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House moves to put time limit of 270 days on court cases

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The House of Representatives Thursday passed through second reading a bill to amend the constitution to put a limit on the number of days for the trial of a case.

The bill, sponsored by Luke Onofiok, seeks to amend the constitution with the intent to put a limit a case could last during trial.

The bill seeks to amend section 287 of the 1999 constitution.

Leading the debate on the motion,
Onofiok said that election petitions cases will be exempted from the new proposed law.

He noted that the bill will “help to decongest our correctional centres.” Adding that “We the politicians benefited from legislation that helped to reduce the number of days for election cases should do the needful for the people.”

Also supporting the bill, the Chief Whip of the House, Mohammed Monguno, explained that the intent of the bill is different from the Criminal and Administrative Justice Act.

Opposing the bill, Uzoma Abonta advised the House to step down the bill, arguing that while the bill can cure mischief, it will cause another.

He noted that putting a limit on a criminal case could lead to criminals escaping justice.

Abonta noted there is a need to increase courts to make such an amendment.

“My fear is that to realize this, we will need other radical changes. If we say every criminal matter must be settled within 9months, what are we going to do if the case is not settled?

“If we allow this to pass without putting in place other things, we will set criminals free.”

Also opposing the bill, Shabba Ibrahim said that the bill will conflict with Section 36 of the 1999 constitution.

“There is a need for balance between this amendment and fair hearing. A reasonable time must be determined by peculiarity of cases,” he said.

The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the issues will be sorted out at the committee level.

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