Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers on Monday reiterated his administration’s commitment to the rule of law.
The governor said this while declaring open the third edition of the “Rule of Law Development Foundation (ROLDF)’’ annual Conference in Abuja.
The theme of the conference was “Updates and Developments within the Last 12 Months on Criminal Law, Criminal Justice, Procedure and Evidence in Nigeria”.
Wike expressed the hope that resolutions from the conference would strengthen rule of law in the criminal justice delivery system.
“This conference will be required to identify and formulate the reforms that are needed to reposition our criminal justice system to serve the interest of our people, particularly their security, welfare and preservation of their civil liberties.
“Given that criminal justice system is inextricably linked with the security, peace and order of the state, there is the need for critical stakeholders in the criminal justice sector to rethink the system through reform designed to address current challenges.
“It is our fervent hope that this conference will identify current challenges in the criminal justice sector and formulate solutions to address them,’’ he said.
He urged the panelists and delegates to take advantage of the conference to not only propose laws in the criminal justice system, but to actualise the delivery of the proposed laws.
According to the governor, the criminal justice system is in two fold, first to guarantee the preservation of public security, order, peace and health of society.
“Secondly, the system ensured that every person who committed an infraction of the law must be made to account for his conduct.
“A criminal justice system where the guilty is not allowed to escape punishment nor the innocent punished unjustly.
“Therefore, the criminal justice system within the context of the rule of law means that the institutions created by law for administration of justice, law enforcement and correction/reformation of offenders such as the police, courts and correctional service must operate within the confines of the law.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Wike also inaugurated a book entitled: “Directions and Rulings of the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee’’ compiled by the coordinator and founder of ROLDF, Joseph Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The governor inaugurated the book with the sum of N20 million on behalf of the state government.
In his Goodwill message, President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Justice Benedict Kanyip said the rule of law within the criminal justice system was essential.
Kanyip, represented by a judge in the NICN, Justice Olufunke Anuwe, commended the organisers of the conference, adding that it was timely
Earlier, ROLDF Coordinator, Daudu said that the new Police Service Act would have tremendous improvement in the criminal justice system.
He said the solution to the problem of policing was not by effecting cosmetic changes to the Police Act, but by amending the section of the 1999 Constitution on which the Force operates.
“Without mincing words, the only real change that will amount to a foundational restructuring of the Police is to amend section 214 of the 1999 Constitution so that state Police can be accommodated in the scheme of security issues.
“This is because the constitution grants exclusive powers to the Federal Government as the sole mode of protecting hundreds of ethnic groups with different cultures.
“This also highlights the inability of that sole Police Force to achieve any success in its task of providing security and police coverage throughout the nation.
In his welcome address, President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, said the conference was for stakeholders in the criminal justice system to take stock on how they had fared within the last 12 months.
Akpata said there had been some reforms that could be seen as big win in terms of police officers who were not trained as lawyers being prohibited to prosecute criminal matters.
“ In the past, accused persons had escaped convictions not on the ground of their innocence, but because the prosecutors did not possess the skills required to bring such people to justice,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the ceremony had in attendance the attorneys-general of Kogi and Rivers, High Court Judges, Magistrates, SANs, as well as other stakeholders in the judicial system.