The Senate on Wednesday, 7 July, 2021 passed a bill to expand the jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory Customary Court to undertake the trial of criminal matters.
The bill titled: Federal Capital Territory Customary Court Act, 2007 (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was sponsored by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central).
The passage of the bill followed the consideration of a report by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
Chairman of the Committee, Opeyemi Bamidele, in his presentation, said the primary objective of the bill was to amend the Federal Capital Territory Customary Court Act, 2007.
According to the lawmaker, the bill when signed into law by the President, seeks to, among other things, “expand the jurisdiction of the court to include the trial of criminal matters in order to Seck of the dockets of magistrate courts in the Federal Capital Territory.”
“On the whole, the amendment is intended to promote timely dispensation of justice”, the lawmaker added.
Bamidele recalled that stakeholders at the public hearing on the bill, supported its passage stating that its introduction is a welcome development that would reduce the quorum of the FCT Customary Court for speedy trials.
He emphasised that the stakeholders were of the view that, “the criminal jurisdiction being sought through this bill, is appropriate and acceptable as all Judges of the Court are legal practitioners who are competent to sit over criminal matters and as well knowledgeable in customary law.”
The lawmaker observed that they further contended that the court, as presently constituted, has the capacity in terms of infrastructure and manpower to accommodate the proposed expansion of criminal jurisdiction, if the statutory constraint is removed by ensuring that one Judge, instead of three sits on a case.
“This will position the court for efficiency in fulfilling the requirement of determination of matters within a reasonable period, as provided in section 36(1) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended,” he said.
Bamidele posited that the passage of the bill would translate to increase the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile for the Government in view of the cosmopolitan nature of the Federal Capital Territory, which inevitably, would increase demand for efficient and effective justice delivery.
He stressed that the amendment of the Customary Court Act would have consequential effect of a deemed amendment to Section 494 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and Section 4 of the FCT High Court Act, Cap. 510.