A senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chinonye Obiagwu (SAN) has advocated for more funding for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to enable it effectively discharge its mandate, as well as monitor the implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) across the country.
The legal luminary who was a Guest Lecturer at a zoom training for staff of the Commission titled “ACJA as Legislative Tool for the Protection of Human Rights in Nigeria” noted that it has become increasingly imperative for government to properly fund the Commission given its expanded mandate and oversight responsibilities on other government agencies.
Obiagwu who is also the National Coordinator of the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) cited the role of the Commission in ensuring a smooth implementation of the ACJA as contained in Sections 33 of the Act which mandates the NHRC and relevant stakeholders to request from the Attorney General of the Federation reports of cases of all suspects arrested without warrant.
He quoted Section 33 (1) of the ACJA, which provides that “An officer in charge of a police station or an official in charge of an agency authorised to make arrest shall, on the last working day of every month, report to the nearest Magistrate the cases of all suspects arrested without warrant within the limits of their respective stations or agency whether the suspects have been admitted to bail or not.
According to Obiagwu the NHRC is empowered by the ACJA to monitor the compliance or otherwise of the monthly report of the cases of all suspects arrested without warrant by the Police or other authorised agencies to ascertain whether they have been admitted to bail or not, and to take the necessary action when the need arises.
He stated that under the Act, any charge before the Magistrate Court supposed to be commenced within 30 days of bringing the charge or trial, and that if trial has commenced but has not been completed after 180 days of arraignment on that charge, the Court shall forward to the Chief Judge the particulars of the charge and reasons for failure to complete the trial.
The renowned lawyer also stated that the NHRC is mandated to monitor the above processes and make intervention where necessary. He noted these enormous responsibilities of the Commission as reasons for government and other stakeholders to assist in providing the needed infrastructure and resources to effectively carry out these duties. “This will in turn impact positively in the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights in Nigeria”, he added.
He therefore called for the activation of the Human Rights Fund which is contained in the NHRC Amendment Act 2010, adding that the fund will assist the commission to seamlessly deliver on its mandate.
Earlier in his opening remark, the Executive Secretary of the Commission Tony Ojukwu Esq enjoins staff to good use of the opportunity of the training saying it will open new areas of knowledge for them to discharge of their duties effectively.
Participants at the training expressed delight at the wealth of experience gathered, urging the Commission to do more in the area of capacity building to enable them better equipped to do their jobs.