The Criminal Justice System In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Criminology And Security Studies

The Criminal Justice System In Nigeria


The purpose of the study was to examine the interaction between the courts and the prisons in the course of justice delivery in Abia State criminal justice system. The research employed a survey research design. The Researcher used the questionnaire and unstructured interview as tools of inquiry. The population of the study was 400 comprising officials of the courts, and the prisons randomly selected within Abia State geographical area. Simple percentage was used in analyzing the background characteristics of respondents, while Pearson’s product moment correlation coefficient (PPMC) test statistics was used in testing the formulated hypotheses. Functionalism was the theoretical orientation used to explain relationships between variables. Major findings revealed that ethics and rules guiding courts and prisons are central and a significant feature of the criminal justice system. The study further revealed that the said ethics and rules were not adhered-to in the discharge of duties and that criminal justice administrators allowed infiltration of white-collar and corporate crime as a means to augment poor salaries. Unfortunately, Politicians and business class cash-in on the loophole to offer bribes and gratification to officers of the courts, the prisons as well as the police. Today, Politicians /Business class influence decisions of the criminal justice agencies that threw ethics to the bin. The study recommended attitudinal change only when morally upright judges, magistrates, lawyers, staff of the courts and that of the prisons are recruited and finally, funds should be provided by the federal government for the running of the courts and the prisons for better, effective, efficient and reliable criminal justice system.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The criminal justice system in Nigeria with particular reference to Abia State is made up of three distinctive inter-dependent components viz.; the police, the courts and the prisons. These agencies work in synergy in the prevention, deterrence, apprehension, investigation, trial, punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. The said public agencies maintain law and order, law enforcement and imprisonment of offenders. They also make provisions for sustainable programmes for corrections and rehabilitation of inmates.

Therefore, the goal of the criminal justice system is prevention, deterrence and control of crime in the society. Although, Moore (1997) noted that the criminal justice is not a system in the sense that, all agencies are directed towards a particular objective with the help of a centralized authority, that, it is a limited system to the extent that, the different agencies are linked through a process in which one agency’s output become the next agency’s input. The output of the police is the input of the courts, while the output of the courts is the input of the prisons, and vice versa.

Furthermore, Dambazau (2011) viewed same as an instrument of practical purposes, accountable for the efficient and effective reduction of crime. This is through three distinct mechanisms: deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Iwarimie – Jaja (2003) viewed same as “a process where the different components co-ordinate their independent functions by processing the criminal suspect from one stage to the other”. The process involves arrest, booking, trial and confinement. However, this study will concentrate on the criminal justice system in Nigeria, lessons from the courts – prisons interact in Abia State geographical area.

The study will emphasize more on the contributions of the courts and the prisons towards timely delivery of justice in Abia State. Although, it is believed that the courts failure to dispense justice timely is due to prisons ineffectiveness and corruption in the Society. Meanwhile, the prisons argued that offenders standing trail never arrived late to courts and cannot be the reason for delay in justice delivery. Therefore, the study intends to uncover reasons behind such delay since, justice delayed is justice denied.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The courts-prisons interact within the criminal justice system is geared towards prompt justice delivery and rehabilitation of offenders. Most recently, it is an issue of concern in the national dailies, subject of discussion by citizens and legal practitioners on how the system has degenerated, yet it has persisted unabated. According to Brown (n.d), “the various reasons why the courts could not sit, or when they sat could not mention a matter but adjourn to a future date frustrates effort of the prisons officers”. The courts never considered how prisons officers feel returning with offenders to base with directive to reproduce same offenders on the adjourned date. The situation could be worse considering distance covered, poor state of roads, logistics and financial position of the prisons. The prisons’ effort to meet with their routine obligation as well as service several courts within the jurisdiction has created problems. The courts inability to effectively and timely dispose of cases and/or the prisons to continue to house offenders without trial in courts, have further compounded the problems.

Hence, the study intends to probe into how the situation has constituted the failure of the criminal justice system. To that extent, the study will aim at proffering solution as to stem the tide and better the lot for the justice system. It will also win the hope for justice by the common man. The situation necessitated in-depth investigation into the courts – prisons relationship in Nigeria with particular reference to Abia State. In sum, many scholars have written on the criminal justice system as a whole and the specific structures therein, namely: the police, courts, and prisons. There is no known study in Nigeria that is concerned with the contretemps in the relationship between the courts and the prisons in the course of justice delivery. This is the essence of this study with a view to making the criminal justice system more effective, hence the need for a rethinking.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to ascertain and appraise the work-relationship between the courts and the prisons in the criminal justice system in Abia State. The subsidiary objectives of the study include the following:

  1. To find out factors that hinder criminal justice agencies, particularly the courts and the prisons in the discharge of their duties.
  2. To find out the extent of ethics adherence by the courts and the prisons.
  3. To ascertain what causes delay in court proceedings which ultimately affect justice delivery in Abia state.
  4. To investigate how the criminal justice agencies, particularly, courts and the prisons in Abia State can co-operate more in the course of justice delivery.
  5. To make suggestion and recommendations for a more reliable and efficient Justice delivery in Abia State.

