An Abuja High Court judge, Justice Ishaq Bello, yesterday said inability of prosecutors to produce witnesses in court was frustrating criminal trials in the country.
Speaking at a two-day the national stakeholders’ meeting on the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, 2013, Justice Bello called for adequate funding of expenses incurred by state’s witnesses in criminal cases.
This, he said, would enable the witnesses to attend court in criminal proceedings.
He said many criminal cases had been frustrated by inadequate provisions for witnesses to attend court. He said: “As much as we are desirous to provide adequately for protection of witnesses, we must provide adequately for the payment of transport fare of witnesses of the state.
“A lot of cases are lost because the witnesses are not there.”
Justice Bello suggested that such funds should be kept in the custody of the various courts so that it could be easily disbursed to witnesses.
He also called on the National Assembly to appreciate the need for such funds in the budget proposals of the judiciary.
He said: “It is obedience of witness summons that will bring witness to court. Therefore, for the fund to reside in the Ministry of Justice is an anomaly.
“The Senate and the House of Representatives should be able to understand the need to accept the budgetary proposals from the judiciary in respect of these funds.”
Justice Bello is the Chairman of the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform (PIJR) set up by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke.
The PIJR is to ensure the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill (2013).
Convener of the meeting and President, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN) said the meeting was convened to enable stakeholders deliberate further on the recommendations made at the Senate’s public hearing on the bill.
Already the bill had been passed by the House of Representatives.
He said: “Many observers of criminal justice system have hailed the bill as the most significant attempt to reform and unify the systems of criminal procedure in this country since independence.”
Nevertheless, he said there are still room for improvement.