The central criminal registry and database of criminal record
There shall be established at the Nigeria Police Force a Central Criminal Records Registry and at every state police command to which shall be transmitted all criminal records.
All police commands shall ensure that the decisions of the courts in all criminal trials are transmitted to the Central Criminal Records Registry within 30 days of the judgment. The Attorney-General of the Federation shall establish an electronic and manual database of all records of arrests at the Federal and State levels.
A suspect arrested for an offence which a magistrate court has no jurisdiction to try shall, within a reasonable time of arrest, be brought before a magistrate court for remand. An application for remand under this section shall be made ex parte and shall be returnable within 14 days…
Control of prosecution of criminal cases
Subject to the provision of section 174 of the Constitution, relating to the powers of prosecution by the Attorney-General of the Federation, prosecution of all offences in any court shall be undertaken by: (a) the Attorney-General of the Federation or a Law Officer in the Ministry or Department; (b) a legal practitioner authorised by the Attorney-General of the Federation; or (c) a legal practitioner authorised to prosecute by this Act or any other Act of the National Assembly. By this provision the prosecution of federal offences by police officers who are not legal practitioners is no longer permitted…
Payment of costs, compensation damages and restitution to victims of crimes
The Act has made provisions for costs, compensation, damages and restitution. A court may, within the proceedings or while passing judgment, order the defendant or convict to pay a sum of money: as compensation to any person injured by the offence, irrespective of any other fine or other punishment that may be imposed by law, where substantial compensation is in the opinion of the court recoverable by civil suit. In compensating a bona fide purchaser for value without notice of the defect of the title in any property in respect of which the offence was committed and has been compelled to give it up; and in defraying expenses incurred on medical treatment of a victim injured by the convict in connection with the offence.
Under the Act the prosecution may enter into plea bargain with the defendant, with the consent of the victim during or after the presentation of the evidence of the prosecution, but before the presentation of the evidence of the defence. Plea bargain may be allowed if the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to prove the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt; where the defendant has agreed to return the proceeds of the crime or make restitution to the victim or his representative; or where the defendant, in a case of conspiracy, has fully cooperated with the investigation and prosecution of the crime by providing relevant information for the successful prosecution of other offenders.
Imprisonment and death sentence
If a defendant is convicted the court shall impose the penalty prescribed by law for the offence depending on the circumstances of the case. Any convict who is sentenced to death may apply for prerogative of mercy. The Prerogative of Mercy Committee shall review the application and make appropriate recommendation to the President. If the plea for clemency is rejected the sentence of death shall be executed by hanging the convict by the neck or by lethal injection. The Act has also made provisions for non-custodial alternatives including probation, parole, suspended sentence, performance of community service etc.
Where a defendant is charged before a court and the charge is proved the court may decide not to convict the defendant having regard to: (a) the character, antecedents, age, health, or mental condition of the defendant, (b) the trivial nature of the offence, or (c) the extenuating circumstances under which the offence was committed. In the circumstance, the court may dismiss the charge or discharge the defendant conditionally on his entering into a recognizance to be of good behaviour and to appear at any time within 3 years as may be specified in the order.
The court may, in addition, make order the defendant to pay damages for injury or compensation to the victim of the crime and such costs of the proceedings as the court thinks reasonable.
Notwithstanding the provision of any law creating an offence, where the court sees reason, the court may order that the sentence it imposed on the convict be, with or without conditions, suspended, in which case, the convict shall not be required to serve the sentence in accordance with the conditions of the suspension. The court may, with or without conditions, sentence the convict to perform specified service in his/her community or such community or place as the court may direct.
A convict shall not be sentenced to suspended sentence or to community service for an offence involving the use of arms, offensive weapon, sexual offences or for an offence which the punishment exceeds imprisonment for a term of 3 years. ParoleWhere the Comptroller-General of Prisons recommends to the court that a prisoner: (a) sentenced and serving sentence in prison is of good behaviour, and (b) has served at least one-third of the prison term of at least 15 years or life imprisonment, the court may, after hearing the prosecution and the prisoner or legal representative, order that the remaining term of the imprisonment be suspended, with or without conditions, as the court considers fit, and the prisoner shall be released from prison on the order. A prisoner who is so released shall undergo a rehabilitation programme in a government facility or any other appropriate facility to enable him to be properly reintegrated to the society.
No doubt, the AJCA is a timely intervention in the criminal justice sector in Nigeria. If implemented the Act will redeem the criminal justice from the tiny grip of rich and powerful criminal suspects and assist the anti graft agencies in the prosecution of corruption cases. But it is doubtful if the implementation of the new law will not be frustrated by the forces that have made a mockery of section 36 of the Constitution, section 40 of the EFCC Act and the 2013 practice directions of the federal courts which provide for the expeditious trial of criminal cases.
The Federal Government which is desirous to prosecute cases of economic and financial crimes should take advantage of the provisions of the AJCA.In particular, the federal government should provide adequate funding for the criminal justice sector.
Setting up and maintaining a central criminal records registry, rehabilitation centre for ex-convicts, compiling electronic and manual database of criminal records and video-recording of the statements of criminal suspects, visiting of detention facilities by magistrates and judges require etc sufficient funding.
The Administration of Justice Monitoring Committee should be encouraged to conduct enlightenment programmes for members of the Nigeria Police Force and other law enforcement agencies on the basic rights of suspects guaranteed by the law. From time to time, the human rights community and the media should promote civic education with respect to the relevant provisions of the AJCA.
They should ensure that the rights of suspects in detention facilities and prison inmates are recognised and respected by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Apart from the Lagos, Ekiti and Anambra states which have amended their criminal procedure laws before the federal government, other state governments are enjoined to adopt the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. Such adoption will ensure uniformity in the criminal justice system in the country.