1.4 Research Questions

The following questions guide this study:

  1. What are the factors that could hinder criminal justice agencies in discharging their duties in Abia State?
  2. What is the extent of ethics adherence by criminal justice agencies in Abia State?
  3. What are the factors which causes delay in court proceedings that affect justice delivery in Abia State?
  4. In what ways do criminal justice agencies co-operate in justice delivery in Abia State?
  5. In what ways can criminal justice system be improved in Abia State?

1.5 Significance of the Study

Crime reduction and control essentially is the purpose for the establishment of the criminal justice institutions in Nigeria. Therefore, investigation of the relationship of the agencies responsible for justice administration in to reveal factors hindering administration of justice in Abia state. Scholars, academics, and researchers paid attention to the administration and operations of the criminal justice institutions, but no effort was made to study the courts and the prisons interact. Hence, the study examined the said relationship with a view to investigate the reasons for delayed justice administration which created lacuna as a result.

The findings of this study will assist the judiciary and the prisons officers to co-ordinate their functions towards enhancement of the value expectations of the Society. The courts, the prisons as well as the public will find the study useful because it has treated the grey areas of ethics and co-operation. Policy makers, academics and researchers will use it as a tool to understand the situation as it is within the criminal justice system. This will further assist the institutions to bring up policies and action plan towards a better justice administration in Abia State.

Finally, the study is a prospective reference material for researchers, academics who may want to look at other issues which the study was limited to, or can build on the recommendations of the study. Thus, the frontier of knowledge and information relating to the relationship between criminal justice agencies (courts and prisons) have been expanded and documented.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses stated in null form shall guide this study:

  1. There is no significant relationship between the co operation of criminal justice agencies and effective discharge of justice in Abia State.
  2. There is no significant relationship between adherence to ethics and effective discharge of justice in Abia State
  3. There is no significant relationship between corruption and effective discharge of justice in Abia State.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

The interacting components of the criminal justice agencies and their roles to maintain high level ethical standard, particularly, the courts and the prisons within Abia State form the scope of this study.

Consequently, this study is to verify various variables at play in the course of justice dispensation and the roles, functions and contributions to ensure maintenance of law and order. Other functions are the security, apprehension, investigation, court trial and imprisonment of offenders within Abia State geographical area.

Therefore, the variables investigated are the agencies and their roles within Abia State criminal justice system.

These are the interacting variables examined, whose relationship added to the scope of the study. Hence, the delimitation of the study is restricted within the roles of the courts and the prisons in the course of justice delivery in the criminal justice system in Abia State alone.

1.7 Definition of Terms

The key concepts used in this study will be defined operationally for the purpose of clarification.

These include:

Criminal Justice System:

The criminal justice system here refers to the sum total of activities engaged by the state to defend herself against criminal activities. It is referred to as a system in view of complex processes that may be involved in the co-ordination of the three agencies, the police, the courts and the prisons in crime control.

Particularly, in the area of prevention, detection, investigation, apprehension, trial, punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. The system is in constant contact with agencies whose co-operation and co ordination of activities is instrumental to the peace and harmony in the state.

Criminal Justice Institutions:

The criminal justice institutions here refer to establishments empowered by law in the execution of criminal justice. They are statutorily established organs charged with the functions of ensuring law, order and peaceful co-existence of all in the society. These institutions include the police, the courts and the prisons and together they constitute the criminal justice institutions.

The Police:

The police are a creation of the constitution, entrusted with the task of maintaining public order, enforcement of law, prevention and control of persons who may breach the law. The police are the first entry into the criminal justice system charged with crime detection, prevention, investigation and apprehension. Indeed the police have powers to arrest anybody suspected to have committed an offence and equally conduct proper investigation. After which, the police may charge the person to court for the law to take its course where there is sufficient evidence linking the person to the crime.

