*As centre laments poor implementation of ACJA

The federal government on Wednesday disclosed that it is working with critical stakeholders to develop ‘Plea Bargain’ guidelines for prosecutors of the government as part of efforts at enhancing justice delivery in the country.

The Solicitor-General of the Federation (SGF) and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Beatrice Jeddy-Agba, made the disclosure while speaking at a two-day training for the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) Rangers on the implementation of the ACJA/ACJL.

The workshop, which is holding in Abuja, is being organized by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) in conjunction with the MacArthur Foundation.

The solicitor-general stated that plea bargain, which is one of the major innovations introduced by Section 270 of the ACJA, 2015, is aimed at ensuring speedy dispensation of criminal justice in the country.

“The development of the Plea Bargaining and Compounding of Offences Guidelines for Federal Prosecutors, 2022 is one of the strategic interventions by the Federal Ministry of Justice targeted at achieving this purpose.

“The guidelines are intended to promote consistency of practice in plea bargaining and compounding of offences, boost public confidence in the process and enhance efficiency of the criminal justice system for orderly, predictable, uniform, consistent and timely resolution of criminal matters,” she said.

Outside plea bargaining, she said that the government in partnership with other stakeholders in the justice sector has introduced the non-custodial sentencing of convicts and also established two virtual courtrooms at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja so as to bring to the barest minimum the issue of decongestion.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies has lamented what it described as the poor implementation of the ACJA passed in 2015.

The President of the CSLS, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), lamented that despite been domesticated in 33 states of the federation, its implementation is not encouraging.

“You will agree with me that passing a law is one thing, but applying it effectively is another thing. And that our problem in this country is not the lack of good laws but the lack of effective implementation or enforcement of our laws.

“Indeed, I make bold to say that a weak law which is properly implemented is better than a good law which is left on the shelf to gather dust,” he said.

The president, who spoke through the Vice-President of the CSLS, Mrs Olaide Akinseye-George, added that it was for the above reason that CSLS came up with the idea of identifying stakeholders who can be specially trained and deployed in their different states to advocate, motivate, champion or otherwise promote the proper implementation of ACJA and ACJL in the states.

She noted that for the ACJA to be effective, all members of the public must play their roles effectively and provide support for law enforcement personnel.

The objective of the training, according to her, is to inculcate in the participants improved knowledge of the ACJA/ACJL and to motivate them to take up the task of looking out for ways of ensuring compliance with the law by law enforcement personnel and other stakeholders of the system of criminal justice administration.

“Through this training, the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) proposes to train at least 370 persons consisting of about 10 from each of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT,” she added.

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