By Olufunke Johnson
The problem of delay in administration of Criminal Justice could be largely overcome if compensatory and reconciliatory procedures in the criminal process are further encouraged. This would have the effect of reducing the trial load in the court system and promote speed and efficiency.
This was the submission of the presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division in Lagos, Justice Mojeed Owoade, in his keynote address for the premier edition of the Professor Adedokun Adebayo Adeyemi Foundation Annual lecture Series with the theme: “Criminal Justice in Nigeria, The Past, The Present and The Future” at the Multipurpose Hall A, University of Lagos on Friday 19th of January, 2018.
Justice Owoade said delay may have serious repercussions on the accused/defendant. “…..not only does delay cause him emotional distress, it often imposes on the defendant financial stress and in many cases, embarrassment, for where the offence is one connected with his employment, it often involves his interdiction or dismissal”. He said delay often induces the accused to plead guilty even in a situation where he strongly disputes the prosecution’s case. “this is usually the case in petty offences involving the imposition of fines but there are cases in which accused persons who had been in custody for long period have offered to change their earlier pleas of ‘not guilty’ to ‘guilty’ in order to relieve their sufferings and anxiety”. He said a sentence of imprisonment following such a false admission of guilt obviously can serve no other purpose than oppression.
Justice Owoade further submitted that delay may also be oppressive to the prosecution witnesses who have to be present in Court on every adjourned date and this can discourage potential witnesses from co-operating with the Police in investigation of crimes. He said delay cannot be blamed on any particular organ in the Criminal Justice system; rather it is the result of numerous defects in the society such as indiscriminate transfer of police prosecutors, inability of the prosecutor to produce witnesses and the problem of frequent adjournments among others.
He commended the recent inauguration of a committee of the National Judicial Council headed by Justice Suleiman Galadima to monitor the track progress of cases of Corruption and Economic and Financial Crimes in the country, adding that for the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Criminal Justice System, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act must be replicated in all states of the federation.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour commended the family, friends and associate of the late Professor Adedokun Adeyemi for establishing the foundation, describing it as a brilliant idea aimed at remembering his good works and to keep his memory alive. He extolled the virtues of the late professor who according to him lived an exemplary life of simplicity.
The Professor Adedokun Adebayo Adeyemi Foundation (PAAAF) was established in 2017 to promote the lifetime work of Emeritus professor of law, Adedokun Adebayo Adeyemi in the fields of criminal Law, Criminology, Criminal Justice and Human Rights, which he was so passionate about.