By Ed Malik, A | December 11, 2022

United States-based Attorney General Alliance – Africa (AGA-Africa) has organized a two-day workshop on effective administration of criminal justice law (ACJL) for Imo State judicial officials in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice in Owerri, the State’s capital.

The workshop was aimed at equipping the State’s judicial officers on trends in the justice criminal system had in attendance a cross-section of lawyers, magistrates, prosecutors and judges to enable them to follow up cases in a speedy manner in courts to curtail delays, reduce backlogs and obtain judgement promptly, while also, dealing with criminal matters swiftly.

The event featured presentation of papers by such lead speakers as Dr. Anthony Idigbe, a senior advocate of Nigeria, Hanningstone Amol from Kenya, Ojiugo Chukwumaeze, Principal counsel and head of the Etiti Outstation of the department of public prosecutions of the State, Anthony Chuks Nwaneri.

Other speakers are private legal practitioner, Leigh Skipper, Partner, Duane Morris, Markus Green, board member of AGA-Africa, Cletus Ndubuisi Akowundu, Solicitor General/Permanent secretary, Ministry of justice, Imo State, and Ebelechukwu Enedah, Partner, Punuka Attorneys and solicitors.

In her paper, Chukwumaeze said that criminal law and the criminal process are determinant factors of civilization in establishing a proper balance in the maintenance of the tripartite societal interests comprising the State, the victim and the offender.

According to her, the Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice Law No. 2 of 2020 was signed by Governor Hope Uzodimma on March 11, 2020 and gazetted on March 26, 2020. This law, having come into effect in March 2020 abolished the Criminal Procedure Law Cap 31, Laws of Eastern Nigeria 1963 and is applied in criminal proceedings in the State.

She went further to state that the Imo State ACJL has its long title as ‘A Law to make provisions for the procedure to be followed in criminal cases in the High Court and Magistrates’ Courts in Imo State and for related matters and its purposes as … “to ensure that the system of administration of criminal justice in Imo State promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and protection of the rights and interests of the suspect, the defendant, and the victim.”

Chukwumaeze observed that the essence of the law is to ensure speedy dispensation of cases; to decongest the prisons and where there are no express provisions in the ACJL, the court is empowered to apply any procedure that will meet the justice of the case, adding that it is also to ensure that the criminal justice sector in the State meets with the world’s best practices.

The Kenyan lawyer, Amol in his presentation, commended the State for passing such an important aspect of the criminal justice law that tends to promote speedy trials in courts, saying, “we have come to build the capacity of State prosecutors and the Attorney General’s office to handle cases of kidnapping, money laundering and common crimes. We have to build their capacity to be able to carry justice faster.

“It is also intended to help the government decongest the prisons, decongest the police stations and importantly to ensure that bad people who have committed crimes face justice, he said.”

In her remarks, Enedah of Punuka Attorneys and solicitors , highlighted the essence of the workshop which was to build capacity of the stakeholders for effective administration of criminal justice law in the State. She maintained that the workshop is important because it is on effective administration of criminal justice which is the area of law that is targeted by criminal justice law.

She noted that since the passage of the law in 2020 and because of some challenges like the Covid-19, there has not been training on the law, noting that those who have been working with the law have not been trained on how to navigate around the law.

Enedah pointed out that AGA-Africa is actually the Attorney Generals in the United States and started in 2016 as an outreach to other African countries where they can compare and share notes having to come to realize that crimes do not respect borders.

“As traders are moving criminals are also moving across the borders, so in the fight against criminals and crimes there has to be a concerted effort which AGA-Africa is trying to foster to find ways of working together to fasten dispensation of justice, she stated.”

AGA’s primary objective is to provide a forum for legal officers to cultivate knowledge, co-operate on issues of legal concerns and coordinate actions which improve the quality of legal services available to different institutions. Again, the Attorney General Alliance (AGA) works ceaselessly to promote the rule of law and foster international cooperation in transnational criminal matters.

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