Home FEATURES President Buhari Faults Nigeria’s Criminal Justice, Wants It Reviewed

President Buhari Faults Nigeria’s Criminal Justice, Wants It Reviewed

LawyersPresident Muhammadu Buhari has openly expressed dissatisfaction with the system of criminal justice in Nigeria, from investigation to prosecution and adjudication by the court, and called for re-engineering.
“A long delay in the trial process has impaired the credibility of our capacity to hold offenders to account. Our problem, it seems, is not access to justice, it is exiting our justice system once you have access to it,” Buhari regretted.
Speaking through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the graduation of senior executive course 38 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Kuru, Jos, Plateau State, Buhari said: “I have charged the judiciary often, and I do so again, on the task of developing a firm blueprint for a justice system that works, a system that delivers result.
“When a person remains accused for years, it is bad for both the accused and the justice system. When a system does not deliver the result that it is created to deliver, self-help is the only option and of course the breakdown of law and order which it is meant to prevent inevitably follows.”
President Buhari said that a stable, safe and prosperous society must be the desire of every group of policy makers and executors and that the chief function of government is the protection and assurance of the security of lives, livelihoods and the properties of the citizenry.
He noted that at the conceptual level, it explains the reason why individuals and communities give over their right of self-help and self-protection and even vengeance to the state which the state cannot afford to compromise.
“Indeed many nation-states in exercising that duty of ensuring security find themselves unfortunately prioritizing the maintenance of law and order over individual and sometimes communal rights.
“In recent years, Nigeria has had to deal with fairly significant and sustained breaches of the norms of law and order, these include the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, several cases of herdsmen and farmer clashes, and also cattle rustling, facility and pipeline sabotage in the Niger Delta, kidnappings for ransom and the Shiite-Army and Police clashes with pro-Biafra agitators in the southeast among others.
“But beginning with the Boko Haram insurgency, although in the past year, the capacity of the Boko Haram as a military force and to hold territory has, to a level,  been degraded, much laws and instability has resulted, and it is essentially a rag-tag left-over that still carry out the itinerant ambushes and raids especially in border territories.
“But almost over 2 million people have been displaced in the Northeast, some in IDP camps, but most in host communities, with orphans in the tens of thousands. As the insurgents fled very many small border hamlets, they left behind women and children that they had held in captivity, in many cases badly malnourished.
“Several local and international humanitarian organizations, working in the region have worked hard with the government to contain the large number of individuals of malnourished and dying children. I ordered the establishment of an inter-ministerial task-force of relevant line ministries to create more order and synergy with the humanitarian organizations, NGOs and the UN agencies. Barely two weeks ago, I also formally inaugurated the Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiatives (PCNI) headed by General T.Y. Danjuma, Rtd, to coordinate both official and private initiatives in the region and also ensure that the state governments have the same power to rehabilitate in a particular area where they have found their competence useful.
“Only recently, Dikwa Local Government had some of the public buildings, schools, hospitals rebuilt, and the PCNI provided the material while the state government, the builders, artisans and labourers executed the job.
“Still the humanitarian tragedies are immense and the losses are enormous. No farming has taken place in many of the villages and communities for over three years. Farmlands in many cases have been mined by the fleeing insurgents and because they are largely at various communities, the deprivation of livelihood and economic opportunities is big.
“Invariably, this dents agriculture’s 32 percent contribution to our GDP. Although the terrorists still hold several persons captive, the nation recently received the cheering news of the rescue of 21 of the Chibok girls after practically two years in captivity. They were reunited with their families.”
Buhari stressed that his government committed in ensuring that all the girls and all those who are in captivity are returned safely, saying that over twenty thousand Nigerians have lost their lives in the Boko Haram insurgency.
He said that the cost of rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure in the Northeast is enormous, adding that the education of children in many communities has been stalled for years.
President Buhari said that military personnel have shown tremendous professionalism and patriotism.
“The reports of humanitarian organisations and the activities have been very salutary indeed.
“Turning to Fulani herdsmen and farmer clashes, this has had an unfortunate long history. Disputes have arisen, use of essential resources, farmlands and grazing areas and water, farmers complaining of invasion of their farms and destruction of their crops by cattle, climate change and the continuous decrease in grazing land have led to even greater complications  and the dire needs that have continually presented this particular problem.
