2013: Challenges before Judiciary
Category: LawIn view of the perceived high level of moral decadence and corruption in the judiciary, President Goodluck Jonathan has already set an agenda for the judiciary, saying that judiciary must not only rid itself of corruption, but equally tackle impediments to justice administration in the country. It is very important to ensure that judges who abuse the privilege of judicial authority are exposed and punished.
Delay in trial
On delayed trial in criminal cases, especially in corruption cases, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar would do well to eliminate all impediments to speedy trial. This is also applicable to civil cases, some of which have been in our courts for over 30 years.
Presently, the nation’s judicial system is cumbersome, slow and inefficient. Therefore, one key task for the nation’s judiciary this year would be to design and develop a comprehensive and pragmatic Information Technology (IT) policy which should be effectively implemented in all jurisdictions.
Intelligent performance measurement system
To further support the initiatives of the CJN at fast tracking cases, intelligent performance measurement system should be introduced for judicial and non-judicial staff. Those found performing below the required standards should be removed through an objective and transparent process.
The current mode of judicial appointments must also be reviewed so as to diversify the pool from which judicial appointments to superior courts are made. Members of the Bar aspiring to judicial office should be encouraged to apply to join the Bench based on objective and transparent criteria in order to have a wider diversity of experience and add quality to judicial deliberations in our courts.
Justice Ayo Salami
The case of suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, is one issue that will continue to generate controversy. He was wrongly suspended in 2011 by the National Judicial Council (NJC), after his face-off with a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, when he alleged that the former CJN wanted him to compromise his oath of office in the appeal against the election of Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State. Although the newly constituted NJC has recommended his reinstatement, the council has not found the courage to implement the reinstatement.
Repositioning NJC, FJSC, NJI
The NJC and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) as well as the National Judicial Institute (NJI) should be repositioned to improve their capacity to meet their constitutional and statutory roles.
Today, the NJC considers about 40 petitions against judges at every meeting. Considering the other responsibilities of the NJC in formulating broad policies for the judiciary as well as judicial appointments, a separate institution to specifically deal with complaints, petitions, discipline and removal of judicial officers should be considered this year.
Bar, Bench collaboration
The challenges confronting the nation’s judiciary cannot be solved without active collaboration between the Bar and the Bench. To this end, lawyers must also rededicate themselves to fulfilling their professional responsibility to the society and renew their commitment to creating the much needed democratic culture firmly anchored in the rule of law.
As it stands today, there is no doubt that the society in which the nation’s judiciary serves is not satisfied with the performance of the judiciary, right from the lowest to the highest courts in the land.
Hard as it may be for the judiciary to accept this fact, the important thing to note at this point is that some of the challenges and controversial issues witnessed in the judiciary in yesteryears may continue to be relevant in the year 2013.
Enforcement of judgments
Even a (foreigner) US-based multinational corporation with a strong presence in Nigeria and enjoying the patronage of the Federal Government in the oil and gas sector has accused the Nigerian judiciary of understaffing, inefficiency, and corruption.
To this end, the international company urged the US court not to recognize a Nigerian judgment because the judgment, according to the corporation, “was rendered under a judicial system that does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law”.
In its submission to the court on why the Nigerian judgment must not be recognized in the US, the company relied on the US State Department’s Country’s Report on Nigeria for 2012 which contains the same indicting findings about the Nigerian judicial system.
“Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial branch remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches and the business sector. Political leaders influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels. Understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption continue to prevent the judiciary from functioning adequately. Judges frequently failed to appear for trials, often because they were pursuing other sources of income and sometimes because of threats against them. In addition, court officials often lacked the proper equipment, training, and motivation to perform their duties, with lack of motivation primarily due to inadequate compensation. During the year, Supreme Court judges called for a more independent judiciary,” the report stated
The State Department report also made reference to the saga between former Chief Justice, Aloysius Katsina-Alu, and suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami.