Minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has advocated the inclusion of terminal dates in the Administration of Justice Act for quick dispensation of justice in the country.
According to him, it would also aid the decongestion of prisons across the country.
The minister, at the launch of the newly deployed virtual courtrooms at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, said the terminal dates would go a long way to decongest the prisons.
The project, which was fully funded, by the UNDP, and supports from the government of Japan was aimed at supporting an inclusive and multi-sectoral response to COVID-19 and addressing socio-economic impact.
At the event, the minister specifically urged his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice to liaise with the Chief Justice of Nigeria to speedily work out terminal dates for cases to help reduce prison congestion in Nigeria.
Aregbesola expressed regrets that many of those in the custody stayed longer than the prescribed period of terms by the law.
In his keynote address, the attorney general of federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, emphasised the need for paradigm shift in the administration of justice in Nigeria.
“There was the need for a paradigm shift in the administration of justice through the deployment of appropriate technologies to drive the administration.
“I assure you that the virtual court proceedings are in compliance with the provisions of section 36(3) of the Constitution, which provides for public court sitting or hearing. This virtual court proceedings meet up with the expectation of the Constitution and are not private hearings but open to the respective counsel involved, the litigants (inmates) and the general public at large, “ he said.
Malami added,” It is important to note that this virtual court hearing will not in any way contravene the provision of section 36(6) of the 1999 Constitution which provides for the arraignment, taking of evidence, tendering of documents, cross-examination and general conduct of criminal proceedings. In as much as these are done in accordance with the said provision, the virtual hearing would be valid.
“This initiative will in no small measure help boost the economy by ensuring that funds meant for the movement of the inmates would be channeled to other essential areas of needs in the Correctional Centres, and assist the country to meet up with global best practice in terms of the Administration of the Criminal Justice.”
While delivering his speech, the UNDP, deputy country representative, Mr Lealem Berhanu Dinku said the launch would help reduce case of sexual abuses against women and time spent on trial.
Dinku said, “This programme is designed to support the court system accelerate the hearing of sexual and gender-based violence, harmful practices, sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women and girls civil and criminal cases, and will allow judiciaries to hear cases without transporting inmates to physical locations.
“In turn, this will help to reduce backlog and the time spent in pre-trial detention while also helping to reduce administration and operational costs. “
The controller-general of the correctional service, Haliru Nababa, said the deployment of the virtual court hearing would help solve the logistic challenges of the service.