The criminal justice system in Nigeria is made up of three distinctive inter-dependent components viz.; the police, the courts and the prisons. These agencies work in synergy in the prevention, deterrence, apprehension, investigation, trial, punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. The said public agencies maintain law and order, law enforcement and imprisonment of offenders. They also make provisions for sustainable programmes for corrections and rehabilitation of inmates. Therefore, the goal of the criminal justice system is prevention, deterrence and control of crime in the society.
In order to ensure that justice is observed and practiced at all levels in the criminal justice system in Nigeria, there are rules which regulate the process of obtaining justice. The criminal justice administration regime had each State in Nigeria adopt either the Criminal Procedure Act in the Southern States or the Criminal Procedure Code in the Northern states . Over the many years of the existence and operation of these legislations, the Criminal Justice System in Nigeria was in a state of perpetual decline, the legislations had loopholes, voids and inconsistencies, such that it was evident that they could not address the rising needs of society in a democratic government. It was the state of decline, loopholes and voids characterizing the rules which were meant to regulate the criminal justice administration of the country that led to a renovation or introduction of reforms in the form of the Administration of Justice Act (also known as the ACJA). The ACJA was therefore welcomed with an air of relief as it made attempts of speedily bringing criminals to book as well as protecting the victims of crime; amongst other things. This was a commitment yearned for by the entire criminal justice administration sector and the society at large . The ACJA 2015 merges the main provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), Criminal Procedure Northern State Act 2004 and Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) into one principal Federal Enactment, which applies to all Federal Courts across the Federation as well as all courts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), but it does not apply to a Court Martial.
The provisions for the reform of Administration of Criminal Justice were first developed in 2005 . The Group which was established by the then Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN was maintained by his successor, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN. The Group consisted of individuals drawn from all segments of the criminal justice sector. A onetime Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) upon assumption established the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform (PIJR) in 2011 to implements the proposals for reform produced by the National Working Group under the earlier administrations. The Panel conducted a detailed review of the proposals, brought them up-to-date and adopted an improved version. The ACJA introduced new innovative provisions that will enhance the efficiency of the justice system. In other words, the ACJA 2015 builds upon the existing framework of criminal justice administration in the country. However, it filled the gaps observed in these laws over the course of several decades. The contents as revised and updated by the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform (PIJR), with the support of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies have now been enacted into law . The main purposes of the ACJ Act (ACJA) 2015 include the following: To promote efficient management of criminal justice institutions and speedy dispensation of justice, protect the society from crime, and protect the rights and the interest of the defendant and the victim. The purposes of the ACJ Act are captured in section 1 of the Act. These indicate a deliberate shift from punishment as the main goal of the criminal justice to restorative justice which pays attention to the needs of the society, the victims, vulnerable persons and human dignity. The general provisions of the ACJ Act apply to criminal trial in court except where express provision is made in the Act or in any other law in respect of any particular court or form of trial. Specifically, section 2 of the Act provides that its provision shall not apply to a Court Martial .
The criminal justice system is a very important one and also precarious in nature as its responsible for not only the safeguarding of peace in the community, but also important in protecting the helpless and victims of crimes from perpetrators. Criminal legislation is one of the most important components of the criminal justice system because it defines rights, duties, obligations and relationships with other components and continuous changes in social interactions and configuration demands a progressive review of all criminal legislations.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The Constitution of Nigeria as well as relevant criminal legislations recognize the rights of an accused person pending a criminal trial. For instance, currently there are clamors ongoing that the Police Force be reformed, as a result of their extra-judicial activities which have led to an increase in the abuse of rights of not only accused persons but also of those who are innocent. It is an open secret that police officers in obtaining confessions for criminal trials often resort to illegal means in achieving their aims, thereby ridiculing the whole purpose of the criminal justice system, which is aimed at achieving justice not only for the victims of a crime but also where applicable, achieve justice for the suspect of a crime. It is as a result of this malady, that this long essay seeks to examine the stand point of the relevant legislations, while also proffering ways and methods by which this situation can be remedied.
1.3 Aims and Specific Objectives of the Study
This study aims to expatiate on the issues surrounding confessional statements (i.e. in the process of obtaining it and also in tendering).
