President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged the judiciary to quickly address the confusions in the justice system in Nigeria.
In a keynote address today, Monday, at the opening of the 2017 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of the Superior Courts, held in Abuja, President Buhari listed such anomalies and confusion.
According to him, court cases used to drag on for years and years, sometimes decades without resolution, adding: “I need only mention land cases in Lagos to illustrate my point.”
The President noted that there are huge backlogs of cases waiting to be dispensed especially at the Appellate levels, saying that reeform of the judiciary should start at eliminating these seemingly endless delays in settling what to the layman are apparently simple cases.
“Again, litigants expect that higher courts should endeavour to harmonize their rulings. There are contradictory decisions of superior courts on the same subject matter in cases where facts are substantially the same without a clear attempt in subsequent cases to distinguish the earlier cases. This lack of clarity leads to serious confusion to the lower courts.
“The knock-on efforts of these delays and dis-continuities range from loss of confidence in the judicial system to over-crowding of prisons. This is an area Your Lordships should pay close attention to in your efforts at reforming the system.”
Buhari considered the subject of this year’s Conference which is “Strengthening Judicial Integrity and the Rule of Law” as very appropriate and timely, saying that a democratic system such as ours cannot survive or prosper without strict adherence to the Rule of Law.
He said that the purpose of any government is to regulate social relations within its territorial jurisdiction and that without the rule of law, the government will degenerate into dictatorship or anarchy.
“The theme you have chosen this year keys in with our Administration’s resolve to strengthen the three arms of government to effectively fulfill their constitutional obligations.
“For the judiciary, the public expects fairness, impartiality and speed in the administration of justice.”
President Buhari recalled that just last month, he personally wrote to all State Governors, urging them to make special visit to prisons in company with State Chief Judges and release prisoners unnecessarily detained without due process.
He said that the objectives of his government is to combat graft and other forms of corruption so endemic in public life, reminding the senior judges that the executive arm of the government cannot achieve these objectives alone.
“We require the close cooperation of other arms of government.
“My lords, earlier this year, the Judiciary came under investigation. Let me again assure the judicial community, this action taken by the Executive was in no way a prelude to usurping the powers of the National Judicial Council or aimed at intimidating the Judiciary as wrongly portrayed in some sections of the media. Executive and legislative officials were also investigated.
“I am aware that the majority of judicial officers are learned and incorruptible and day in day out acting in the best spirit of their oath of office. At the same time, I am quite aware of the problems besetting the Judiciary including under-funding, inadequate personnel and absence of modern technological aids.”
The President said that his government’s increased allocation to the Judiciary from N70 billion to N100 billion in the 2017 Budget was deliberate to make it perform its role effectively, even as he said that a similar figure has been proposed for 2018.
He gave assurance that his government’s commitment is to accord the Judiciary its constitutional rights, even as he commended the recent decision by the Chief Judge of Nigeria (CJN) to ask all judges at lower courts to provide him with a comprehensive list of all corruption and financial crimes in order to designate special courts to handle them.
“I support your action and the public is awaiting the results of this initiative.”[myad]