The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government yesterday announced its post-COVID-19 plans for the justice sector in Nigeria.
This was contained in an action plan by Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, sent to media houses yesterday.
Malami observed that the sector was not immune from the effects of the pandemic and that the administration was preparing for the tough times ahead.
“Considering the current realities and in adjusting to the times, therefore, we will work with the Judiciary at the Federal and the State levels to arrive at a workable mechanism for achieving these within the shortest time possible”, it read.
“We will continue with the on-going implementation of the National Policy of Justice with renewed vigour, while making necessary adjustments as may be required due to the COVID-19 disruptions.
“Application of technology is not strange to our Justice Sector/Judicial System. The Judiciary adopted a Judiciary Information Technology Policy in 2012 to guide the use of ICT by the Judiciary.
“In this wise, the Supreme Court introduced electronic filing and this has also been adopted by some States’ High Courts. One major lesson from COVID-19 is that the Nigerian Justice Sector must seriously leverage technology in the improvement of its capacity and for facilitating fair and speedy administration of justice.
“We expect the judiciary to keep supporting the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 and consider how best to start opening up as soon as possible and to start tackling the backlog of cases.
“We will start by seeing how many cases can be handled online or without a face-to-face interaction leveraging on the use of technology.”
Malami said his office with the support of relevant stakeholders, will see to the following:
“Empowering the institutions of the ACJA, 2015 to commence functioning immediately. For instance, Part 46 dealing with the administration of the Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee; Section 251- witness payment; sections 107 & 108 etc. The net result will galvanise the judicial sector into rapid mode to fast track trials and release of those who are deserving;
“Deployment of ICT facilities to fast-track taking evidence from witnesses. Digital platforms such as Skype and Zoom can be used. NTA stations across the country can be connected to courts to facilitate taking evidence as witnesses do not have to necessary be physically present in court;
“Speedy processing of pending civil matters that have not reached advanced stages of hearing and with the consent of parties and their solicitors to opt for out of court settlement. This may even mean using multi-door mediation avenues in courts that already have one, such in the case of Lagos and the FCT and a few other states;
“Criminal charges of minor and non-indictable offences should be summarily tried and sentenced to non-custody penalties. Even in cases where sentenced persons cannot pay their fines, the court should consider other alternative punishments other than jail term this can include parole or probationary sentences and, if possible, community service like cleaning public places etc.;
“Persons awaiting trial on minor criminal charges should be discharged, especially in cases where adjournments have been at the instance of the prosecution;
“The passing of the civil equivalent of the ACJA in order to fast track the disposal of civil proceedings. Civil matters are proportionately more in number and tend to clog the speedy completion of civil trials. The proposed law (civil equivalent of the ACJA) should stipulate timeline for commencing and completing civil trials.
“Front loading of evidence should also be adopted for civil trials in order to fast track hearings;
“Setting aside special dates and that Courts work extra hours to decongest their case files. The 2020 court vacation could be suspended as the COVID-19 lockdown period has provided judges with the much-needed break from official duties;
“Having courts that are fully IT-compliant in order to fast track the digital recording and production of the record of court proceedings. The courts should also be able to automate case filing and cause list management;
“Appointment of more judges and justices, as appropriate. Additional judicial decisions of federal courts are to be created. This will, as a proactive measure, help in decongesting the already loaded court hearing schedules;
“Payment of court fees is done electronically. All court fees should be done electronically and not in cash. The courts should only receive receipts of payments and this can be transmitted online as well.”
The action plan noted that at Courts where hearing electronically may not be possible, the government can also consider having only few people attend to court matters.
We’re Determined To Achieve Rivers Of Our Dreams -Fubara …Tasks Rivers People On Peaceful, Harmonious Relationship
Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, says his administration is determined to enthrone an enviable Rivers that satisfies the dreams and aspirations of all residents.
To achieve the feat, Fubara charged all residents to embrace peace, exhibit mutual harmony among themselves and meaningfully contribute their quota to achieve designated developmental activities that will eventually benefit the State.
The governor stated this at the funeral service in honour of late King Theophilus J.T. Princewill, Amachree XI, the Amanyanabo and Natural Ruler of the Kalabari Kingdom, which was held at the King Amachree Square in Buguma Town, Asari Toru Local Government Area, yesterday.
A statement by the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Boniface Onyedi, quoted Fubara as saying, ”We are in a difficult period but just be peaceful. We cannot achieve progress in an environment of violence. We cannot grow our State to the level of our aspirations when there is trouble.”
“We can only advance to our dream State in a peaceful environment. I urge every one of you to be peaceful. Peace is the only instrument that can bring development,”
The governor applauded the level of cooperation seen between the bereaved family and the entire Kalabari people through the various stages of preparations leading to the eventual burial of their late king to the disappointment of those who had predicted crisis.
He urged the Kalabari people to continue to live in peace even after the burial of their late king, adding that nobody in the State should lose hope because his administration is committed not to disappoint, regarding all their expectations.
