Towards Effective Justice Delivery System in Nigeria

By Prof. Epiphany Azinge, SAN


PRELIMINARY REMARKS

To be invited to deliver the maiden memorial lecture in honor of a distinguished Nigerian, Nationalist, legal luminary, consummate administrator, leader of the Bar and quintessential public officer; is for me a great honor indeed. Late Alhaji Adbulahi Ibrahim SAN CON was not just a legal titan but easily the foremost ethical lawyer ever in Nigeria. He was passionately committed to upholding ethical standards and never hesitated in voicing his disagreements when lawyers go contrary to established rules of conducts.It was in consideration of all these that the topic, TOWARDS AN EFFECTIVE JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM IN NIGERIA was chosen for interrogation today. Perhaps this lecture will provide a platform to x-ray the foibles of the bar and bench in what is glaringly an underwhelming justice delivery system in Nigeria.

INTRODUCTION

Globally, there is growing interest in the justice delivery system. This is predicated on the backlog of cases that appears to overwhelm the justice delivery system. The concept of justice and principles of Rule of Law in Democratic settings suffers tremendous setback when the whole gamut of justice delivery system is in disarray. As in other parts of the world, Nigeria is experiencing increasing demand for improved institutional capacity to deliver effective justice. This demand presents a significant challenge as it reflects yawning gaps in the country’s capacity to deliver an efficient and responsive justice system.
Recently, there has been plethora of opinions on how to address the high voltage issue of delay in administration of justice and the consequences thereof. I note with benefit of hindsight the seminal lecture of my learned brother Mazi Afam Osigwe SAN at the NBA, Asaba branch law week. Tangentially related to this are the damning criticisms of our judicial institutions by Prof Chidi Odinkalu. Just about a month ago, the NBA held its justice sector summit to interrogate aspects of issues likely to enhance justice delivery system in Nigeria.
This lecture proceeds from the premise that there is still so much to be examined on the subject matter especially against the backdrop of delays in the justice sector occasioned by COVID-19 Pandemic measures and the effect of the “new format” and “remote justice” introduced to address the backlogs.
I therefore propose in this lecture to examine the (a) ESSENSE AND SIGNIFICANCE of the justice delivery system (b) highlight an overview of justice delivery system in specific countries of the world (c) historically review the trend of justice delivery system in Nigeria (d) analyse impediments to effective justice delivery (e)Highlight efforts so far made to remedy the delivery deficit (f) examine proposed judicial reforms (g) examine the criminal justice system (h) address the enduring challenges to Nigeria’s delivery system(i) highlight the impact of COVID-19 Pandemic and consequences thereof (J) Proffer suggestions for effective justice delivery system and then conclude accordingly.

All in all, this lecture will highlight and address existential policy issues rather than focusing on fixated legal and jurisprudential polemics.

JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM: ESSENCE AND SIGNIFICANCE.

It is a basic principle of justice that it should be delivered without delay. Magna Carta asserted that “To no one will we refuse or delay right or justice. ‘’ justice delayed is justice denied, especially to victims of crime’’. Not even these profound words have been able to stem the increasing spate of delays in the justice delivery system. The essence of justice is to achieve it swiftly and surely. The duration of litigation must be delicately balanced with the outcome in a way and manner that delay is not occasioned and the integrity of the outcome is not compromised.

The term justice delayed is justice denied speaks to the possible futility of justice obtained long after the potential benefits would have waned or disappeared. Put in another way, justice delayed amounts to an academic exercise without any tangible rewards. In the Criminal Justice System, delay can be fatal or mortally dangerous.
The cost implication in both Civil and Criminal actions can be humongous and clients and taxpayers are often made to bear the cost of delayed trials and litigations. The emotional drain on the parties cannot be underestimated and the psychological trauma suspects and victims alike face while the case drags can never be underestimated.

The significance is loss of confidence by the public on the justice system. Public perception is a critical ingredient in the assessment of justice delivery.
The corollary is that loss of confidence can lead to jungle justice and the nation is worse for it. It is therefore imperative that all nations must strive to enhance its justice delivery system in a way and manner that justice can be swiftly and surely achieved. Related to this is a robust approach to access to justice which is an integral aspect of the justice delivery system.

