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NBA wants law to speed up criminal justice

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The Benin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association has called on the Edo State House of Assembly to pass into law a bill to fast-track criminal justice system in the state.

The association’s Law Review Committee made the call in Benin City while briefing journalists on the outcome of a comprehensive review of the 1976 Criminal Procedure Law of Bendel State, as applicable in Edo.

The committee said the Edo State Administration of Criminal Justice Bill 2014 would serve as a viable alternative to the current criminal justice system, which it said could no longer accommodate modern realities.

Chairman of the committee, Mr. Razak Isenalumhe, explained that the bill, when passed into law, would provide for the application of modern technology, such as audiovisual devices, in criminal investigations and reduce cases of forceful confessional statements from criminal suspects.

Isenalumhe, however, noted that the bill had not received “any attention” from the state House of Assembly since it was presented to the House in the first quarter of 2014.

“Rather than consider the bill, the Edo State House of Assembly has engaged itself in divisive politics, thereby undermining the purpose of the legislature,” he said.

While decrying the level of congestion in Nigerian prisons as a result of the lapses in the current criminal justice system, Isenalumhe called for an accelerated hearing on the bill,   in the interest of the people of the state.

Isenalumhe said, “The prison is congested today because bail is granted often in cases of misdemeanour and felony of lesser categories. But the accused persons most times do not have sureties.

“This law has recommended the registration of professional sureties. If you register a business name as a professional surety, there is a scale of fees to be charged by you. As to how to get him (suspect) if he absconds, that becomes your responsibility; you take some risks because you are getting the benefits.

“It is very sad to note that this bill, which has the capacity to revolutionise criminal trials in Edo State, has not been given any attention by the Edo State House of Assembly.

“Once more, we call on the Edo State House of Assembly to ensure that this bill is passed into law without any further delay.”

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