Senate considers Orji Kalu’s bill seeking to make Criminal Justice Act ‘more humane’

by Amos Kalu
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A bill seeking to amend of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) has passed second reading at the senate.

The bill sponsored by him Orji Uzor Kalu, senate chief whip, is seeking to make the law more “effective and more humane”.

The bill passed first reading at the upper legislative chamber in July 2020 about a month after he was released from prison.

The former governor of Abia state was released from the Kuje Correctional Centre on June 2, 2020. He had spent five months in prison.
In December 2019, a federal high court in Lagos convicted the chief whip of money laundering to the tune of N7.1 billion.

On May 8, 2020, the supreme court nullified the conviction of Kalu on the grounds that Mohammed Idris, the trial judge, did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter since he had been elevated to the court of appeal.

While leading a debate on the legislation, the senator said there are sections in the Act that contradict the principles of fair hearing and court jurisdiction as provided for in the constitution.He said: ”That section 8 (4) of the principal act which provides ‘the arraignment and trial of a suspect for a crime shall be in accordance with the provision of this act unless otherwise stated in this act be amended by deleting ‘unless otherwise stated in this act’ by inserting ‘and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.’

“The constitution should be read together on provisions with establishment, composition and jurisdiction of courts.

“We can still set lofty goals for ourselves. I hope we can agree that, with this amendment, we aspire to create a criminal justice administration legislation that is both more effective and more humane.

“By ‘more humane’ I mean we should respond to crime in ways that recognise the humanity of those victimised by crime, those arrested and convicted of crime, and others who experience the ripple effects of crime and our justice system.”
On his part, Gabriel Suswam, senator representing Benue north-east, said many states are yet to domesticate the ACJA.

“When the judges had a conference here recently, some came to see me. And their complaint was about the ACJA,” he said.

“Most of the states have not domesticated the act.”

The bill passed second reading after it was put to a voice vote by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

I’m Hon Goodluck Uduma Ibe

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