PICTURES OF JUSTICE DELIVERY GLOBALLY

Empirical survey reveals that most countries of the world have achieved relative success in their efforts to enhance effective justice delivery. Multi-dimensional approaches have been adopted to strengthen institutional capacity and at the same time create assess to justice. Countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, Singapore, US, Latin America have a successfully reduced pendency of cases. South Africa and East African countries have not fared poorly either. Countries with massive population like China have through the instrumentality of informatization of the courts reduced pendency of cases.
With deployment of technology in justice delivery system, China has fared fairly well in its justice delivery. India with its burgeoning population at a point in time grappled with pendency of cases. India as the largest democracy in the world with a population likely to cross that of China in 2028 and currently at 1.5billion as per United Nations estimate at an average yearly increase of 1.11 per cent in the last 10 years. The constant increase in population coupled with improved financial conditions, lack of tolerance and materialistic way of life had resulted in the increase in the number of pendency of cases in the country. But India instead of collapsing under the weight of pendency went back to the drawing board. By 2009, the National Consultation for strengthening the judiciary towards reducing pendency and delays created the roadmap for judicial reforms and drastically addressed the challenges of delays in justice sector. Firstly was vigorous application of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism. Currently India has incorporated Artificial intelligence or digitalization of justice delivery system.
The Singaporean success story certainly deserves special mention. Here the fundamental question is whether a country in attempting to eradicate backlog can prioritize court efficiency without effecting substantive justice? Singapore is a clear example of a common law country in southeast Asia that overcame a large backlog in the 1990`s.

JUSTICE DILIVERY SYSTEM IN NIGERIA –HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Even before independence in Nigeria, the justice sector had been confronted with challenges of backlog of cases. The problems have multiplied in geometric proportions with the advent of Military regimes; unitary government under the military regimes and the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, the platform to address pendency of cases was never established. But over and above all is the fact that we never calculated the implication of Nigeria`s population and the crying need to construct a justice sector that will match the population growth.In this regard, courts were not established and judges were never appointed on any agreed ratio to the population. Furthermore with increasing literacy amongst the populace, the importance of litigation over and above jungle justice was underscored. Land matters dominated our court dockets pre and post-independence and the supreme court were never spared of the avalanche or land litigation from most cities, villages and communities of then southern Nigeria.

As land disputes considerably abated commercial and criminal cases became the bane of the justice sector as our courts were inundated with cases flowing from commercial transactions. Not even the creation of states could address the delays in the court process. It rather exacerbated the situation. The delay of cases still continued. Truth be told, there has been a lot of conferences, summits and judicial reforms over the years. Not much seem to have been achieved from them. What seem to be fundamental is the establishment of the National Judicial Council and it`s arguably extremely powerful mandate.

HIGHLIGHTING IMPEDIMENTS TO EFFECTICVE JUSTICE DELIVERY CROWDED DOCKETS

Absence of case management strategy, overloaded filling of actions, congested prisons, delays in litigation-all these conduce to crowded dockets. Presently judges of courts have minimum of 500 cases in their dockets. Some have up to 2000 or 3000 as the case may be. Little wonder that cases last between 30-40 years in Nigeria.

(B)FEWER COURTS AND JUDICIAL OFFICERS.

I have alluded to this point earlier in the lecture. In a country of about 200 million Nigerians, about 1,200 judges of superior courts all over the country is grossly inadequate. The judges are simply overburdened by case load and delay or pendency of case is a natural consequence.
(C) DEPLORABLE COURTROOMS

Court rooms are dilapidated and in pitiable conditions. Some have leaking roofs, inadequate ventilation; no air conditioners or fans; No verbatim recorders or retrofitted systems; ill-motivated backroom staff and poorly maintained facilities.
(D) NON- AUTOMATED COURT SYSTEM

Hitherto, no court room in Nigeria could boast of any form of IT system. This was a huge source of burden on the judges and the court. Writing in long hand and trying to listen to counsel speak without any form of public address system was a strain on the justice sector and did not help in reducing pendency of cases at all.

(E) ROLE OF LAWYERS AND JUDGES

Lawyers have come under severe criticisms for inventions, subter fuges and dilatory tactics deployed in the conduct of cases all geared towards occasioning delays. This starts with filing of many frivolous or superfluous cases. Again are unnecessary applications for extension of time. Adjournments are secured for frivolous reasons. Even rules of fast track process are still breached by lawyers.
In instances where Arbitral Awards are deemed final and conclusive, Nigerian Lawyers have mastered the tactics of subjecting Arbitral awards to judicial intervention under the spurious reason of trying to set aside the arbitral award for misconduct, corruption or fraud. This has led to many commercial agreements refusing to choose Nigeria as likely venue or location for Arbitration.
It has also impacted adversely on investment profile of the country. In respect of judges, there is unquestionable lack of adequate manpower on the bench. Tangentially related to this is poor quality or lack of competence on the part of some judicial officers. This has made calls for review of processes of appointment inevitable. There is also the challenge of lack of specialization among the judges. Some judges do not have the will to deal with lawyers glaringly going contrary to rules of court or breaching ethnical standards. Cases started DE NOVO because of elevation or transfer of judicial officers is another fundamental issue causing delays or pendency of case

(F) JURISDICTIONAL OVERLOAD

By virtue of constitutional provisions, it does appear that most of the superior courts are wittingly or unwittingly overloaded in their mandates. Why should land matters, family disputes, customary or sharia law related matters get to the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court basically is a policy court and therefore ought to be spared the burden of hearing all kinds of cases. It has been seriously argued that a federal structure should be designed for the court system so that cases from some zones of the country should abate at the highest court at the zone—-in this case either a court of appeal or a designed supreme court for the zone which will involve constitutional amendment.

(G) EXCESSIVE LITIGATION

Survey suggests that Nigerians tend to over litigate. Issues that could be resolved by lawyers always end up in court. Again most are often spurious. It may be argued that it is better to litigate than take laws into one’s hands. No doubt about that. But we should be sure that any dispute filed in the court is deserving of litigation.

EFFORTS TO REMEDY JUSTICE DELIVERY DEFICIT

In the last 2 decades, concerted efforts have been made by stakeholders to remedy the justice delivery deficit. They include the following

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION AND MONITORING OF Judges

It cannot be denied that the idea of quarterly submission of reports by judges and justices of all superior courts of record (except Supreme Court justices) for evaluation is a well thought out idea. This certainly has made our judges more productive and accountable, knowing fully well the consequences of falling short of expectation. Monitoring of the courts has also helped in keeping judges on their toes and promoting sense of responsibility among judicial officers.
Even at this, statistics available shows that across board, not more than 11 per cent of civil cases are disposed of periodically and about 16 per cent of criminal cases are disposed off. This means the pendency of 89 per cent of civil cases and 84 per cent of criminal cases.

LEGISLATIVE INTERVENTIONS.

There are a host of legislative interventions geared towards fast tracking judicial activities and reducing delays of pendency of cases.

THE ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT is one enactment that came with huge potentials especially section 396 of the Act requiring day to day trial in court and the provision that cases should be exhausted between 30-180 DAYS.
On paper, this is one legislative intervention with good intention and high expectations but it does appear that in terms of implementation, the provisions have been honoured more in the breach than observance. Evidence abound of instances where assignment of cases takes an average of three months, arraignment of suspect takes about six months, trial takes 12-48 months and in most instances lack of witnesses constitutes an impediment to effective trial process. The legislature is currently working to increase the retirement age of justices of the Supreme Court and court of appeal from 70 years to 75 years. Indeed the constitutional amendment committee has just approved retirement age of 70 for all judicial officers. I seriously question the rationale behind this and how it can impact positively on the justice delivery system.
Another area that the legislature has intervened successfully is in the funding of the judiciary. I propose to address this under my proposal for reforms.

(C) ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTIONS

Nigeria embraced ADR with a lot of hope at the turn of the new millennium. It was expected that the movement towards ADR will reduce the spate of litigation in our courts and reduce pendency of cases. Multi-door court procedures were introduced in various states of the federation. It is indeed regrettable that ADR has not been as successful in Nigeria as it has become in India. Lawyers have a lot of questions to answer in this regard. Prospect of advising clients to proceed to litigate even after award have been made under ADR is a major constrain in application of ADR in Nigeria.

SPECIALISED COURTS

The Introduction of Specialized Courts was intended to expedite trial process and reduce delays in the justice delivery system. This I am afraid have not served the intended purpose. Firstly is that judges for the specialized courts are recycled from among already appointed judges. So in taking from the pool, you negatively impact on other aspects of justice delivery.
Specialized courts can only be relevant and significant when they are constitutionally established and judges specifically appointed for the courts. In that regard, they can operate independent of other courts.

FISCAL AUTONOMY

Over reliance of the judiciary on the executive- especially state government has not helped in funding, financing of facilities and welfare of both judicial officers and the support staff. Apart from acting as obstacle to reduction of delay in justice delivery, it is antithetical to the whole notion of independence of judiciary. The recent JUSUN strike that lasted for almost 60 days is a good example of absence of fiscal autonomy of the judiciary. In this regard, the signing of the EXECUTIVE ORDER 10 by the Federal Government was a welcome initiative. This was geared towards enforcement of state judiciary autonomy.
On February 11, however, the Supreme Court in its wisdom declared Executive Order 10 Unconstitutional and this is final. The State Governments must be rejoicing now. The same Supreme Courts in a majority judgment declared that the responsibility for funding capital projects and recurrent expenditures rests with the state government and not the federal government.This judgment, with greatest respect seems to open up the debate against more allocation of funds for the judiciary as represented by the National Judicial Council and other Federal Institutions. Should the Judiciary in all honesty still request for improved budgeting when the Supreme Court have ruled that it is the responsibility of State Governments to fund State Courts and not Federal Government. The argument is that funds should now be channeled to the State Governments for this responsibility and not through Federal allocation to Federal Courts. So often, Institutions wittingly or unwittingly preside over their own liquidation.
But fiscal autonomy does not necessarily translate to sufficiency in funding. Nigeria’s judicial officers are still poorly paid compared to the legislature and the judges of other countries. The welfare of judicial officers is nothing to write home about either. The resonating argument is that accountability and transparency are deficit- indicators among the leadership of the judiciary. More often than not, court administrators are unable to prioritize issues of importance to judges and support staff. This does not inspire optimal performance.

F. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, VIRTUAL HEARING AND RETROFITED COURT ROOMS

In the last two decades the idea of verbatim recording in our courts has been resonating. Lagos State tried to introduce the equipment first and other States equally showed appreciable interest. But in the last decade, Information Technology in the court room seem to have become common place especially among lawyers and judges alike. Recently few selected courts around the country has been retrofitted, court processes have become digitized and Information Technology is gaining prominence. But the challenges are indeed enormous as the necessary infrastructures are not in place.
The country continues to battle power/energy challenges and there is never constant power supply to run the systems. Secondly, inadequate or lack of manpower is another major challenge. Often those trained disappear into thin-air or become absorbed by more lucrative agencies.The advent of COVID-19 Pandemic has led to introduction of virtual hearings. The backlog occasioned by more than 12 months lockdown made this imperative. The extent all these have contributed to reduction in justice delivery system cannot easily be quantified presently but suffice it to say that the situation would have been alarming but for the Introduction of Information Technology in the Justice Sector.

MAJOR ISSUES IN THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM APPOINTMENT OF JUDICIAL OFFICERS

Tangentially related to the justice delivery system is the process of judicial appointments and the competence and capacity of judicial officers. This brings us to the hallowed saying that justice must be prompt but sure. In other words, justice hurried should not be justice buried.The process of appointment of judges has continued to generate a lot of controversy. Many are of the considered view that the process is not merit-based but deeply tainted with undue influence of powerful members of the National Judicial Council. The background and composition of members of the N.J.C is also called to question. For the appellate courts, the dominant argument is that appointment should be diversified to include shades of stakeholders and should not be a promotion or elevation of those already on the bench.It is posited that lack of capacity on the part of judicial officers can be catastrophic and inexorably can impede against effective justice delivery.

