THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the Study
The criminal justice system in Nigeria with particular reference to Abia State 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. Although, Moore (1997) noted that the criminal justice is not a system in the sense that, all agencies are directed towards a particular objective with the help of a centralized authority, that, it is a limited system to the extent that, the different agencies are linked through a process in which one agency’s output become the next agency’s input. The output of the police is the input of the courts, while the output of the courts is the input of the prisons, and vice versa.
Furthermore, Dambazau (2011) viewed same as an instrument of practical purposes, accountable for the efficient and effective reduction of crime. This is through three distinct mechanisms: deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Iwarimie – Jaja (2003) viewed same as “a process where the different components co-ordinate their independent functions by processing the criminal suspect from one stage to the other”. The process involves arrest, booking, trial and confinement. However, this study will concentrate on the criminal justice system in Nigeria, lessons from the courts – prisons interact in Abia State geographical area.
The study will emphasize more on the contributions of the courts and the prisons towards timely delivery of justice in Abia State. Although, it is believed that the courts failure to dispense justice timely is due to prisons ineffectiveness and corruption in the Society. Meanwhile, the prisons argued that offenders standing trail never arrived late to courts and cannot be the reason for delay in justice delivery. Therefore, the study intends to uncover reasons behind such delay since, justice delayed is justice denied.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The courts-prisons interact within the criminal justice system is geared towards prompt justice delivery and rehabilitation of offenders. Most recently, it is an issue of concern in the national dailies, subject of discussion by citizens and legal practitioners on how the system has degenerated, yet it has persisted unabated. According to Brown (n.d), “the various reasons why the courts could not sit, or when they sat could not mention a matter but adjourn to a future date frustrates effort of the prisons officers”. The courts never considered how prisons officers feel returning with offenders to base with directive to reproduce same offenders on the adjourned date. The situation could be worse considering distance covered, poor state of roads, logistics and financial position of the prisons. The prisons’ effort to meet with their routine obligation as well as service several courts within the jurisdiction has created problems. The courts inability to effectively and timely dispose of cases and/or the prisons to continue to house offenders without trial in courts, have further compounded the problems.
Hence, the study intends to probe into how the situation has constituted the failure of the criminal justice system. To that extent, the study will aim at proffering solution as to stem the tide and better the lot for the justice system. It will also win the hope for justice by the common man. The situation necessitated in-depth investigation into the courts – prisons relationship in Nigeria with particular reference to Abia State. In sum, many scholars have written on the criminal justice system as a whole and the specific structures therein, namely: the police, courts, and prisons. There is no known study in Nigeria that is concerned with the contretemps in the relationship between the courts and the prisons in the course of justice delivery. This is the essence of this study with a view to making the criminal justice system more effective, hence the need for a rethinking.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to ascertain and appraise the work-relationship between the courts and the prisons in the criminal justice system in Abia State. The subsidiary objectives of the study include the following:
- To find out factors that hinder criminal justice agencies, particularly the courts and the prisons in the discharge of their duties.
- To find out the extent of ethics adherence by the courts and the prisons.
- To ascertain what causes delay in court proceedings which ultimately affect justice delivery in Abia state.
- To investigate how the criminal justice agencies, particularly, courts and the prisons in Abia State can co-operate more in the course of justice delivery.
- To make suggestion and recommendations for a more reliable and efficient Justice delivery in Abia State.
1.4 Research questions
The following questions guide this study:
i. What are the factors that could hinder criminal justice agencies in discharging their duties in Abia State?
ii. What is the extent of ethics adherence by criminal justice agencies in Abia State?
iii. What are the factors which causes delay in court proceedings that affect justice delivery in Abia State?
iv. In what ways do criminal justice agencies co-operate in justice delivery in Abia State?
v. In what ways can criminal justice system be improved in Abia State?