Justice: Urgent judicial reforms needed, Lawyers insist 

”There are intricate webs of obstacles in the quick dispensation of justice. At the heart of the issue lies the persistent challenge of high case backlog.

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Justice: Urgent judicial reforms needed, Lawyers insist Some lawyers have called for urgent reforms in the justice system, saying the pace at which cases are dispensed of by courts is slow.

The lawyers made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

The lawyers admitted that delay in trials of criminal cases remained a major challenge confronting the nation’s justice system.

They also called for lasting solutions that would improve the administration of criminal justice system, reduce delays, restore public confidence as well as improve judicial performance.

Some of the lawyers also sayd the delays are often caused in court because most police prosecutors have no basic legal training for prosecuting even simple offences.

They say sometimes the prosecution calls a number of irrelevant witnesses and leave out the important ones.

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Speaking, a lawyer, Mr Adewale Aderele said factors notorious for causing delay in courts, range from inability of parties to bring their witnesses to court on hearing date; failure of the prison to bring awaiting-trial inmates to court – often due to shortage of vehicle, faulty vehicle or lack of petrol to fuel the vehicle and tranfer of cases to other judges.

”There are intricate webs of obstacles in the quick dispensation of justice. At the heart of the issue lies the persistent challenge of high case backlog.
”The sheer volume of litigation in Nigeria has surged, driven by factors such as population growth and heightened legal awareness.
”Consequently, lower courts grapple with an overwhelming number of cases, surpassing their capacity to handle them expeditiously. The result is a backlog that strains the entire judicial system, prolonging the duration of legal processes” he said.
He also said that outdated and inefficient case management systems are responsible for slow dispensation of justice.
”The challenge extends beyond caseloads and outdated systems to encompass inadequate infrastructure. Insufficient facilities, including poorly maintained courtrooms, create scheduling conflicts and intensify the competition for limited space.
”  This infrastructure deficit not only contribute to delays but also compromises the quality of the judicial process. Moreover, technological deficiencies, such as outdated record-keeping systems, further hinder the smooth flow of court processes, exacerbating the struggle for timely case resolution” he said.
According  to him, the critical bottleneck in the administration of justice is shortage of judicial personnel.
”The impact of this shortage is compounded by a lack of ongoing training for judicial personnel, which diminishes their ability to efficiently handle cases.
”  Addressing this scarcity of qualified personnel is crucial to improving the overall efficiency and effectiveness of lower courts.
” Procedural complexities within the judicial system, including cumbersome legal procedures and bureaucratic challenges, contribute significantly to prolonged legal proceedings” he said.
He said, simplifying and streamlining these procedures could represent a pivotal step towards expediting the resolution of cases.
According to him, such reforms would not only reduce unnecessary delays but also make the legal process more accessible to litigants, fostering a more equitable and efficient justice system.
” Inadequate funding emerges as a pervasive challenge, exerting a far-reaching impact on various facets of the justice system.
”  Insufficient financial resources impede efforts to maintain staffing levels, upgrade infrastructure, and implement necessary technological advancements
“Instances of delayed salary payments to judicial personnel further jeopardise morale, potentially compromising the efficiency of court operations” he said.
According  to him, adequate funding is not merely a budgetary concern; it is an investment in the foundational pillars of a functional and impartial justice system.
” Perhaps, one of the most formidable challenges undermining the administration of justice is corruption within the judiciary.
”  Practices such as bribery and favouritism erode the integrity of the justice system, fostering a culture of impunity. Corruption not only compromises the fairness of legal proceedings but also undermines public trust in the judiciary.
” Combating corruption requires robust anti-corruption measures, including enhanced transparency, accountability, and ethical standards within the legal profession” he said.
Another, legal practitioner,  Ms Margaret Agbo, said addressing these multifaceted challenges demands a comprehensive and collaborative approach.
According  to her, judicial reforms are essential to streamline procedures, enhance case management, and facilitate the timely resolution of disputes.
”  Increased funding is imperative to address infrastructure deficits, recruit additional judicial personnel, and implement technological upgrades.
”  Technological modernization, including the adoption of e-filing and digital record-keeping systems, can significantly improve the efficiency of lower courts.
” Moreover, a concerted effort to combat corruption within the judiciary is paramount. Anti-corruption measures should encompass enhanced oversight, ethical training, and stringent consequences for malpractice” she said.