SALARIES AND WELFARE OF JUDGES.

Salaries and allowances of judges in all honesty do not inspire confidence and cannot motivate. Judges make sacrifices to meet up with quarterly reports for performance evaluation. Yet their salaries and allowances are nothing compared to that of the legislators. The thinking is that the salaries and allowances of the legislators should be used to benchmark that of the judges if the best is expected from judicial officers.

Similarly the welfare of judicial officers is not just poor but often not provided for. Residential accommodation, vehicles, medical checkups |treatments, conferences (both internal and external) wardrobe allowance etc are not common features for judicial officers. The worst is that not even pensions are paid immediately upon retirement.
All those have stirred the debate that for security of their future, judges should be allowed to practice law upon retirement or dislocation from service.There are clearly factors that impede effective justice delivery in Nigeria.

(C) ACCOUNTABILITY AND BUDGETARY ALLOCATION

Budgetary allocation to the judiciary has remained a subject of immense interest to students of justice delivery system. Inextricably intertwined with it is the issue of accountability and transparency among judicial officers especially the administrative HEADS .Survey shows that uptil 2017, the budget of the judiciary was pegged at 70billion yearly. On a ratio of general annual budget, this appears too small to drive the justice sector and establish infrastructure necessary to drastically reduce pendency of cases. But there is no evidence that this allocation has been properly and judiciously channeled for the right purposes. From 2017, the budget has risen to 100billion naira and for the 2021 budget; an allocation of 110 billion is approved. Though insignificant compared to the general budget of 17 trillion naira for the nation in the year under review, yet substantial enough to service the justice sector reasonably well.
But the fundamental question remains; how accountable and transparent have the judiciary been in administering the much it has received. This question we must resolve as we strive to address the challenges of the justice delivery system. I am not unmindful of the recent engagement between the Attorney General of the Federation and the Chief Justice of Nigeria. What is evident is that the financial expenditure of the judiciary is neither in the public domain nor accessible to the inquisitive mind.

RETIREMENT BENEFITS.

The issue of tenure and retirement benefits of judicial officers cannot be extricated from performance on the bench. Unless and until this is properly addressed, the justice delivery system will remain in a state of flux.

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMDelay in justice delivery is more fundamental in the criminal justice system. In this regard, issues extend far beyond the Bar and Bench, it touches on stakeholders on the Criminal Justice Sector- Police, Prison, Office of D.P.P, EFCC, ICPC, NDLEA Code of Conduct, Department of State Security etc.At a time when the nation is crime infested and there is growing criminalization legislations at Federal and State levels, there is obvious pressure on the Justice Sector with pendency of cases and huge delays in the Administration of Justice.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act ordinarily would have been able to cope with the large number of awaiting trials. But as alluded above, the provisions of ACJA suffers from non-compliance. Prison congestion is another serious impediment to justice delivery. Many awaiting trial persons have no business being in prison. It is gratifying to observe that many Heads of Courts in the Country are taking it upon themselves to engage in decongestion of prisons. The Magistracy must be strengthened too for quick and effective justice delivery.
The Criminal Justice Sector suffers from uncoordinated and absence of Synchronization of activities by the critical stakeholders in the Justice Sector. Information Technology must be deployed for harmonious coordination of activities of the Police, Office of DPP, Prisons and the Court Rooms. This is the only way of profiling those awaiting trial and determining in reality those who are first offenders and those who have recycled their journey or sojourn in the prisons.
These components of the Justice Sector deserve adequate funding just as the judiciary. This is the only way that delay in the justice delivery system can be abated.
But over and above all is determining cases to be prosecuted and those not to be prosecuted. Prosecutors in Nigeria must come to terms with the realization that cases are prosecuted with tax payer money. Inability to secure conviction is a total waste of the tax payers money and this is avoidable. It behooves prosecutors to weigh all options before taking a decision to prosecute. In taking this decision, availability of witnesses should be paramount. Where there is iota of doubt that the case cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt, then the prosecution should be aborted.

ENDURING CHALLENGES TO JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM

It is indeed worrisome that in spite of all efforts to reduce delay| pendency of cases, not much has been achieved in this regard. No statistics seem to suggest that number of cases have reduced cases fast-tracked or there is manifest indication that the 30-40 years duration of cases has considerably been shortened in our justice delivery system.Rather, the avalanche of new cases filed keeps multiplying suggesting increased litigation.There is clear evidence that A.D.R is regrettably ineffective in Nigeria unlike in other climes. With high spate of criminality flowing from new wave of crimes the prisons are getting more congested. Not even the Administration of Criminal Justice Act have impacted positively on Prison Decongestion. Another enduring challenge to the Justice Delivery System is the few number of judicial officers Vis a Viz the population quota of the country. Rather than the current 1.200 judges and justices, Nigeria can make do with a minimum of 2000 judicial officers. Even at that the current quarterly performance evaluation report needs to be up scaled to bi-monthly report. To achieve this, there should be entrenched a case management technique which will help judicial officers to effectively manage cases before them irrespective of the bloated dockets.
Lack of adequate infrastructure to back up Information Technology Facilities in our courts is something to grapple with. This will remain an enduring challenge to the Justice Delivery System.
The lack of capacity of backroom support staff for judicial officers is also an enduring challenge. It has become really imperative to channel attention to the training of support staff in the Justice Sector.
The most enduring challenge of the Justice Delivery System remains the absence of full-fledged fiscal autonomy and Independence of the Judiciary as it relates to control and management of financial resources due to it.
For Lawyers the adoption of dilatory tactics is not abating at all. Many have suggested that time has come for wholesale use of punitive costs as veritable instrument to address unnecessary adjournments and by so doing fast-track trial process.

IMPACT OF COVID-19 PANDEMIIC ON BACKLOG OF CASES

Changes are ensuing in justice systems at an unprecedented speed in order to adapt to the new reality of the unfolding crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In positioning the Justice System to support the crisis recovery process, practices have been adopted with potentials to lower, if not eliminate the usual barriers to accessing Justice.The most pressing need that our Justice System has faced during the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis has been to ensure the availability of Justices Services despite the constraining social distancing or even complete lockdown measures.
Across most systems of the world, non – urgent trials have been postponed to later dates. The immediate challenge being faced by Justice System revolved round ensuring availability of justice adjudication for those cases that are urgent and cannot be suspended. To tackle this need, technological means have been crucial to sustain legal work; in particular through the creation of online courts or through virtual hearing.
It cannot be underestimated the crisis that COVID-19 Pandemic wrought on our Judicial System. For a period of almost one year, the Justice Sector was shot down and access to the courts was impossible because of the lockdown. It can only be imagined, the havoc this caused to an already over bloated pendency of cases and delay in the administration of justice.
Credit to the innovative ingenuity that crystalized in the introduction of virtual hearing. Truth be told, this was still a far cry from impacting positively on the backlog of cases. But it could have been worse if there was no palpable outlet as a result of lockdown. A timely intervention indeed.

SUGGESTIONS FOR EFFECTIVE JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM

There is need for prompt legislative intervention in FUNDING of the judiciary to provide for appointment and welfare of more judicial officers to match Nigeria’s population.

