President Muhammadu Buhari is advocating a comprehensive agenda in order to reform the country’s judiciary.
Speaking earlier today at the opening of the 2015 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference at the National Judicial Institute in Abuja, he said “I have to admit that reforming the current system must extend beyond the judiciary and necessarily include reviewing laws, institutions, processes and procedures that inhibit speedy justice delivery.”
Continuing, President Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, noted that “we must also re-orientate and improve the attitude of legal practitioners and the legal profession in general.”
President Buhari said as part of the review and reformation process, “there is the need to streamline the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to focus on key constitutional issues, novel questions of law and current areas of its original jurisdiction. This is obviously due to leeway given to almost every case filed in any level of the court system from any part of the country to rise on appeal to the Supreme Court.”
“While it is undeniable that the Judiciary continues to make incremental progress in playing its constitutional role, urgent reforms therefore remain imperative in several areas,” the President noted.
On timely dispensation of justice, President Buhari also noted “our justice system currently has a reputation for delays, usually occasioned by a combination of endless adjournments, incessant interlocutory applications and overwhelming caseloads.”
He said, “further on the point of negative perception, there is both local and international dissatisfaction with the long delays in the trial process.”
Mr. President averred that “the reasons for the delays or outright inaction in such matters are sometimes beyond the courts, and in several cases, are the consequences of shoddy investigation, outmoded rules of procedure, poor prosecution or unprofessional practices of counsel, the Judiciary must however play its role in ensuring that its internal processes are promptly improved and made ready to expedite trials.”
Acknowledging the negative consequences of delayed justice and its effect on the economy, the President noted that the ability to enforce contractual obligations and resolve disputes is an essential consideration for intending investors, both local and foreign, in deciding where to put their money.
On recovery of stolen funds by public officials, he said official corruption is an egregious crime against humanity because it is the primary cause of poverty which accounts for the large preventable deaths in the country and therefore, should be a matter of concern of all.
Speaking further, President Buhari said “Government’s attempt to recover assests in accordance with the law is often faced with dilatory tactics by lawyers. These tactics are often not directed at reaching any conclusion or affirming innocence or guilt, but at stalling trials indefinitely.”
In accordance with his Administration’s believe in the rule of law, he however, sought for judicial independence in the discharge of its responsibilities.
Earlier, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said in keeping with the aim and objective of the National Judicial Institute, the 2015 Conference accord participants the avenue to discuss and disseminate information about any part of its activities to the extent deemed justified by the Board of Governors generally as a contribution towards knowledge.
He noted that judiciary is the last hope of the common man and the only independent institution in any democracy. He lamented that in a country where only one (1%) percent of the national budget is given to the judiciary, the institution cannot be said to be independent. Justice Mohammed therefore, urged the Executive and the Legislature to ensure the independence of the Judiciary.