Luke proposes bill to fast track justice dispensation
………To allow a judge elevated to the Court of Appeal to continue as a judge in order to conclude part-heard criminal matter
…. As bill passes second reading
Member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency, Mr Onofiok Luke, has proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to allow for quick justice dispensation and completion of criminal matters heard by a judge of a High Court before his elevation to the Court of Appeal, today on the floor of the House of Representatives.
In leading debate on the Bill, Luke gave a background to the Bill, observing that “it is a common practice where judges of the High Court get elevated to the Court of Appeal whenever there is a vacancy. When judges get elevated, criminal cases presided by them before they were elevated get stalled, and in fact, start de novo (afresh)”.
Owing to this wholesome situation, Luke continued, ‘this hallowed chambers in conjunction with its sister legislative body, the Senate, passed into law the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, as a solution to that aspectual judicial problem. Specifically, section 396(7) of the Act legitimized the practice where a judge appointed to the Court of Appeal can effectually return to the High Court and continue to sit as a judge over criminal matters he partly adjudicated before his elevation. The legislative solution-cum-decision was an intelligent step towards discouraging waste of time and resources, which often characterizes criminal matters started anew.’
The Member of Parliament recalled how last year the Supreme Court struck down section 396(7) of the ACJA as being unconstitutional.
“The Honourable Court reasoned that a judicial officer cannot simultaneously assume the role of a Justice of the Court Appeal and still sit as a judge of the High Court, holding that such practice was not within permissible constitutional boundary.”
Luke added that “the decision of the Court has thrown up myriads of problems and has sailed us back to a harbour of delay in criminal adjudication which we thought we had left”.
Luke called on the House to amend the Principal Act to allow a judge elevated to the Court of Appeal to continue hearing criminal matter part-heard by him before his elevation. He reasoned that it will assist in just and fair hearing and determination of corruption and money laundry matters.
The bill has passed second reading and was referred to the Ad-hoc Committee on Constitutional Review for further deliberation.
Etinan /Nsit Ibom /Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency.