Coexistence of Statutory and Customary Criminal Law in Nigeria’ in International Journal of Social Sciences.
2 See O. N. I. Ebbe, ‘World Fact-book of Criminal Justice Systems: Nigeria’ in World Fact-book of Criminal Justice Systems: Nigeria P.169658.
3 Enacted in May 2015.
4 See M. L. Garba, ‘Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015: Innovations, Challenges and Way Forward’ in National Association of Judicial Correspondents Lecture, 2017; See also Y. Akinseye-George, ‘Summary of Some of the Innovative Provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015’.
and unprotected by the previous legal regimes;6 additionally, they accord a new variety of rights to certain classes of parties whose interests the Act has purposed to cater for. There is, however, a need to truly understand the provided/accorded rights especially relative to the history of the ACJA in the CPA and CPC, its purposes and international and global standards.
Section 1, the long title and the explanatory memorandum of the Act states that:
This Act provides for the administration of criminal justice system which promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and protection of the rights and interest of the suspect, the defendant and victims in Nigeria.7
According to the above, the classes of parties whose interests the Act has purposed to cater to include suspects of crime, criminal defendants and victims of crime. Tritely, these are all important parties in criminal proceedings, however, there are a few points of concern. The first is the exclusion of witnesses from this selection. In comparison to suspects, witnesses are a more important class of parties to criminal proceedings; they are a powerful source of evidence and are fully engaged in the most active part of trials. As such, it is puzzling that the ACJA did not include them as parties whose interests are important enough to be statutorily catered for. The scenario is contrary to the established dictum of Oputa J.S.C (as he then was) in the case of Godwin Josiah v the State,8 wherein he said that:
Justice is not a one-way traffic. It is not justice for the appellant only. Justice is not even, only a two-way traffic. It is justice for the defendant accused of a heinous crime of murder; it is justice for the victim, the murdered man, i.e. the deceased ‘whose blood is crying to the high heavens for vengeance’; and finally it is justice for the society at large – the society whose social norms and values had been desecrated and broken by the criminal act complained of… that justice which seeks only to protect the appellant is not even-handed justice… but justice sacrificed at the shrine of guilt.9
6 See Y. Akinseye-George, ‘The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015: An Overview in Relation to Criminal Cases Adjudication in the Federal High Court’.
7 See section 1 ACJA.
8 (1985) I NWLR 125.
9 Ibid. per Oputa JSC.
While this statement itself does not include witnesses, it reflects the importance of considering the interests of all parties who are directly or indirectly affected by the committed crimes. Also, Nigeria is currently a developing third world country, and like other countries of this class, has constraints in terms of being able to meet up with international and global standards on many fronts. The direct implication of this fact – especially on the administration of the criminal justice system – is that the state of the nation has a vastly negative difference from the expected global standards. One such standard is state protection and compensation of delicate individuals, these may be the crime victims, the witnesses, – especially first-hand witnesses – or the defendant(s); naturally, the party or parties to be accorded these rights differ according to the different cases. However, it is a standard that some basic levels of these rights be accorded to victims, witnesses and defendants in all cases. As such, Nigeria’s all-around difficulty in meeting up with global standards poses a problem in light of the provisions of the ACJA concerning these rights. Of course, it may well be that the revolutionary ACJA has brought Nigeria up this particular pedestal, but that is debatable.
Finally, the fact that the ACJA has continuously been lauded as revolutionary and innovative poses an issue in itself. Is this assertion true? If so, how true is this assertion? And relative to what terms between Nigeria’s administration of the criminal justice system’s history – the CPA and CPC – and the international and global standards on the administration of criminal justice is this assertion true? These questions need to be answered as a focal point on what will come next in the development of Nigeria’s legal system going forward. Will the ACJA play a role in that as leading legislation due to being good enough or will it join the scores of statutes that require reformation? These and other related issues are the focus of the study for which this long essay is written.
In response to the identified issues in part 1.2 of this chapter, the study for which this long essay is written was conducted with the following objectives in mind:
- To find out the provisions of the ACJA on victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants.
- To find out whether or not the ACJA accorded rights to victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants.
- To find out the exact nature of rights accorded to victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants by the ACJA if any.
