By Patrick Obia
An observatory Civil Society Organization group in Cross River State has been launched to oversee the effective implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL).
The group was launched at the end of a two-day ‘Official Launch of Civil Society Observatory Platform towards the efficient implementation and compliance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Law’ held in the conference hall of Hogis Hotel and Suits, Calabar, Cross River State.
Organized by CLEEN Foundation with support from MacArthur Foundation, participants who were drawn from various civil society organizations in the State including the media were charged to see that ACJL which was domesticated in the State in 2017 is implemented.
The group is also implored to embark on citizens’ awareness creation about the law as well as keeping implementers in check.
In his speech, the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, Gad Peter welcomed participants to the exercise as they are ready to champion the course.
He said the project is aimed at strengthening criminal justice accountability infrastructure in the country through enhancing accountability, transparency, and public engagement while some objective of the Observatory platform is geared towards strengthening the project’s understanding of the role CSOs play in fighting criminal justice corruption and how it could be reinforced in collaboration with other relevant justice sector agencies, saddled with anti-corruption effort coordination.
The Executive Director added that among others, the observatory platforms will keep an eye on the abuse of court processes, unprofessional conduct of judges, courts attendants, and law enforcement personnel; outdated processes and procedures leading to other challenges such as arbitrary and unlawful arrest/detentions and congested prisons, increasing numbers of awaiting trial/death row inmates, the vicious circle of impunity, incessant delays in case hearing caused by prolonged adjournments.
“The observatory will focus on training and mentoring; supporting opportunities for CSOs to engage in dialogue with the government to deepen the tools developed and initiated under phase one of the project for purposes of improving accountability and transparency in Nigeria’s criminal justice system which was highlighted as necessary in the end of the project evaluation report.”
Shortly after the event, the Senior Programs Officer of CLEEN Foundation Mr. Benard Ekobay after he had presented on ‘Understanding Effective Advocacy’ among other topics, said Cross River State is among the 20 States that have domesticated the law.
Benard averred that though passing the ACJL is good but what is the level of implementation and how well do citizens know about it?
“It goes beyond having the law as a document but how far have you used this law? Do people know about it, what is the level of implementation in the State? We still see people complain about prison congestion, complaints of human rights abuses, unlawful arrests, detention, and among others.
“The CSOs should take ownership of this process and how they could push for the effective implementation of ACJL in the State. We believe we all can not be present here. Own it to yourselves to make sure that Nigeria works not just for us but for everyone.”
The high points of the exercise were the interactive sessions, the official launch, and the group photograph and among others.