According to reports, the National Assembly under the leadership of Ahmed Lawan has passed a bill to implore the protection of witnesses in prosecution cases. This new bill seeks to change their identities, keep them under Federal Government custody and pay them. The bill identified as The Witness Protection and Management Bill 2022 permits prosecuting agencies to modify birth, death, and marriage certificates to cover identity protect a witness in court.
Accordingly, the witness takes on a new name and identity during proceedings. The bill was passed on March 30 2022 and May 7, 2022, in Senate and House of Assembly respectively. The bill awaits President Muhammadu Buhari Assent. According to a copy obtained by a local media, section 18 and 19 under part III of the bill empowers relevant agencies to lawfully amend or modify information in its document to keep a witness’s identity.
Therefore, Agencies may apply to court to seek an order to obtain essential documents to enable a witness to create a new identity.
Revealing further, Section 19(1) allows agencies to apply for court orders that enable witnesses to alter birth, death, and marriage certificate. Section 20(1) states court can grant an order of protection once satisfied that life and safety of witnesses are in danger. 20(2) states proceedings will take place in private and all records sealed. Section 21(1) States anyone required to give orders relating to section 20(1) is expected to give effect to the order. Section 21(2) states any alteration made to birth, death, and marriage certificate of a witness becomes valid under Marriage Acts, etc. Section 21(3) states relevant agencies are expected to keep records.
Furthermore, Section 22 states entries made cannot be canceled except under a court order. Section 23 makes provision for a witness who needs alteration under the marriage act. A witness who wants to marry cannot make marry with the new identity unless they are of marriageable age. Section 23(2) states anyone who contradicts this provision commits an offense and is liable to a fine of not less than N100,000 or 12months imprisonment or both.
The new Witness Protection and Management bill opine to create Witness protection and Management for witness welfare. The Agency action provides physical and armed protection, provides necessary grounds to allow witnesses to alter their identities, and relocates witnesses. Also, it provides accommodation, transportation, and sufficient financial assistance.
In addition, the witness protection bill allows an individual in the course of the procedure to carry out his duties with proper documentation.