- To find out whether the ACJA’s exclusion of witnesses from the classes of parties whose interest the Act is purposed to cater for was reflected in its provisions on witnesses.
- To find out what status the provisions of the ACJA on victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants hold in comparison to the relevant provisions of the CPA and CPC. Can they be considered superior, similar or inferior?
- To find out whether or not the provisions of the ACJA on victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants can be considered as up to international and global standards.
Thus, the aims of this study, in brief, are:
- To examine the provisions of the ACJA on the rights of victims of crime, witnesses in criminal proceedings and criminal defendants;
- To analyse the wholesomeness and propriety of these provisions in light of the CPA and CPC, the purpose of the ACJA as well as the international and global standards for these rights; and
- To conclude, based on the above, on the relative truth of the popular assertion that the ACJA is innovative legislation that pushes Nigeria closer to meeting up with international and global standards.
The study for which this long essay is written, covered the evaluation of the rights of victims, witnesses and defendants, as provided for by the ACJA – in general. The scope of the study stems from an understanding of the ACJA from the viewpoint of Nigeria’s administration of criminal justice history and extends to examining its provisions concerning the aforementioned intended subjects matter and making analysis on the wholesomeness and propriety in comparison to the ACJA’s antecedent legislations – the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA)10 and Criminal Procedure Code (CPC)11
– as well in comparison to international and global standards on said issues.
However, the study is limited as the above analyses will be based on purely doctrinal research as the research only involves the analysis of legislation and legal writing. The lack of a social experiment limits the study in terms of the inability to gauge the accuracy of the results of the study through observations of the situation reality; thus this study only qualifies as theoretical analysis. Additionally,
10 Cap. C41 LFN 2004.
11 Cap. C42 LFN 2004.
due to factors mainly involving the novelty of the ACJA – which has been in force for five years – there is a dearth of case law on the intended subjects matter. This will reflect in the minimal reference to and analysis of cases in this long essay. Furthermore, the novelty of the ACJA also influences the number of writings done on it and the intended subjects matter. All the work previously done on the intended subjects matter are contained in articles, which are difficult to access. Of course, there is a possibility that there may be some work or writing done in a book(s), however, the research was unable to confirm that. Finally, the study is limited due to the short period of research, spanning roughly three (3) months; the limited time handicapped the research, making it unable to fully explore the work previously done on the intended subjects matter, for a more thorough analysis.
The study for which this long essay is written as aforementioned covers a bevvy of issues which can be considered important or very important, depending on the audience reading this essay. It is justified, firstly, in that it will solve one of the problems that plague many parts of the Nigerian legal system: the ignorance of the Nigerian citizens. This study will provide enlightenment on what the rights of victims, witnesses and defendants should be and what these rights are under the ACJA. The import of this is to provide a clear indication of how far Nigeria has left to trudge on the journey of meeting up with international and global standards. Additionally, this study will provide some insight on what areas need to be improved as well as the way forward for the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. This study is important as it will do an extensive analysis of the provisions of the ACJA concerning the intended subjects matter, this study should serve as constructive criticism to the drafters of the ACJA by identifying the gaps and loopholes in the relevant provisions. Finally, due to the novelty of the Act and the issues surrounding it, this study is considered as a study in an emerging area and thus, will contribute to the knowledge on the intended subjects matter.
The research method used for this study is purely doctrinal research including observational, evaluative and analytical research methods. Doctrinal research focuses on strictly legal element. This is true of the study for which this long essay is written. Besides being doctrinal, the research also applies a qualitative research method, rather than a quantitative one, opting to focus on the analysis of specific sources. The main primary source used for this research is the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. Additional sources are the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) 2004, the
Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) 2004 and a few international treaties and conventions of the United Nations for evaluative and analytical purposes. Then the ancillary sources include internet, essays, articles and judicial authorities.
No extra-legal or empirical elements were included in the research. This research is limited in that it only qualifies as theoretical work. The lack of any extra-legal elements including social research, makes it almost impossible to assess the accuracy or inaccuracy of the theoretical conclusions of doctrinal research in comparison to the real situation. Finally, in the course of conducting the study, the research adhered to the rules on plagiarism and the maintenance of human rights, especially intellectual property rights.