Nigeria operates a form of government that portrays federalism in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Federation consists of 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, which are constitutionally empowered with the Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary functions within the scope of their jurisdictions.
However, the Judiciary faces certain problems, which show the weaknesses and defects of the system that require immediate reforms. These problems include corruption, backlog of pending cases, lack of transparency, hardship of under trials, pressure from unseen forces and lack of interaction with the society among others.
Nigeria’s legal system has one of the largest backlogs of pending cases in Africa – as many as 2 million pending cases; of which over hundred thousands are High Court cases, and more than two hundred and fifty thousand are before the Supreme Court. This number is continuously on the increase, which again shows the flawed and defective complexion of the judicial system.
The clamour to increase the number of Judges, create more Courts have continuously met with staunch brick walls because the implementation have been hard to come by. The Right to Information (RTI) Act appears to be totally out of the ambit of the legal system. Thus, in the functioning of the judiciary, the substantial issues like the quality of justice and accountability are uphill tasks.
It is very essential that the judiciary of any country should be an integral part of the society and its interactions with the society must be made regular and relevant. In some advanced democracies, there have been the involvements of common citizens in the judicial processes of decision-making. However, in Nigeria the judicial system has no connection with the society, something it had inherited from the British judicial set-up. Even though things should have changed over the periods, but from what we have today, the law officers have not been able to come close to the ground to meet the common man.
In this context, it is important to train the judges in writing judgments which are precise unambiguous and clear. Judges must also remember that apart from interpreting law, they are the arbitrators for the people, who are often strangers to the world of law. A concise, clear and coherent judgment does not only improve public accessibility to the law, but also repose great confidence in the process.
The Nigerian judiciary system is a particularly refined system, bearing testimony to the ingenuity of the human thought. The threads of constitutional philosophy have weaved an exquisite tapestry of substantive procedural laws. As a polity, we seek to achieve high values of liberty, equality and justice delivery system that translates the rhetoric of these into practical rules, such that “no man shall be a judge in his cause” and “no man shall be condemned unheard”.
Now to the crux, like any other institution of Government, the Nigerian judicial system is fraught with corrupt officials. The recent charges by the Code of Conduct Tribunal against Senate President Bukola Saraki have clearly emphasized that and underscore the weaknesses inherent in the functioning of Nigerian Judiciary. There is no system of accountability. The process of registering against a trial judge for taking bribes is burdened with bureaucratic bottlenecks because it has to have the express permission of the Chief Justice of Federation.
The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal is enmeshed in corruption and bribery scandals of his own, as a sitting jury over a court of competent jurisdiction that the CCT is, which again justifies the lack of trust in the legal system.
Having keenly observed the proceedings of the CCT in the Saraki trial and particularly, the body language of its Chairman Danladi Umar vis-à-vis having Saraki docked by all means, it is important to bring to the fore a clear case of bias.
Danladi Umar justified his ruling on Bola Tinubu’s release as follows:
ON THE SECOND ISSUE THAT CCB DID NOT INVITE TINUBU BEFORE THE TRIAL, THE TRIBUNAL RESOLVED IT IN FAVOUR OF THE ACCUSED APPLICANT, AS HE SAID “THE BUREAU DID NOT PRODUCE EVIDENCE THAT IT INVITED THE ACCUSED OVER COMPLAINTS ABOUT HIS ASSET DECLARATION”. HE SAID THE INVITATION WAS A CONDITION PRECEDENT BEFORE FILING CHARGES AGAINST AN ACCUSED PERSON BY THE BUREAU.
“THE TRIBUNAL CHAIRMAN (DANLADI UMAR) LAUDED TINUBU FOR MAKING HIMSELF AVAILABLE THROUGHOUT THE TRIAL, AS HE SAID IT WAS NOT MANDATORY FOR THE ACCUSED CHALLENGING THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT TO APPEAR BEFORE IT”.
Meanwhile, Section 3 (d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act states that “the Bureau shall receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act.
“Provided that where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary: WHY IS SARAKI’S CASE DIFFERENT?
Why didn’t Saraki get the same treatment, which is the provision of the law? Why was the matter referred directly to the CCT first?
On the whole, despite the advancements in information and communication technologies changing the life of the people dramatically, the Nigerian legal system is still a vestige appearing to belong only to a section or class, faraway from the people. As a matter of fact, the present system of justice is totally out of place and out of time and tune with democratic procedures and norms that please only a certain section of the society with vested interests. Therefore, there is an immediate need to restructure the entire judicial system to make it answerable to the needs of a democratic, progressive society.
Article was written and compiled by Raheem Raheem Okoya
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.