Speeding up criminal justice

Awaiting trial prisoners (ATP) form over 70% of the prison population in Nigeria. There are many instances of time spent on remand awaiting trial exceeding five years. This is a strong sign of a dysfunctional justice system and the need to improve co-ordination. 

Our work aims to improve the quality of justice delivery in Nigeria through the reduction in the time that accused people spend awaiting trial and the costs of running the criminal justice system. 

The Speeding Up Criminal Justice Project is a J4A intervention that is being led by Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA). They are a non-governmental organisation with a track record of engagement with government agencies working on reform in the justice sector with particular focus on prison reform and prisoner rehabilitation.

One of our objectives is to establish permanent cross-sector consultation mechanisms to review the problems identified in the sector and formulate solutions.

What people say about J4A's work

' … the release of the longest serving awaiting trial prisoner (ATP) in Enugu, Mr Hyginus Ajibo, from prison after 16 years awaiting trial underscores the importance of the Clearing House project in reducing the number of ATPs and the length of time spent awaiting trial by ATPs.'

- Programme Officer with PRAWA, Enugu

'The Justice for All programme and its projects have raised a lot of awareness of the major issues and bottlenecks of the criminal justice system in Enugu and the approach used in resolving the issues is making some headway.'

- Human Rights Session, Radio Nigeria

Our aim

  • Reduce the time that accused people spend awaiting trial by identifying factors that prevent speedy dispensation of justice in criminal cases, developing and helping to implement action plans to address the key causes of delay and inefficiency in criminal cases, in a sustainable way
  • Implement systems for monitoring the speed and effectiveness of the delivery of criminal justice
  • Reduce the cost of running the criminal justice system
  • Improve the quality of justice delivery
  • Establish cross-sector co-ordination groups to identify and solve problems 
  • Disseminate information to encourage replication in other states

Our approach

  • Introducing process mapping and identification of issues
  • Increasing cross-sector consultation, identification of solutions and action planning
  • Implementing priority actions
  • Disseminating and replicating best practices

Who we work with

  • Nigerian Prison Service
  • Nigeria Police Force
  • Ministries of Justice
  • Judiciary
  • Anti-corruption agencies
  • Legal Aid Council
  • Other law enforcement agencies (NAPTIP, NDLEA)

Delivering results

  • Over 30% reduction in average length of time in custody awaiting trial in both Enugu and FCT
  • 179 awaiting trial prisoner (ATP) cases disposed of through Clearing House activities in Abuja as of February 2014
  • 231 ATPs have met their bail conditions
  • 6 case management systems functioning in Enugu and FCT
  • Criminal Justice Administration Committee reconstituted in FCT
  • Presentation to Ekiti justice sector on the project
  • Enugu Speeding up Criminal Justice pilot has published four newsletters and FCT pilot has published two newsletters to raise awareness

Longest-serving awaiting trial prisoner released in Enugu

In partnership with the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), the J4A programme is implementing a Clearing House project in Enugu and FCT. The project recorded a significant milestone in February 2014 when its pro bono lawyers secured the release on bail of Mr Hyginus Ajibo, the longest serving ATP in Enugu State. Mr. Ajibo had spent 16 years in prison awaiting trial.