NJI BOSS CAUTIONS MAGISTRATES ON REMAND OF SUSPECTS
By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA-THE Administrator of National Judicial Institute, NJI, Justice Umaru Eri, has tasked the magistracy to exercise restraint over what he called 'indiscriminate remand of suspects in custody.'
Justice Eri, who made the call at an orientation workshop organised for magistrates nationwide, said the only way the judiciary could retain public confidence was by purging itself of recklessness.
Tasking magistrates to always ensure strict compliance to the code of conduct for judicial officers, the NJI boss stressed that, 'it is imperative to note that the judicial task in our contemporary society is demanding and inexorable.'
He said: 'As judicial officers, your judgments will always be tried in the court of public opinion and face numerous criticisms in the electronic and print media. Your worships handle 80 per cent of the cases filed in the court system, comprising civil and criminal matters. I need not make a case for the magistracy with regard to your importance as a vital spoke in the wheel of justice. In view of the above, I consider this forum essential as part of the continuing professional education which is crucial to creating truly learned magistrates who will exude intellectual confidence to keep ahead of the counsel and parties appearing before you.
'As a magistrate, you should be guided by the code of conduct for every judicial officer in the country. This, you must do, by shunning corruption in all its forms. Most especially, you must avoid abuse of powers conferred on you as a magistrate and indiscriminate remand of suspects, especially those relating to overnight cases.'
Meantime, former Chief Judge of Edo State and ex-chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Constance A. Rekhia Momoh, has insisted that, 'some of the duties and powers conferred on magistrates are seldom exercised.'
She said: 'In criminal trial, what usually happens to an accused found guilty of a crime is to proceed to conviction and punishment in accordance with the law. In doing so, some magistrates hardly consider the alternative measures which the law empowers the courts to apply in favour of the offenders.
'The aspect that readily comes to mind in this regard is the probation of offenders as an alternative to conviction and sentence. The probation powers emphasises the effectiveness of bringing about a new order that does not over-criminalise the society.Probation should be given a chance.'
'The Magistrate courts ought to resort to it in proper cases in preference to convictions and incarceration. Your powers to make probation orders are found in the Criminal Procedure Act and Laws and under the Probation of Offenders Act. It is ideal where a crime is committed under pathetic or extenuating circumstance and I commend it for your consideration.'