The objectives of the study are;
1) An examination of the Administration of Justice Act of 2015 in order to ascertain its provisions on confessional statements.
2) This will be done in order to view the level of compliance with the provisions of the Act as regards confessional statements with the Federal Capital Territory being the center of focus.
3) Effects of non-compliance with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
4) Enforcement of the Administration of Justice Act provisions with emphasis on confessional statements
1.4 Scope of the Study
The scope of study for this long essay is an extensive examination of confessional statements in relation to the criminal justice system applicable in Nigeria, an examination of the relevant legislations on confessional statements and ways in which they can be properly implemented in order to reduce the injustice which the Nigerian criminal justice system is characterized with. The study will however be limited to Abuja as a case study.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study is significant because the justice system is alleged to be awash with illegalities and little or nothing is being done to mitigate the spread, understanding the irregularities and illegalities therefore becomes tantamount in order to combat the menace. The agents of the criminal justice system don’t respect the right of an accused; as such instances of abuses have been alleged in the dispensation of justice to both the victims and accused. It is to this end, that this study seeks to undertake an examination of the happenings in respect of extant laws.
1.6 Research Methodology
The research methodology used for this long essay is analytical and doctrinal in nature. The research intends to source materials from two major sources, that is primary and secondary sources. The primary sources include statutory books while the secondary sources include journal articles by prominent scholars, textbook writers and other relevant materials required to facilitate the purpose of this project. Also, questionnaires were administered to select groups of people: the police and lawyers, particularly who work within Abuja jurisdiction.
1.7 Literature Review
The subject matter of this study is one under an area of law where quite a number of authors have written and have held different views but have technically arrived at the same basic conclusion, as a result of this, various classical texts by renowned scholars and jurists on the field shall be referred to.
Murphy defines confession from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which in its section 82(1) defines confession to include:
‘Any statement wholly or partly adverse to the person who made it, whether made to a person in authority or not and whether made in words or otherwise”.
The professor of law however opined that the reliability of the confession might be fatally compromised, and the integrity of the system of the system of administration of justice itself made to suffer if such confession was coerced or forced. Aguda , Nwadialo , C Eche Adah , hold the same view about confession, although put in their own various languages; Aguda defines confession as an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime and if it is voluntary it is deemed to be relevant fact against the person who made it only . While O.O. Olaseeni in a book of reading in honor of O.O. Akeredolu SAN , is of a more practical view as he defines confession, in his view, in the course of investigation of criminal trials, police officers record statements volunteered by the accused person, these statements made by the accused are normally tendered in court during the course of trial and if voluntarily taken, such statement will be admitted as confession against the maker. Fidelis Nwadialo dealt extensively on procedures for obtaining confessions and conducting trials, he sees confession as a species of admission as held in Anandagoda vs R and also in Commissioner of customs vs Harz and Powers . According to Professor Nokes the word „admission‟ is often used as an admission of some fact relevant to a crime, while the term “confession” is sometimes confined to a fill admission of guilt. Although species of admissions, confessions are governed by different rules with regard to their admissibility, they are therefore treated separately from other admissions.
Furthermore, statutory provisions like the Evidence Act , Criminal Procedure Act, Criminal Procedure Code, Criminal Procedure (Statement to Police Officers Rule) 1960, and the 1999 constitution are all statutory provisions ensuring that the processes of the law is followed to the letter. The Evidence Act defines confession as an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.
Similarly, the Black’s Law Dictionary defines confession as a voluntary statement made by a person charged with the commission of a crime or misdemeanor communicated to another person wherein he acknowledges himself to be guilty of the offence charged.
1.8 Organizational Layout
Chapter One covers the introduction to the long essay. Chapter two borders on the meaning, types, effects and procedures of a confessional statement. Also, chapter three deals with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 with emphasis on its provisions in relation to confessional statements. Furthermore, chapter four is a statistical analysis of the data gotten while researching on confessional statements and its regulation with emphasis on the Abuja metropolis. Finally, chapter five bring the long essay to an end with conclusion and summary and also proffers recommendation to this malady.