The launch of the Court Duty Solicitor Scheme in FCT: A Panacea for Speedy Justice Dispensation.

In June 2022, Hope Behind Bars Africa, in partnership with the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee, held a collaborative  capacity-building session with lawyers who would be engaged in the  Court Duty Solicitor Scheme. Hope Behind Bars did this to strengthen participants’ ability to provide pre-trial legal services to indigent defendants.

Recall that in February 2022, ACJMC launched the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) to make investigation and prosecution more transparent. The scheme mandates officers to take  statements from suspects only in the presence of a legal council. To achieve this, the ACJMC saw the need to train and deploy lawyers who will promptly tak up cases of offenders during their first interactions with the police.   In August 2022,  the ACJMC formally launched the Court Duty Solicitor Scheme (CDSS). The scheme aims to deploy lawyers to represent indigent and vulnerable litigants on trifle matters.  According to the Executive Secretary of the ACJMC, Mr Sulayman Dawodu Esq, the CDSS is one of the mechanisms effectuated to ensure that citizens have access to justice irrespective of their financial status. It  will ensure speedy trials and decongestion of detention facilities in the country including the reduction of the dockets of the courts. It  will also make it easy for defendants to access legal representation at their first appearance. 

‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.

William E Gladstone 

(Former British Statesman and Prime Minister) 

The criminal justice system is the machinery the society uses to enforce the standards of conduct necessary to protect citizens and property. It is a fusion of various arms of government that aim to enforce the law and mitigate crime. These include the Police, the Chief Law Officer/Prosecutor, Judiciary and Correctional centres. There are other stakeholders like the lawyers and the organisations that work to hold the government accountable or provide legal aid, amongst others. These arms interface and are required to address criminal matters collaboratively, and in various capacities, ensuring that justice is speedily dispensed by investigating suspects, protecting victims of crimes and witnesses, convicting and sentencing the guilty, reducing reoffending, while absolving the  innocent.

According to statistics by World Police Brief,  7 out of 10 incarcerated persons are awaiting trial. This is attributed to various factors such as inadequate and under equipped criminal justice facilities, inadequate criminal justice personnel, the inability of suspects to afford the services of a legal counsel at the time of arrest amongst others.  Research has shown that the more crucial time for a defendant to access legal representation is between the point of arrest and arraignment. With the launch of the CDSS, defense lawyers will be available to represent  indigent defendants at the points of arraignment in selected locations in the Federal  Capital Territory (FCT). 

With the laudable legislative improvements made through the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) which was  signed into law in 2015, serving as a replacement for the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and Criminal Procedure Code in Southern and Northern Nigeria.  We are glad that FCT will again benefit from the innovations of the ACJA  through the launch of the CDSS and we are excited to be partners with the ACJMC as we work together to continually strengthen the capacity of the lawyers deployed towards the scheme.   We believe that the CDSS, if properly implemented, will be a channel for effective and speedy dispensation of criminal justice in FCT. 

By: Grace Eche, Head of Operations

THE UPSURGE OF JAILBREAK IN NIGERIA

By Samson Ojodomo Onuche,

Nigeria has witnessed a significant rise in the incidence of jailbreak from 2015-2022. The most recent successful jailbreak, is the attack on the Nigeria Correctional Centre facilities in Kuje, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on 6 July 2022, which led to the escape of several inmates.

According to Hope Behind Bars Africa data on jailbreak in Nigeria, there have been 13 successful jailbreaks and 8 unsuccessful attempts from 2015-2022. A total of about 6,611 inmates have successfully escaped from Correctional facilities across various states in Nigeria. This data points to the fact that there is 80% percent success on jailbreak/attacks and 20% unsuccessful jailbreak/attack attempts within the past 7 years.

These incidents are worrisome, it presents a grave consequence on the security challenges currently being faced by Nigeria. By law, The Nigeria Correctional Centre Custodial facilities are built to hold inmates suspected to have committed a crime or persons convicted of a crime. These inmates are expected to go through various stages that will ensure reformation, before they are reintegrated to the society. Therefore, Jailbreak clogs the laudable purposes of incarceration.

Wryly, there has been contributory negligence on the part of the government that has upsurge jailbreaks in Nigeria. In advanced systems, the Prisons are classified into categories such as; Maxi-Maxi security Prisons, Maximum Security Prisons, Medium Security Prisons, Minimum security Prisons, Women’s Prison etc. Inmates are strictly kept in each facility based on the security risk such inmates pose. This has not been observed strictly in Nigeria. There are also situations of inadequate information management system for inmates, lack of modern security technology, inadequate manpower and security personnel, corruption and conspiracy from Correctional Service officers. The Nigerian government has also been more reactive to incidence of jailbreak rather than taking proactive steps to prevent jailbreak.

While the Nigeria Correctional Services authorities have made an effort to apprehend the escapees from the Kuje Jailbreak and have published the names and pictures of these escapees, this effort may not heed the desired result, due to the fact that such pictures were
not displayed in conspicuous places across Nigeria and there are no adequate data or profiling of these escapees.

The government must avoid these messy situations. Strict classification of inmates in Correctional facilities must be carried out. There must also be the speedy determination of criminal cases and decongestion of Correctional Centres in line with the laudable provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Laws of states that have domesticated it. Superintendents and other officers of Corrections must maintain cordial relationships with inmates. This will encourage inmates to report conspiracy from other inmates. There must be control of inmates’ subcultures and cliques, proper feeding, a Hygienic environment,

comfortable cells, good medical facilities, fortification of the prison perimeter fence, modern security and surveillance system, and proper documentation of inmate’s data on the Nigerian Corrections Information Management System (CIMS). Emergent actions must be taken in the general security architecture of the country. These will go a long way to forestall future occurrences of jailbreaks in Nigeria.