The criminal justice system basically refers to the series of government agencies and institutions whose goal is to identify law-breakers and to inflict the punishment that comes as a result of breaking that law. It is the system put in place to deliver justice to those who have committed crimes.
The criminal justice system in Nigeria is basically made up of the prisons, the courts and the police. Thus, for the criminal justice system in Nigeria to be considered effective, these agencies must work harmoniously for the prevention, investigation, punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. This was fundamentally the issue for discussion at the Criminal Justice Reforms Conference held by the Nigerian Bar Association.
In a publication by Oladimeji Ramon, in the Punch news on May 3, 2018, it was reported that according to the conference held in Asaba, Delta state, the NBA is in search of a stronger criminal justice system. The conference had the theme “Criminal Justice Reforms in Nigeria- The Journey So Far”, and it was an avenue for the cross-fertilization of ideas among stakeholders in the criminal justice system such as lawyers, judges and law enforcement agencies such as the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
The NBA president, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) stated that the justice system is near collapse in the North-East, but that the upsurge in criminality continued to put pressure of the criminal justice system of the country as a whole. He also stated that “Our country still labours under ineffective administration of justice”. The NBA president also stated that part of the effort of the NBA in reforming the criminal justice system was its campaign for the domestication of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 at the state level.
The snail’s pace of criminal trials in court which has made it difficult for agencies such as the EFCC and the ICPC to achieve closure in most of the criminal cases they have instituted was yet another concern raised at the conference. Thus, the creation of special courts was recommended, to reduce the burden on the regular courts.
The problem of a lack of financial autonomy for state judiciaries was also highlighted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu made a case for the autonomy of the INEC in terms of financial and administrative capacity, to enable it work optimally.
Some more problems and solutions were discussed during the conference, with the main objective of finding viable solutions to the problems of the criminal justice system, with the hope that the various individual parts of the criminal justice mechanism will take steps in the right direction to strengthen criminal justice in Nigeria.