If you have been searching a comprehensive article that clearly explains criminal procedures in Nigeria, you are in this right place. In this article, i will explicitly discuss the procedure for criminal litigation in Nigeria and the various sources of criminal litigation laws in Nigeria. Trust me; you are not going to regret reading this.
It is pertinent not that my major aim to shearing this content is to educate law students and laws on the best law to read through whenever they have a criminal matter to handle.
So, if you do not know much about criminal law or the procedure for criminal matters in court, this article is primarily for you.
Without wasting much of your time, I will quickly explain what criminal litigation is.
What is criminal litigation?
Criminal litigation simply refers to criminal procedure. Simply put, It is the procedural law for handling criminal matters in Nigeria, whereas, criminal law is substantive. In this article, we would be using criminal litigation and criminal procedure interchangeably as they are both similar.
Now that you know what criminal procedure is, i will now highlight some of the sources of criminal procedure in Nigeria.
Sources of criminal litigation
The sources of criminal litigation are those places from which the rules of criminal procedure can be found and applied. Thus, anywhere that you can find criminal procedure is a source.
They are those wellsprings that lend validity to criminal proceedings. This is quite important because some rules of criminal proceedings are just plain common sense. For instance, the rule that a person’s confessional statement implicates him is just logical.
However, you can’t walk into a court of law and try to convince the judge that a person’s confessional statement should implicate him because nothing is more logical.
You did fall flat on your face. Thus, the sources of criminal litigation are the wellsprings that give criminal proceedings, even the logical ones, force of law.
The sources are broadly divided into two. These are PRINCIPAL ENACTMENTS and SECONDARY ENACTMENTS.
Primary sources of criminal procedure
1. The Criminal Procedure Act (CPA):
This is the principal statute applicable in all states in Southern Nigeria excluding Lagos state. Just as the criminal code is applicable to Southern Nigeria only, Criminal Procedure Act is the primary procedural law in Southern Nigeria.
These states have domesticated the CPA, thus, each state now having a Criminal Procedure Law. However, in 1963 it was of general application after its enactment in 1946 as Criminal Procedure Ordinance.
2. The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC):
This is the principal statute applicable in the Northern Nigeria. Just as the penal code is only applicable to Northern Nigeria, Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) is the primary procedural law for criminal matters in the North.
When any criminal matter is brought to any court in the North, the court will use Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) as the principal law for litigating on the matter.
3. The Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL):
The Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) is applicable only in Lagos state. It came into force in 2011. The first enactment was in 2007 while the extant one in 2011. The extant one is the ACJL 2011.
4. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015:
It is pertinent to note that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) has repealed the above criminal procedure laws for the purpose of proceedings before Federal Courts. It is applicable to states that have adopted same.
The foregoing statutes are the primary enactments because they are the statutes devoted to criminal litigation in Nigeria. Criminal litigation started from the time complaint is laid to the relevant authority such is investigated, arrest is made, the trial, conviction, sentence and appeal of the decision of the court.
Secondary sources of criminal procedure law
The secondary enactments are not devoted to criminal litigation but they contain provisions that relate to criminal litigations. They are:
1. The Constitution:
As you already know, the constitution of Nigeria is the grundnorm and Supreme law of Nigeria. Now, as the grundnorm, the constitution certain some provisions on criminal litigation too.
Take for instance, Chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria provides that the Fundamental rights of every Nigerian is sacrosanct on trial of an accused person. Aside from this, there are other parts of the constitution that also relates to criminal trials procedure in Nigeria. No doubt, it is one of the secondary sources of criminal procedure in Nigeria.
2. The Evidence Act:
Another important source of criminal litigation in Nigeria is the evidence act. Its relevance is evidenced in trial proceedings.
Many a time, the evidence act regulate the admissibility and proof of evidence. It also determines where burden of proof lies and the onus of proof among others.
3. Children and Young Person’s Act:
The Children and Young Person’s Act is also an important secondary source of criminal procedure law in Nigeria because it provides for criminal matters that has to do with children and young persons.
In fact, whenever a crime is committed by a child, the court is supposed to used the Children and Young Person’s Act first, in determining the matter.
4. The Police Act:
Undoubtedly, the police act is another important source of criminal litigation in Nigeria. It is pertinent to note that the sole aim of the Police Act is to provide for an efficient and effective Police Force that is based on the principles of accountability and transparency and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Nonetheless, there are some provisions of the police act that are concerned with the Procedural law in criminal matters. This is exactly why the police act is a source of criminal litigation.
5. The Armed Forces Act (Disciplinary Proceeding Special Provisions) Act:
The Armed Forces Act (Disciplinary Proceeding Special Provisions) Act is the law that governs disciplinary proceedings against any person subject to military law irrespective of the institution or contemplation of criminal proceedings against him in any court.
From the title of the act, you can see clearly that when there is any disciplinary proceeding that has to do with a member of the armed force, the court will take notice of this act. It is, thus, one of the sources of criminal litigation in Nigeria.
Other secondary sources of Criminal Litigation in Nigeria
- Coroner’s Law
- Supreme Court Act
- Supreme Court Rules
- Court of Appeal Act
- Court of Appeal Rules
- Federal High Court Act
- Federal High Court Rules
- High Court Laws
- Magistrate Court Laws
Also read: See the Major Pillars of Democracy
Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction in Nigeria
In Nigeria, we have Courts of General Criminal Jurisdiction and Courts of Special Criminal Jurisdiction. The Courts of General Criminal Jurisdiction include the following:
- Area/Customary Courts
- Magistrate Court
- High Courts of State/FCT, Abuja, Court of Appeal
- Supreme Court – Appellate General Criminal Jurisdiction
These courts are called court of general jurisdiction over criminal matters because they have power over all crimes and all persons.
Courts of special criminal jurisdiction include the following:
- Federal High Court
- National Industrial Court
- Court Martial
- Juvenile Court
- Coroner’s Court
- International Criminal Court
They are so called because they only have power over specific subject matter and persons.
This is where I am going to stop in today’s article. Apparently, this article has explains everything you need to know about the procedure for criminal matters in Nigeria. If you need more detailed information, i enjoin you to check both the primary and secondary sources of criminal litigation mentioned in this article.
Hope this article was helpful? Well, if you have any question, comment or contribution to this work, you can let me know using the comment section below this post. I promise to give you a reply as soon as I can.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ChMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.