National Judicial Council should review the process for appointment of judges in a way and manner that will make it merit- based by providing for proficiency tests.
I am not sufficiently persuaded that constitutional amendment for age advancement will make any significant difference in Justice Delivery System in Nigeria. Justices of the appellate court should still retire at 70years and not 75 years as is being proposed. Judges of court of first instance should still retire at 65years and not at 70 years as being canvassed. Information Technology Systems should be strengthened and all courts made to benefits from it. All judges should have a basic training on I.T.
A directive should be passed that all courts in the country, no matter the location should be retrofitted within the next 2 years.Alternative Dispute Resolution must be given a pride of place in our Justice Delivery System.
In this regard, stringent measures should be put in place wherein matters that have gone for ADR should be difficult to subject to judicial Intervention again. This is with special reference to Arbitration.
Jurisdiction of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal should be whittled down constitutionally to avoid the alarming upswing of cases to the appellate courts. The Supreme Court should be a policy court properly so-called.
More Specialized Courts should be created to deal with specific matters and disputes. Courts of First Instance at Federal and State levels should have Divisions for specialized matters, like Criminal Division, Family Division, etc. this will go a long way to reduce pendency of cases in our Courts.
Part heard matters not to start De Novo. Judges should have capacity to continue from where their colleagues stopped .Alternatively judges should never be transferred or promoted until their dockets are totally exhausted. There should be devised means of enforcing judicial fiscal autonomy at the state level especially now that EXECUTIVE ORDER 10 has been nullified.
Case Management Techniques to be vigorously adopted at all courts. India introduced courts sitting twice daily, one in the day and another in the evening .Should Nigeria (if more judges are appointed as proposed) not think along that line? Similarly more judges should be made to sit as vacation judges. Man hour lost during vacations and public holidays have untold impact in our justice delivery system.
Any Lawyer, who requests for adjournment more than 3 times in any matter and is unable to substantiate the reasons why, should be reported to the disciplinary Committee of the Bar for improper conduct.
Lawyers who adopt dilatory tactics in addition to facing Disciplinary Committee should be made to bear cost awarded by the court. The cost should be huge and punitive. To be personally indemnified by counsel.
Lawyers should honestly advice their clients of the futility of litigating certain matters. Clients should be encouraged to bring action against counsel where it is patently clear that counsel misled them by insisting on taking a matter to court.Judges should take charge and control their court. They should never allow themselves to be bullied or teleguided by counsel, no matter how distinguished.
The Magistracy should be strengthened and fully integrated into the Justice Delivery System. They should be evaluated and monitored as judges of superior courts for purposes of determining how well they help in swift justice delivery.Prison decongestion should be vigorously pursued by the Ministry of Justice, Heads of Courts and all Criminal Justice Stakeholders.Prosecutors should ensure that only criminal actions which they are sure of securing convictions are initiated. Cost of prosecution is too high to be wasted in futile exercise. Plea bargain should be institutionalized in our judicial process.
There should be demonstrable accountability and transparency by Heads of Courts as a pre-condition for higher budgetary allocation to the judiciary. Judicial Integrity should be manifestly established in Nigeria’s Judiciary. Public Perception of the Judiciary is currently very low and this does not positively impact on our Justice Delivery System.
Considering the number of judicial officers trapped in election petitions periodically, is it not time for us to revisit the idea of establishment of constitutional court with mandate to deal with election petitions and other related constitutional issues. By so doing the judges ordinarily engaged will be freed to continue with their official assignments.
Judicial support staff should be subjected to continuous and consistent training in order to be useful to justice delivery system. They are an integral part of the judicial process.
All Judges and Justices of Superior Courts of Record should mandatorily have at least two legal assistants to support them in their assignments.
There should be minimum standards beyond which a courtroom of superior court of record should not fall. This should be benchmarked by Infrastructure, facilities, amenities and general ambience. Monitoring of Judicial performance should be predicated on the index of availability of courtroom of acceptable standards.
To enhance our justice delivery system, judges should strive to achieve at all times a delicate balance between swift and sure justice. Any thing to the contrary is antithetical to the whole notion of justice.

CONCLUSION

It is difficult to holistically interrogate the challenges of our Justice delivery system. What I have done is to set the tone for further inquiry and deeper conversation on the subject matter.
Let me hope that my humble contribution is adequate enough to kick start a Maiden Memorial Lecture in honour of a legal Colossus, Late Alhaji Abdulahi Ibrahim SAN. Should we earnestly strive to implement some of the suggestions proffered, then we would have done his memory a great honour and abiding service. I thank you for your attention.

Being the text of a lecture in honour of late Alhaji Abdulahi Ibrahim (SAN), delivered by Prof Azinge (SAN) in Abuja.

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1 thought on “Towards Effective Justice Delivery System in Nigeria

  1. Inspiring!!!
    This is what Nigeria needs – changes towards an effective justice delivery system. Sir, I read your article and was moved! We need people like to inspire change in the country!

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