According  to her, the active involvement and cooperation of the government, legal professionals, and civil society are crucial to effecting positive changes in the administration of justice in Nigeria.
She said the delays in the administration of justice in the lower courts in Nigeria are not isolated challenges but rather a convergence of systemic issues that demanded comprehensive and sustained efforts for reform.
” By addressing these challenges collectively, Nigeria can pave the way for a more efficient, transparent, and trustworthy justice system.
” A justice  system that upholds the principles of fairness and expeditious resolution of legal disputes” she said.
Another legal practitioner, James Nwachukwu said that the judiciary should be well funded so that the issue of litigants, litigation and justice system in Nigeria can be appreciable.
” The judiciary is the last hope of the common man and more should be done to improve the poor state of the court’s facilities.
Also speaking, a legal practitioner, Olayinka Olatoye said that most FCT courts need renovation.
”I experenced first-hand in a Kubwa High Court, how a ceiling literally almost dropped down on the judge.
”But thank God it has been fixed, same cannot be said of other courts in the FCT.
” Poor management, monitoring and supervision is the major cause of the dilapidated state of our court rooms, a body should be set up to always visit and check mate the courts to know the state of its facilities.
” We urge the government in the new year to renovate the courts, so that people who go to court in their aspirations to get justice would be comfortable and see the court as a place of refuge, ” Olatoye said.
Contributing, a lawyer , Tosin Ojaomo said that the cause of delay in the administration of justice in Nigeria was multidimensional.
“The infrastructure, administration of justice in Nigeria is still the same way it was in pre-independence. Till date, in Nigeria, judges write submissions of lawyers in court in longhand.
” Looking at the court’s structure, Most of the court rooms are not conducive for justice to be administered, there are no proper seats , the air conditioners are not functional.
“An uncondusive environment is an injustice to the temple of justice itself. Where there is injustice, at the source of justice, how will justice be dispensed judicially and judiciously?
” Sometimes the Nigerian Prison officers  complain that they do not have vehicles to bring inmates to court, policemen also use their private cars to bring a suspect to court,” he said.
Speaking on the human capital angle, he said 90 per cent of disputes in Nigeria go to court adding that when there are disagreements, people do not want to explore other means which over burdens the court system.
” Our procedural laws need a quick review, because of the way it is crafted, it has induced opportunity for delay in court.In Nigeria a motion can be in the docket of a court for more than a year.
“These things need to be looked into in order for our justice system to meet up with international standards.
” The court is the last hope of the common man and when he doesn’t have it , it means we don’t have a society, meaning anarchy would come into play, ” Ojaomo said.
Also, Mr Chibuzor Andrews, attributed the inability of parties to bring their witnesses to court on dates scheduled for hearing, as one of the major factors that delay justice.
”Failure of officers of the correctional centres to produce suspects awaiting trial to court, is a major  challenge that slows down justice.
This, he added was usually due to lack of operational or faulty vehicles and most times, lack of  fuel in the official vehicles, expected to convey the suspects to court.
Nwaosu said: “Interruptions during criminal investigation, disconnection in communication between police, prosecutor and the court, bureaucracy in court proceedings, incessant adjournment of cases are also some of the challenges.”
He added that illegal arrests and filing of wrong charges to wrong courts by the police were also factors responsible for the slow process in expediting justice in some of the courts.
According to him also, police interference in purely civil matters also contributes to the delay.
“Police most times arraign suspects of capital punishments such as murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and rape cases at the magistrate court which lacks jurisdiction to entertain in some courts.
 ” If that happens, the Magistrate will in turn, order them to seek  advise from the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP), domiciled in the Ministry of Justice of every state.
 “This is  to enable them file the matter directly at the High Court.
” However, sometimes, when  you go to DPP, they will tell you they have not received any information from the police and as well have so many cases waiting for their advice.
” In such situations, the Magistrates remand the suspects in correctional centres, pending the time they will be transferred to the High Court,” Nwaosu explained.
Another Legal Practitioner, Mr Miracle Steven said that, lack of courts orJudges was another factor causing  delay in expediting justice in Nigerian courts.
He added that, some court dockets were often overwhelmed with cases more than others and so, dates for hearing matters were often given, based on availability of time “and the need to have everyone have a bite at their own cases.”