Our various Nigerian courts had embarked on the annual vacation since around the month of July, at different time, while from the next one week, some of those courts would start to resume the normal or regular sitting, as already proposed. This paper aims at suggesting and or recommending certain measures that our courts need to put in place as they prepare for resumption from the annual vacation.
First of my recommendations is a critical review and or analysis of the Rules of Court and Practice Directions. Our Heads of Courts should respectively review the Rules of Courts and where there is need for amendment, they should amend and where a Practice Direction is required, they should make use of their powers in this regard for an effective and efficient administration of justice in their court. Some identified problems and or challenges in the just concluded legal year arising from the Rules of the Court should not continue to exist in the new legal year.
Another recommendation is an Improvement in the court room facilities. Some of our courts do not have enough toilets, fans, air conditioners, seats for the audience, in fact some of the facilities in them are dilapidated and require refurbishing. Therefore, our respective Heads of Court should make budgetary allocation for these projects and ensure that everything is fixed as it prepares for resumption from the annual vacation for a new legal year.
Furthermore, I humbly recommend a well-equipped library for all courts. It would be interesting to find out that some of our courts do not even have the Rules that guide the court in their library. Some time in the past, this had happened to me while I was in search of the laws establishing the Court and the Rules of the Court as my search on the library had no positive desired result.
Also, I humbly recommend an increase in the incentives for the judicial officers. It is no doubt that the legislature at the Federal Level regulating the remuneration and or emoluments of judicial officers (i.e. the National Assembly) has refused, rejected and or neglected to make any amendment to the Act of National Assembly made fixing the emoluments of judicial officers as to ensure that the present economic values are reflected. Therefore, incentives to cover the areas of inadequacies by the State Executives or the Head of Court would increase the morale of those judicial officers to work more to give their best.
The courts should also build a court-customer relationship. Lawyers and litigants should be accorded a cordial relationship as a departure from some of the ugly confrontations and other incidents that usually happen between some courts’ staff and lawyers or and litigants.
War against corruption would in some of our courts also serve a great step to be taken against all courts’ staff especially some of the registrars and clerks as well as bailiff who have turned the court’s work to business as usual and would not even be ashamed to request for illegal money or excessive money from lawyers and or litigants and other court users (even such demands are made in public) or conniving with a co-party to a case to defeat the interest of justice or frustrate a case before the court.
A good relationship between the bar and the bench would be a good development as stakeholders in the administration of justice. The new executives of the Nigerian Bar Association under the leadership of Y.C. Maikyau, SAN, should make efforts to ensure that this relationship is rebuilt and strengthened in the interest of justice.
Furthermore, there should be an early call for application to the bench where necessary to add to the judicial man power. Some of the judges are already overburdened with judicial responsibilities, hence, the appointment of more judges on time is required to reduce this burden on the judges for them to be more effective and more efficient than before in this dispensation. Some of the judges have retired, some have incapacity to perform their judicial office while there are other reasons why this appointment of new judges are necessary at this time. Therefore, it is a good way to start this new legal year where such an appointment is undertaken.
Finally, while I hope that our courts would consider the recommendations made by this paper, I wish My Lords, the Judiciary, the Bar and the nation as a whole a wonderful new Annual Legal Year, 2022!