President Muhammadu Buhari has directed all state governors and state chief judges to release prisoners who are unnecessarily detained as part of reforms in judiciary.
The Nigerian paramount ruler gave the directives on Monday when he spoke at the opening of the 2017 All Nigerian Judges’ Conference of Superior Courts, Abuja.
The theme of the conference, “Strengthening Judicial Integrity and the Rule of Law”, was apt at the time of consolidating and sustaining democracy.
The president said that he gave the directive to the states last month and explained that over-crowding prisons and some other noticeable problems in judiciary have caused loss of confidence in the system.
He said that the public expected fairness, impartiality and speed in the administration of justice.
“Regrettably court cases can drag on for years and years, sometimes decades without resolution. I need only mention land cases in Lagos to illustrate my point.’’
He said that there were huge backlogs of cases waiting to be dispensed especially at the Appellate levels.
“Reform 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.’’
He urged the judges to pay close attention to in efforts at reforming the system.
“A democratic system such as ours cannot survive or prosper without strict adherence to the Rule of Law. My Lords, Distinguished delegates, the prime purpose of any government is to regulate social relations within its territorial jurisdiction.
“Without the rule of law the government will degenerate into dictatorship or anarchy.”