At the recently concluded regional conference of November 1-3, 2022 on Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria, themed Consolidating Reforms in Criminal Justice and its Administration in Sub-Saharan Africa, several practical options were show-cased as

best practice deployed in other jurisdictions to combat challenges faced in the administration of criminal justice. The Conference was organized by the Juritrust Centre for Socio Legal Research and Documentation and featured experts from Nigeria and other countries namely Ghana, Kenya, Uganda South Africa and Rwanda


Discontinuance Of Judge

One of the issues in focus was the delay occasioned when a judge is unable to continue with a trial because of incapacity or where the judge is elevated to a higher judicial office.  Recall that the Supreme Court had in UDE JONES UDEOGU V. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA & ORS (2016) LPELR-40102(SC

invalidated section 396(7) of the ACJA 2015 which provided that an elevated judge may be granted leave to conclude such proceedings and directed that the trial in the instant case which commenced in 2007 should begin de novo. Noting that in many such cases witnesses may no longer be available or evidence destroyed thus making a renewed trial difficult, the Conference examined best practices in place in other African jurisdictions which have eliminated such challenges of delay by trial de novo. 


Justice Nicholas Abodaki, of the High Court of Ghana observed that a proper case management technique could avoid such challenges. He said for example the court cannot adjourn cases for more than 14 days. Additionally he said the practice in Ghana is that the new judges adopt existing records of proceedings of a case when they take over such cases. While this practice used to be limited to summary proceedings it has been extended to criminal trials generally.


Justice Eva Luwata of the Ugandan Court of Appeal, Uganda affirmed that it is good practice that when a judge is elevated, the cases must continue. However in criminal cases, if trial involves assessors and the trial was not completed at the time of elevation it is started de novo. The law is that a judge who begins a trial should finish the trial and it can be subject to appeal. But in civil case, the practice is that a new judge simply reads the record and continues from there.  In civil matters, you don’t have to go de novo, but it is different in criminal matters due to the nature of the criminal cases.


Weighing in on the discussions Mr Henry Emore, Director Legal Department in the ICPC, pointed out that  S.38 of Evidence Act provides that previous proceedings can be relied upon if the judge is no longer there.  However, in practice, he added that 99% of Nigerian judges are not disposed to applying the provision as it deprives them of the opportunity to evaluate testimony or the demeanour of witnesses.


Case Tracking and Identity Management

On the delay in justice process and challenge in case management, Oluwafunke Adeoye, Executive Director, Hope Behind Bars Initiative, in her presentation on Leveraging Technology as a Tool for Reducing Pretrial Detention in Africa: Lessons from Kenya drew attention to technology as a complementary effort of automation in speeding up the justice process. Using Kenya as a case study intervention for poor case management, she mentioned the role of case management technology in terms of electronic filing, electronic case search, electronic case tracking  and use of verification and identity management technology for thorough verification of suspects/ criminals at point of arrest. She encouraged the synergy between available technologies and already existing measures such as BVN, NIN for the justice system.