By: Gobir Habeeb Bolaji
In our contemporary world of today, it is without any iota of doubt that delay in the administration of justice in Nigeria is one of the most devastating challenges bedevilling the judiciary system in Nigeria today.
Incessant adjournment in the dispensation of justice perse is perceived as inimical to the attainment of substantial justice. In some cases, delays are so extreme that they effectively deny justice, particularly to the less privileged groups who may not be able to “grease the wheels” of the justice system.
Delay of cases in the judiciary has been an historical pitfall which calls for adequate reposition by not only the judicial officers but all the spheres of government in general.
Justice delayed is justice denied —the problem bewildering administration of justice in Nigeria is basically rooted on our system and laws.
It is my humble view that the judiciary are not the only the pest eating and devastating the development of justice in Nigeria, there are multitude numbers of anomalies from different sectors that are contributing vehemently to delay of justice in Nigeria. But all in all, their level of contribution varies.
However, for the purpose of perusing the aim of this writeup critically, I will narrow my opinion to the law enforcement agency and the judiciary
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
The Law Enforcement Agency who are solely saddled with the responsibility of protecting the country is a section under the executive. They are controlled by the President who is also the Commander and Chief of Armed Forces Nigeria. By way of commendation, they have been working effectively in ensuring that offenders are arrested for their crimes.
However, the problem that used to arise the moment they arrest offender is that they believe that it all ends in arresting. Police stops every investigation the moment they put the arrested culprit in prison, leaving the court with the responsibility to prosecute the offender without providing them with concrete evidence.
Justice can only be achieved in due time if the court is groomed with adequate and compelling evidence, police should consider investigation of the suspect upon arrest as an important duty. It doesn’t end in arresting alone, an arrested culprit is just a suspect, it needs evidence to prove him guilty. Hence, an arrested culprit without full investigation on the alleged offence will only tie the hands of the judge and thus, will serve as an hindrance to deliverance of justice in due time. If the police and other law enforcement agency can work vehemently by conducting investigation after arrest, this will in many ways foster smooth and quick dispensation of justice in Nigeria.
Similarly, in Nigeria, police arrest before the investigation whereas investigation ought to have done prior to the arrest of the suspect. Suspect ought to be arraigned immediately they are arrested. But the case is different in Nigeria, investigation of suspect starts only when the suspect is apprehended which as such will prevent them from arraigning the suspect due to the quest for evidence. The moment you arrest a suspect, you should confront him with charges. When you have enough evidence, a suspect would either beg for leniency or plea bargain. This will undoubtedly fasten the smooth running of administration of justice not only in the court but also, within the police custody.
For the Judiciary, I will confidently blame both the system of litigation and judicial officers for the delay of justice in Nigeria. It is quite disheartening I must say, that judicial officers in Nigeria are contributing vehemently to delay in dispensation of justice in Nigeria. When I’m talking about judicial officers in this regard, the lawyers and the judges in court are not exempted, in fact, they play a leading role in the delay of justice in Nigeria.
Lawyers only go to court to argue on, “technicalities “. Lawyers only argue about technicalities in court, countless of days and months would be spent on issue of technicalities in court before delving into the main suit. They only look for mistake of the adverse counsel(lawyer) and will keep hammering their argument on that.
This method is not helpful in anyway, it delays justice entirely.
A visit to any court in Nigeria will testify to this assertion. The recent arraignment of the suspended CJN is a clear instance.
From the prevailing circumstance of that case, it is crystal clear that the SANS appearing for the CJN are only arguing on technicalities. They never for once proffer any defence to the alleged offence. I can bet it that if not for the smart method adopt by president Muhammad Buhari, the CJN will still be in office while despite the charges against him
Similarly, constant adjournment of cases in court often lead to delay of justice. Lawyers are fond of seeking adjournment of case on a baseless ground. I’m a regular court visitor and I can count the numbers of time that the court deliver judgement effectively without passing through the stages of numerous adjournment.
Some counsels though having a prima facie case will end up losing the case due to perpetual adjournment.
Judges while administering justice sometimes adjourn cases unnecessary. Some will even go to the extent of adjourning the case for almost a year in other to avoid the rigidity involve in dispensing justice in the said case. Judges are expected to dispense justice with competence, fairness, transparency, integrity and with a great sense of responsibility.
The system of Litigation also contributes to this monster steady fall,litigation involves three stages: mentioning stage, the hearing stage and judgement— these are the cardinal principles of every litigation. These three stages leading to attainment of justice often delay the attainment of justice.
The duration it takes the court during these stages are time consuming, there will be different days for the case to be mentioned in the court after which a long date would be chosen for the hearing of the case after which the judge will have to pick another date for judgement which can even take up to decades. This system is time consuming and does not in anyway speed the dispensation of justice.
At this juncture, I will say that our government needs to adopt another methods, there are countless alternative to stop this menace, there are many and better ways to overcome it. The following recommendation will serve as precludes to curb the menace.
First,embracing global best practices directed towards speedy dispensation of justice, such as the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and other case management techniques in handling cases in the courts would help
It’s also essential for law enforcement agencies to embark on proper investigation of cases before arresting any suspect. This will however fasten the arraignment of suspect since there will be concrete evidence on ground adduce from their investigation
The system of litigation should also be restructured in a way that it will enhance the speed of dispensation of justice
It’s also pertinent to avoid unnecessary adjournment of cases most especially on baseless ground. Lawyers and judges should ensure that fair justice is achieved with immediate effect
Effective administration of justice without delay is the cornerstone of good governance, which in turn is a requisite for National development.
Gobir Habeeb Bolaji is a 300level law student in Udus and also a campus journalist of pen press Udus