“More recently, the disputes have turned more violent with the arming of herdsmen with guns. There is also evidence of the infiltrations of the ranks of the herdsmen by North African youths who have been involved in the civil conflict between Libya and Mali. The proliferation of small arms in these conflicts has probably made them more available to criminal acts. Cattle rustling has also been a prominent breach of law and order.
“Early last year, governors in the northwest came together to launch combined operations against (the) crime, but the collaboration of the police and the armed forces achieve considerable successes in stemming the tide. It is evidence that stronger, more robust and more effective law enforcement is necessary to deal with all of these violent attacks.
“My firm orders had been that even the bearing of arms without license is illegal and persons found with arms must be arrested and prosecuted.
“No quarter can be granted to anyone who perpetrates violence or promote its occurrence in anyway. There is nothing noble about the banditry and criminal violence that we have seen more frequently and we must prevent their continuing occurrence.”
On Niger Delta, the President said that attacks on pipelines and export facilities in the Niger Delta challenge the nation’s law and order.
He said that the damage has far reaching consequences for the national economy, the perpetrators are few and their motives are not necessarily aligned.
“The huge degradation of the environment and the criminal neglect of the region due to corruption, failed policies and the continuous vandalization of facilities has created a vicious cycle of environmental damage, poverty and violence.
“The economic dimensions of the disruptions in oil and gas production caused by militant activities in the region are grave indeed. The blowing of four strategic oil facilities and oil fields, the Trans Forcados pipelines to the terminal, the Qua Iboe terminal, the Brass pipeline, the Trans-Niger pipeline and the Nembe creek trunkline access both of which convey exports to the Bonny terminal, led to a decline in output from budgetary provisions of about 2.2 million barrels per day to about 1.1 million or sometimes less than 1.1 million barrels per day.
“In August 2016, the loss of over 1 million barrels of oil per day translated to the loss of over 60 percent of gross revenues. This is compounded by the comparatively low price oil regime. When oil revenues crash, even the non-oil economy is affected because 52 percent of our non-oil sector revenues depend on oil. Real GDP growth is directly linked to the price of crude and the relationship between oil price, oil export, and GDP growth rate remain as important as ever.
“Besides, as of February 2016, we were generating 5,000 Mega Watts of power for the first time in the history of the country but that same month the attack on Trans Forcados pipeline led to a 40 percent loss in gas for power. We suffered a sharp drop in power output to less than 2000 Mega Watts of power at some points.”
Buhari said that the implication of these despicable acts of sabotage on the vast majority of Nigerians and those who live in the Niger Delta trying to make a living, is obvious, adding that his government had since made it clear that criminality under any guise will not be tolerated in any part of the country and that the sabotage of national assets is a heinous crime.
He said that despite all that, his government has opened several channels of communication with all relevant groups in the Niger Delta and that his government believed that all legitimate issues can be resolved when there is commitment on the part of all to the good of the neighbours and the development of our nation.
“The clean-up of the Niger Delta beginning with Ogoniland is an irrevocable commitment, it will be irresponsible of this generation of leaders to ignore or worsen the environmental degradation in the region. This is why the continual vandalization of pipelines ultimately jeopardizes the lives and the livelihood of the present and the next generation.
“There is no question at all that the security, law and order come first in order of priority. As we have seen, violators of the law completely undermine our economic potentials and harm the poorest amongst us the most.
“The policies of the government on law and order are quite clear: first, we believe in the dignity of every Nigerian regardless of status, tribe or religion. As a soldier, l pledged my life to defend this nation, since my youth; i have in adulthood, twice sworn, as Head of State and President, to defend the laws and constitution. Our constitution grants the right to life and with it I believe, the right to be protected from the violation of one’s cause or property and l take that oath seriously.
“It is therefore the position of government that this criminal conducts cannot be tolerated in any form. Every criminal act must be accounted for. It must remain clear that impunity has come to an end in our country and there would be consequences for violations of the law. This is why we are working diligently to improve the nation’s capacity to maintain law and order.
“We are supporting the incremental provision of state-of-the-art equipment of crime fighting especially using technology. Recently we commissioned a central criminal database of police in Abuja which will greatly assist in crime detection and prosecution.” [myad]

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