Reading the speech of the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari today 26TH of August 2020, the Vice President of the nation Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, decried the terribly slow pace of the justice administration in the Nigerian law courts. The president citing from his own personal experiences recanted how long it took the courts to decide and eventually dismiss the election petition which he filed to challenge the results of the 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria. According to him, this ugly trend has created a negative image for the Nigerian Judicial system adding that the system needs an urgent reform.
This statement was made at the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association which was themed, “Stepping Forward” in his words as extracted from the Punch Newspaper, “At the end, I lost all three cases. I wondered then, why it needed to take so long to arrive at a verdict and if I had won the case, someone who did not win the election would have been in the office all that time. “
“In 2019, I was no longer petitioner; I had now become a respondent in the case of Atiku and Buhari and the whole process took barely six months. What was the difference? The law had changed since my own in 2003, 2007, and 2011. You had introduced time limits for election petitions. Everything must be done within a six to eight-month period. My question then is why can’t we have a time limit for criminal cases? Why can’t we have a rule that will say a criminal trial all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12months? And why can’t we do the same for civil cases? Even if we say that civil cases must not go beyond 12 and 15 months. I think that for me is stepping forward.
The president was also reported to have spoken against the delivery of conflicting and contradicting orders by the judges, saying that the ruling All Progressive Congress in its recent leadership crises had about eight conflicting court rulings which did a lot to intensify the leadership crisis in the party.
No doubt, the Nigerian Judicial system is in a dire need of a reform that will see to the restoration of the institution to that of an ideal system devoid of so many irregularities. The seemingly long period of time taken to completely deliver judgments or rulings on various criminal cases in Nigeria, some cases takes as long as two to three years before the Nigerian court arrives at a verdict and in these cases some of the accused persons are usually locked up in jail till a verdict is delivered.
Also the various instances of the court giving out different verdicts have gone a long way in discrediting the institution. There is no uniformity of decisions within the system leaving a wide porous gap which is easily manipulated by people especially politicians to find their way out of a legal ruling which is not to their favor.
By Marcus Amudipe