The Nigeria Police Force therefore has the authority to prosecute criminal cases in court. The section 4 of the Police Act 1967 though replaced with the decree No5 of 1989 by the Babangida’s administration further reinforced the said authority. The Police act as Investigating Police Officer (IPO) and also provide security to the civil society or to the general public.

The Court:

Generally speaking, there are five (5) levels of courts: the Customary court, Magistrate court, High court, Appeal court and the Supreme court. The courts were created by the constitution as the judiciary, an important arm of the Federal Government. And, the judiciary in the administration of justice must be intune with the provisions of the law if the fundamental right of citizens must be respected within the provisions of the constitution. Therefore, the courts have the right and duty to uphold the rule of law since justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. Hence, the courts interpret laws and also give hope for justice for the common man. That is the reason the court can be described as an agency set up by the government to define and apply the law, to order its enforcement and to settle dispute points on which individuals or groups do not agree. The court is always fair in the treatment of any matter without fear or favour for justice to prevail.


The prisons service in Abia State is age long. It served for the Ibos as detention places or place of incarceration for those who contravene the law. It existed before the advent of the colonial masters in the shore of Africa.
However, today it can be described as any building, or place, where persons can be confined. It is a detention apparatus of the society. Particularly, those who breach the law, or tradition or committed crime against the state. Most recently, prisons service is made to safe keep criminals or suspects, and to avoid escape so that they can be brought before the law court for trial.

The British administration in 1872 introduced and established own colonial pattern of prison service with a capacity of 300 inmates at Broadstreet, Lagos. Thenceforth, the prisons have undergone amendments and, most recently, the Degree No 9 of 1972, through Federal Government white Paper released in 1971 re-enforced the prisons. This followed re-structuring and up-grading of the Nigeria Prisons Service to a Para-military standard. Today, the said Para-military agency built prisons like-Maxi-Maxi, Maximum, medium, Lock-up and Women Prisons in Abia State and other states of Nigeria.

Courts – Prison Interact:

The institutions of the criminal justice system, namely, the police, the courts and the prisons are separately established to execute functions according to the law. These agencies train and equip staff to suit their functions. But, along the line, there is a meeting point in their line of duties. Particularly, the courts must co-operate and co-ordinate activities with the prisons in a bid to ensure justice delivery. This is so since all suspects, or criminals or those remanded from the federal, state or local courts are kept with the prisons. The courts through the various warrants demand for these offenders standing trial. The prisons on their own must ensure that suspects standing trial must be at the court on time for the law to take its course. The co-operation of these agencies created a relationship healthy for prompt justice delivery. Therefore, courts-prisons interact is basically the relationship existing between the courts and the prisons in the course of justice delivery.

Moral Uprightness:

moral-uprightness is coined in the context which drives the principles of right and wrong in terms of value, character and behaviour. It best describes quality of person who exhibit self-discipline, sincerity, uprightness or not easily influenced to depart from oath and rectitude.


This refers to dishonest, illegal or immoral behaviour specially from someone in power. It is the use of power, office, or opportunity to gain undue advantage over others for self aggrandizement. It is also an unethical behaviour and a deviation from rules, principles, or code of conduct to appropriate to self what belong to others.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

Having statistically analyzed and interpreted the result of the findings, this particular chapter presents the summary, conclusions and recommendations.

5.1 Summary

The purpose of this study is to investigate the work relationship between the courts and the prisons in a bid to ensure timely justice delivery in Abia State. The findings revealed that, there is a significant relationship between co-operation of criminal justice agencies and effective discharge of justice. Secondly, there is a significant relationship between ethics and practice adherence and effective discharge of justice and thirdly, there is a significant relationship between corruption and effective discharge of justice in Abia state. The two agencies (courts and prisons) co-operate and co-ordinate activities to enable effective justice dispensation. However, the quest for materialism and mundane practice, indeed affected ethical standard and this has permeated into the system. The police, the courts and the prisons are rather occupied with shady corrupt practices which threw decorum, ethics and sense of responsibility into the waste bin.

It can be said that, the unethical behaviour in the judiciary and the prisons could be seen as a mirror of the larger society. The judiciary and the prisons cannot be separated from a society that has relegated honesty and integrity to the bottom runs of the ladder, celebrating fraudsters and scanners. Meanwhile, beyond the influence of the said materialism, the study discovered that the situation can be tackled by a dedicated and selfless leadership at the national level.

