Many people think that the JUSUN [Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria] strike has totally paralysed the administration of justice mechanisms in Nigeria but this is a serious misconception.
On the contrary, the JUSUN strike is merely a catalyst to looking at ways to reconsider the human interface with our justice systems. Let’s examine some advantages the JUSUN strike presents to us.
- Delivery of Judgements and Rulings can be done via zoom. Hardcopies of these judgments can be sent via electronic means
- Resolution of disputes. With the lockdown of the courts, litigants should explore mediation. Lawyers can conduct mediation sessions in their chambers, litigants can use the multidoor court houses or take advantage of the Office of the Public Defender, Citizens mediation Center and other private mediation processes
- In Criminal cases,
Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 provides that the Chief Magistrate or any magistrate designated by the Chief Judge for that purpose to conduct an inspection of police stations and other places of detention every month.
During the visit, the magistrate may:
(a) call for and inspect the record of arrests;
(b) direct the arraignment of a suspect, or
(c) where bail has been refused, grant bail to any suspect where appropriate.
- Pending Court cases can be resolved between parties during the lockdown of courts if Lawyers can just talk to their clients and to each other. There is no problem that can’t be solved with negotiation and a spirit of intent to solve our client’s legal problems.
To focus a bit more on our Criminal Justice Systems, I ask; what happened to all those committees we set up for criminal Justice Reform or the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee established by the Act? What are they doing? Are they not meeting?
What happened to the other initiatives like the PDSS, District Prosecutors Scheme etc. What happened to the Human Rights Committees of the NBA, the Human Rights Institutions and other bodies set up to help the Justice Sector…..The JUSUN Strike is the best time to show the relevance of these initiatives and institutions.
Our respective Chief Judges go on prison visitation yearly and they sit as a court in correctional facilities, so what stops a magistrate or judge from going to these correctional facilities to do the same thing? All they would need is their legal assistants and Correctional center officers to do the paper work afterall the Judges and Magistrates are only expected to make a PRONOUNCEMENT
What is stopping Magistrates from visiting Police detention centers? With the PDSS on ground and a volunteer group of lawyers to accompany them, they now have every support to carry out their constitutional responsibilities.
The Judiciary has been accused of many things including the fact that they know what to do but they are too lazy or they don’t care….I don’t want to believe this because these men and women on the bench are lawyers like me, they chose a higher calling on the bench, they gave up economic prospects to serve this nation, they gave up their social and political freedoms to live a life of seclusion and commitment to Justice.
I believe in many of our Judges and Magistrates. I have no doubt that they will be more effective if they had the independence to do what they are called to do.
Let’s think outside the box!
Akinlade, Esq. is the national convener of Fight Corruption in the Judiciary and promotes PDSS nationwide