In his sermon, the intercontinental Youth Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Belemina Obunge, who represented the General Overseer of the Church, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, preached on the topic: “Don’t wait until you’re late”, harped on the need for people to seek God fervently, serve him truthfully while also living peaceably with neighbours in their various community.
Senate Leader Faults N9.9trn Recurrent Expenditure In 2024 Budget Proposal
Senate Leader, Bamidele Opeyemi, says the N9.9 trillion recurrent expenditure in the N27.5 trillion 2024 budget proposal is too high, as it constitutes 43 per cent of the budget.
Opeyemi said this at the opening of debate on general principles of the budget at plenary in Abuja, yesterday.
He said that the total fiscal operations of the Federal Government would result in N9.8 trillion deficit, representing 3.88 per cent of estimated GDP, saying that this was above the three per cent threshold set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
Opeyemi listed highlights of the budget to include oil price benchmark of 77.96 dollars per barrel and daily oil production estimate of 1.78 million barrels of condensates of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels per day and exchange rate of N750 to dollar.
He said based on the fiscal assumptions and parameters, total federally-collectible revenue was N16.87 trillion in the budget, while total federally distributable revenue was N11.09 trillion
Opeyemi said total revenue available to fund the 2024 budget was N9.73 trillion, which included revenues from 63 government-owned enterprises, while oil revenue was projected at N1.92 trillion, with non-oil taxes at N2.43 trillion among others.
He said to finance the deficit would result in new borrowings totaling N7.83 trillion in addition to N294.49 billion expected from privatisation.
He said the deficit would also be financed from N1.06 trillion drawn from bilateral, multilateral loans secured for specific development projects programmes.
He, however, said there was a growing concern over continued borrowing, but the administration resorted to it to finance fiscal gaps.
“But let me state here that the debt level of the federal government is still within sustainable limits.
“Very importantly, these loans are used to finance critical development projects and programmes aimed at improving our economic environment and ensuring effective delivery of public services to our people,” he said.
Contributing, Sen.Osita Ngwu (PDP-Enugu)said President Bola Tinubu had fulfilled his promises by capturing food security, poverty allivation in the budget.
He said there was need to ensure a review of Petroleum Industry Act(PIA) to ensure the continuous ramp up of oil production to fund the deficit in the budget.
Senators, who contributed to the debate, commended the President for the budget, saying it was a budget of renewed hope.
NDDC Laments Unpaid N2trn Allocation
The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Sam Ogbuku, on Wednesday, said the interventionist agency is being owed remittances totalling over N2trillion by the Federal Government.
Ogbuku disclosed this when he appeared before the House of Representatives’ Committee on NDDC, chaired by Ibori-Suenu Erhiatake.
According to him, the amount is the accumulation of 15 per cent of the allocation of the nine states that make up the region, due to the commission since 2000.
He noted that in spite of the passage of the agency’s annual budget in 2021, 2022 and 2023; the funds were yet to be remitted.
“I want to raise an important issue. When we talk about funding, the NDDC Act says the monthly allocation from the Federal Government is 15 per cent of the allocation of nine states of the Niger Delta. But I can assure you that since the inception of the NDDC, it has not got that.
“The Federal Government only budgets what it wants to give to the NDDC for that year and they give it that year. If you look at the 15 per cent, we are not getting it. Even with the removal of fuel subsidy and with the increment of state allocation, the NDDC is still where it is. So, these are issues we want you to help us resolve and we have done our calculation that from 2000 to date we can say we are being owed over N2trn from what is supposed to be due NDDC.
“We also came in at a point when the NDDC never had a budget for 2021, 2022 and 2023. These budgets were before the National Assembly and we had to fast-track the passage of those budgets and those budgets were eventually passed in April this year. However, since the budget was passed, it has not been handed over to us up till now. We pray and plead with you to ensure that as fast as possible, you also facilitate the process for us to have the budget because the budget year is already coming to an end,” he said.
In his own contribution, the Chairman of the NDDC Board, Chiedu Ebie, said the board would work together to reposition the commission in the interest of the oil-producing states and Nigeria at large.
Responding, Erhiatake said issues raised by the agency would be addressed in no distant time.
“It is very important we create a platform for synergy in the implementation of these policies and programmes for the general benefit of Nigerians and especially the people of the Niger Delta. I assure you that this committee is willing and ready to partner with you to make sure that the dividends of democracy are brought to the region and the narratives that had been set by the previous board are changed for the better.”
Meanwhile, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has advised officials of the NDDC to be abreast of anti-graft laws so as not to step out of line.
The ICPC Zonal Commissioner for Rivers and Bayelsa states, Mrs. Ekere Usiere, gave the advice during a sensitisation programme organised by the NDDC at its headquarters in Port Harcourt.
A statement on Wednesday by the Director, Corporate Affairs of the NDDC, Pius Ughakpoteni, said Usiere spoke on the topic: “Understanding the Offences and Penalties Under the ICPC Act 2000.”
It also quoted the Head, Legal Department of ICPC in Rivers State, Dr Agada Akogwu, as saying, “Every public servant should take the ICPC Act as a Bible and internalise all its tenets. That is why the NDDC deserves commendation for organising a sensitization programme for its staff.”
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