5.2 Conclusion

Generally speaking, researchers, scholars, and academics have extensively published books, papers, articles, and journals etc about operations and administration of the police, the courts and the prisons. But only a few attempts have been made concerning courts-prisons interact. Therefore, this study is an attempt to systematically examine the interaction between the courts and the prisons in the course of justice delivery in Abia State. Particularly, it will discover whether or not the agencies adhere to ethical standard within the criminal justice system. The study revealed that infiltration of white-collar and corporate crime affected the courts and the prisons in a big to augment their meagre salaries. It is indeed a societal problem which only a committed executive can address.

The situation notwithstanding, change is feasible. Beyond the effort of the national assembly, states houses of assembly and the contributions of the constitutional conference, only the executive president of the country has the will. He has the authority to re-structure the economy for a better fiscal policy to accommodate the strong, the weak, and the future generation. An economic reform aimed at enhancing the Nations economic situation, re-directing the citizens through re-orientation and ensuring that they are committed to the building of their fatherland. Also, it will aim to change the perception of the people and to adapt to a sincere ways of life based on the recent economic standpoint. The economic policy will be a reform that will drive attitudinal change that should be concretized through enabling laws of the land.

Remuneration will be across the board and to be handled by the federal wages and salaries commission, the said salaries will be adopted and implemented for the federal, state and local government workers since they attend same market. Accordingly, remuneration will be structured according to qualification, rank and file with differences in allowances. This depends on places of posting e.g. Abuja or Lagos to attract higher allowances mainly, transport and housing. This will discourage and de-emphasize gratification and materialism while in office. This idea was supported by the contribution of Justice Okei – Odumakin in Tell Magazine June 11, 2012, as “a call for general ethical revival in the polity and payment of proper remuneration after which, the judges/prisons officers that engage in corrupt act will be made to face the music”. The penalty will be severe and, this will discourage and further reduce crime and corruption in the country at large.

The aim of the criminal justice system is for a crime-free, calm and peaceful society. Although, Nigeria as a society is a Multi-Lingual, heterogeneously mixed cultural setting made up of the good, the bad and the ugly. The task of the criminal Justice system is to ensure that the good is protected while the bad and the ugly get punished whenever the law is breached. The ugly is also reformed at the point of release back to the society. Therefore, the courts and the prisons are trained to uphold the ethical standard of their practice and profession for a better society.

To this extent, there is hope for justice for the common man as well as rehabilitation and training in one craft-work or the other for the inmate. However, the desire for materialism brought about gratification, frivolous adjournment of cases, perpetual injunction, and congestion in prisons. The wealthy and the political class usurped the situation and hijacked the system for their personal gain. This is buttressed by justice Ayorinde, Chairman of Nigeria legal Aid Council when he remarked that “judicial corruption takes many forms but that, the most heinous is naked bribery. He berated the bar for being part of the corruption in the judiciary”. The Nigeria bar can certainly not absolve itself, as the problem of corruption is not limited to the bench but also prevalent at the bar, courts administrators and prisons officials and the whole Nigeria society may be involved or affected if the situation is not tackled on time.
Furthermore, Tell magazine Nov 8, 2010 TundunAdeyemo in his reflection about Nigeria,made, “a call to arms against corruption” he said, corruption has pervaded every corner of our polity. This is the time to stand up and fight the evil. The question is how? It is possible, indeed, a new Nigeria is feasible.

5.3 Recommendations

The problem is largely socio-economic and a good governmental reform that will close the wide gap between the poor and the rich. A well articulated economic structure and socio-economic turn-around for the people that can reduce the quest for materialism. This will consolidate the rebranding technique already in place for a better society or the new Nigeria. Hence, the research will make the following recommendations:

  1. The Federal wages and salaries commission should re-structure and enhance remuneration for workers across the board. This will uplift the living standard of workers where their take-home should be sufficient enough to take them home. This certainly will reduce and possibly bring to a halt the demand for gratification to argument their meagre salaries.
  2. Recently, education or career-building and man-power development is celebrated all over the World. This in-turn promotes integrity, dignity, professionalism and hard-work. It takes hardwork, qualification, capability and achievement to fit into any class stratification. This will definitely bring down rogues, fraudsters and greed.
  3. Rebranding citizen’s character, decency, integrity and commitment of every-one towards nation-building should be emphasized. Citizens should jettison culture of impunity and disregard for ethics to enable them re-introduce orderliness, and war against indiscipline. This will deter selfishness, in-ordinate ambition, and extreme material acquisition. This will bring about a new way of life and a new Nigeria.
  4. The new Nigeria where justice, equity and good conscience will be the driving force. At this point, self-esteem, self-confidence, and pride for father-land will be the new order.

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