Borno State Governor and chairman of the Northern Governors ’ Forum, Kashim Shettima on Friday inaugurated a committee of Attorneys General and Commissioners of Justice of the 19 Northern States to review the criminal justice system contained in the penal code which applies to the north.
The committee is expected to come up with laws that will spell out punishments for insurgency, sponsors of insurgency like the Boko Haram insurgents, parents who offer their wards to carry out suicide attacks in promotion of terrorism, cattle rustlers, kidnappers, rape and other crimes that are not reflected in the legal system as being in force with the coming given two months within which to submit their report.
Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Barnabas Bala, and Secretaries to Governments of the 19 northern States, Attorneys General and Commissioners of Justice or solicitors General across the 19 northern States were present at the inauguration which held at the Hassan Usman Katsina House in Kaduna.
Governor Shettima said the inauguration was in furtherance of one of the resolutions of the Northern Governors at their meeting on Friday, September 11, 2015. He explained that the penal code, which is the legal system of the northern States didn’t envisage criminal activities like terrorism and insurgency, cattle rustling, kidnapping, rape and other criminal activities that were not prevalent in the north at the time laws contained in the penal code were put in place.
“I am delightfully honoured to inaugurate this High Powered Committee of legal experts who, based on your legal standing, professional expertise and profound wealth of experience, were selected to critically examine the Criminal Justice System of Northern Nigeria vis-à-vis the current spate of emerging criminal offences prevalent in the Northern States and determine how best to incorporate them into the Penal Code.
The establishment of this Committee is the direct outcome of one of the resolutions of the last meeting of the Northern States Governors’ Forum held here in Kaduna on the 11th of September 2015; to the effect that most of the criminal offences currently being perpetrated especially in this part of the country like kidnapping, cattle rustling and inciting religious preaching, inter-alia have either not been adequately covered by the Penal Code or not at all.
Therefore, it has become a matter of strategic imperative to review the existing Criminal Justice System in its entirety in order to ensure that it is up to date and consistent with our current situation. The Boko Haram insurgency which has been raging on for the past six years is one of the many serious security challenges we are experiencing. It has been generally agreed that one of the root causes of the insurgency was unlicensed and inciting preaching by the sect which inevitably stoked the violence and culminated in the extremely complicated and unconventional security situation facing this part of the country and in particular the North-East.
The attendant consequences of the insurgency are the resort to the abduction and conscription of vulnerable and innocent people particularly school children. The case of the Chibok school girls has been universally condemned and still fresh in our mind. Although not widely reported in the media there have been series of abductions of innocent people by the Boko Haram insurgents. The Committee should also look at the condemnable activities of the so called sponsors of the insurgency and come up with legally pragmatic, appropriate and proportionate punishment. The Committee should also focus specifically on parents who because of some pittance sacrifice their children as suicide bombers. Such parents must be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Similarly, the issue of cattle rustling has been gradually assuming a disturbingly unacceptable dimension which quite often degenerates into the vicious circle of unwarranted mass killings and deadly reprisal attacks. These are just few examples of the multifarious security challenges we are confronted with and in order to overcome them with appreciable degree of success we need to adopt an effective legislative framework; hence the need for the review of the Criminal Justice System of the Northern States. As legal experts, you are at liberty to fashion out the appropriate specific Terms of Reference.
However to facilitate the process of your work, I should mention the generic guidelines to guide you which include the following: A thorough and meticulous review of the Penal Code as it exists with a view to pointing out its weaknesses and constraints in the overall administration of Criminal Justice System in the Northern States; Careful analysis of the various emergent security challenges confronting the Northern States and determine how best to incorporate them into the Penal Code for proper and effective administration of justice and to make any other recommendations the Committee deems necessary in the course of its assignment.
“ As you are all aware, I need not to reiterate that the holistic review of the Criminal Justice System must be consistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended and / or any Act of the National Assembly for the time being in force as any review that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any Act of the National Assembly is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency” Shettima said.