If the Senate had its way, false witnesses will be liable to two years in prison, courtesy of the Witness Protection Bill which scaled a third reading on Thursday.
The bill seeks to enable certain persons receive protection in relation to certain information, evidence or other assistance rendered to law enforcement agencies during enquiries, investigation or prosecution.
However, the other side of the bill seeks punishment for anyone witness giving false testimony under the cover of the bill, or pulling out of an ongoing case for no justifiable reason.
But there is an option of N500, 000 fine in lieu of the two-year jail term for an offending witness.
Incidentally, the bill was a brainchild of the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke (Osun West) who died in May.
Senator David Umaru who anchored the bill on behalf of Adeleke said the witness protection programme contained in the bill is a universally accepted concept for the protection of witnesses who are willing to provide information and evidence for the purpose of enhancing the justice system but whose lives may be threatened.
Umaru added that the bill seeks to address a major lacuna in Nigeria’s justice system as there are no extant laws in place to protect witnesses that may volunteer to give testimony to advance the cause of Justice.
“It is to give impetus to the current anti-corruption drive of this administration. No doubt it would restore confidence to our justice system.
“It also seek to provide an enabling environment to effect government policies that enhance the administration of criminal justice and the fight against corruption and assist unravel criminal activities which has constituted major challenges in corporate existence”, Umaru said.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremedu who presided over plenary, commended the late Adeleke for initiating the bill.
“This is one of our contributions to the judicial process. I believe that going forward, those in the judiciary, especially those in the prosecution process will have it easy securing witnesses when they are sure of protection”, Ekweremadu said.