By Mary Agidi
The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative has commended Ondo State judiciary, especially the High Court for the diligence in concluding cases and for recording an average convictions within the stipulated time of arraignment under the Administration of Criminal Justice Law and Act, ACJL/A.
The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative, also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria, PWAN, made the commendation during the presentation of Findings of Cases monitored in selected courts in Ondo State to ascertain the level of compliance with ACJL in the dispensation of justice, in Akure Ondo State capital.
Meanwhile, the findings show that there were more adjournments at the instance of the prosecutors at the High courts, which lead to the length of trial increasing, and PWAN advised Prosecuting agencies to strive and conclude all investigations before drafting charges on corruption related matters.
It noted that doing so will reduce the requests for frivolous adjournments and curtail striking out of corruption related matters from courts.
In the release of findings, tagged ‘Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in the Judicial Sector’, which was presented to stakeholders in the judicial sector in Ondo State, PWAN stated that between November 2017-November 2018 period of cases monitoring, high courts were able to conclude 100% of the monitored cases, while the magistrate courts recorded 40% conclusion.
“We also commend the High courts for recording 50% convictions on cases observed while 39% was recorded in the Magistrate courts. Not a bad record of progress”, it said.
Presented by the Programme Officer of PWAN, Mr. Henry Anoliefo, the Magistrate courts were commended for adhering to the timeliness from filing of cases, to commencement of hearing and disposal of cases, while the high courts were encouraged to adopt the most suitable and speedy approach to these provisions.
It says, “It takes a longer time from date of filing of a charge to its assignment at the High court at 32 days compared to 5 days at the Magistrate court. It is commendable that the Judiciary has tried a lot in this regard particularly at the Magistrate courts while the High Courts has also done well, but there is room for improvement to meet up the 15 days’ provision of the ACJL”.
The findings were from 23 courts observed in Akure, Ikare Akoko, Osi, Ayede, Olokuta, featuring 47 criminal cases from both High and Magistrate Courts.
On prompt arraignment of defendants, prosecuting agencies responsible for detention of suspects in criminal matters are advised to arraign suspects promptly, to avoid delays.
Stakeholders at the presentation meeting, included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Bar Association, Association of Female Lawyers, Civil Society Organisations, Security Agencies and the media.
They commended the initiative and advised PWAN to train the Police on how to expedite cases and on the need to protect their informants, rather than detaining them.
A director in the State Ministry of Justice and former Chairperson of FIDA, Mrs. Bunmi Niyi-Arajuwa urged PWAN to also look at the area of domestic violence in their research, while assuring adequate support on the part of the ministry.