Partners West Africa has presented the findings of its survey into how courts in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, have been complying and using the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA in the conduct of proceedings before them.
According to the organization, the survey which involved 65 court rooms made up of Magistrate and High Courts in Abuja also examined if ACJA is achieving its aim of helping to speed up dispensation of justice.
Findings of the survey revealed how court proceedings are organized, when the courts open and close, location of courts, support available to courts and how long it takes for cases to be concluded.
On its findings on resumption and closing time of the courts in FCT, the NGO said, “In the High court, the average time when the courts observed commenced sitting was 9:35am, they went on recess at 11:54am and resumed back from recess by 12:27pm and closed for the day by 14:14.
“For the Magistrate courts, average time courts start sitting is 9:45am, average time for recess is 11:44am, resumption from recess 12:08pm and on average close for the day by 13:51pm.”
On management of cases since ACJA, Partners West Africa said out of the total number of courts it surveyed, 25% said they had handled 1-4 cases, 23% handled 5-9 cases and 21% - 10-20 cases since the coming of the ACJA, 14 (14%) made up of judges, magistrates, police, FMOJ & ICPC indicated they have handled 30 cases and above since ACJA.”
The organization also said its findings on trainings of Judges in the use of ACJA revealed that: “Only 72 respondents (39%) have been trained on the ACJA these are prosecutors of ICPC (12), judges (11) & magistrates (8); and the trainings were mainly provided by their employers & donor support program. Although 11 out of the 13 registrars surveyed have partly or fully read the ACJA only (8%) which is 1 person has been trained on the ACJA.”
On whether ACJA is achieving the aim of helping to speed up trial and dispensation of justice, the findings by the NGO indicated that of the total of judges & magistrates, 18 said since ACJA they have disposed of 6-15 cases; 9 have disposed of less than 5 cases, while only 5 persons have disposed of over 30 and above.
It added that 22% of members of the judiciary said it takes them 91-180 days to dispose of criminal cases in their courts, while 59% said it takes them above 180 days to do same.
The findings recommended that Criminal Justice agencies should allow access to information in promotion of the Freedom of Information Act which does not categorize most of the information in their custody as classified.
The NGO noted that some staff of the Federal Ministry of Justice are also unwilling to disclose information on level of implementation of the ACJA