Wanted: Effective, Efficient Justice Delivery System

Wanted: Effective, Efficient Justice Delivery System

Nwaze, said, regrettably, going by the facts and events unfolding in Nigeria, the nation seems trapped in a justice delivery system where the leaders and the led do not trust the system in its workings and processes.

Lagos-based lawyer and public affairs analyst, Mr. David Nwaze, has said that Nigeria’s justice delivery system should be made more effective to meet present-day challenges.

Positing that “a hallmark factor that defines an ideal democratic setup is an effective justice delivery system,” he said: “Indeed, it has become undisputable that democracy, as a system of governance, thrives on the constant lubricative mechanism of several defined processes, which are intrinsic and underscore the very nature of the concept; an effective and efficient justice system is one of these processes.”

Nwaze, said, regrettably, going by the facts and events unfolding in Nigeria, the nation seems trapped in a justice delivery system where the leaders and the led do not trust the system in its workings and processes.

He said: “This is because the tripartite institutions of our justice system, comprising the police, courts and correctional centres, are often perceived to be underperforming and, accordingly, need to be periodically strengthened in order to discharge their functions effectively and efficiently. In fact, in their present state, they form a system I describe as one that is ‘working-less’. Suffice it to say that numerous factors interplay and there are processes that could be put in place, to further strengthen and harmonize the various institutions, police, courts and correctional centres, towards an effective and efficient justice system delivery in Nigeria. Practically speaking, just to highlight a few: “First, a statutory or institutional synergy among the various organs constituting the justice system. I have often advocated on sundry fora that it has become expedient for workshops, seminars and conferences to be held among these institutions, particularly the police and court, to educate, strengthen and re-emphasize this necessary synergy. The point cannot be over-emphasized. In criminal cases, the police, most times, are the entrance point into the system through arrests of persons suspected to have committed an offence. Thereafter, the courts ensure the case is heard within the ambit of the law and at the end of which it delivers a decision. Where, for instance, the person is convicted of an offence, the correctional centres ensure that the convict is taken into custody to serve the judgment of the court. In all these processes, effective and efficient justice delivery system should ensure that the police carry out their investigation activities within well-defined civilized rules and procedure, including in the arrest and detention (if necessary) of suspects. When suspects are charged to court for their trial, the courts are to ensure that the suspect is accorded all the rights guaranteed under the Constitution. At this juncture, legal practitioners commend the Lagos justice system put in place where, sometimes, the judge or magistrate, as the case may be, is often seen educating or enlightening the prosecutors in the cooperation that ought to exist between the court and the police in achieving justice.

“Secondly, and most importantly, are the factors of complete independence of the judiciary and strict obedience to the decisions and orders of the court. It is abysmal that the present administration has consistently made a mockery of Nigeria’s democracy by non-observance of the latter. Indeed, a system where the government handpicks the court decision or order to obey is a gradual leading to a state of cataclysm. At the risk of emphasis, it is elementary that independence of the judiciary is a sine qua non in any democratic setup like Nigeria. One is quick to bring to the fore the recent strike action by the Judiciary Staff Union in

Nigeria (JUSUN) geared towards achieving or, better still, actualizing the complete independence of the judiciary. I use the word ‘actualizing’ because the independence of the Nigerian judiciary is an issue that is well settled in the Constitution and even the courts have decided on it. It is often wondered why it appears so difficult for the various state governments in Nigeria to implement. However, we must commend the judiciary staff union on its persistence. Let it be categorically stated again that the people cannot trust a justice system where the independence of the judiciary is not guaranteed. Even foreign investors will be scared of making any huge investments in Nigeria without the assurance of a reliable, independent dispute settlement mechanism in the judiciary.

“Thirdly, we bring to the fore the cankerworm that has eaten deep into the very fibre of our nationhood: corruption. We have got to a point as a nation where we should strengthen, and keep strengthening, institutions fighting corruption, especially the police, because it has become trite that a bane to effective and efficient justice delivery system in Nigeria is corruption. While the level of corruption differs among the various institutions comprising the justice system, it does not take away that negative perception that it ought not to be there at all, especially in the judiciary. This corruption, of course, is well known at our police stations, we, therefore, call on the authorities to carry out a complete overhauling in the mindset of our police officers. For instance, as a lawyer, till date, I can tell you that bail, although a constitutionally guaranteed right, is not free at our police stations and even the police boss is aware of what the policeman at the counter is doing on this, I see it is an ‘independent collaboration.’ Until there are strict measures and re-orientation among police officers, undertaken periodically, to eliminate some of these ills in the process of justice delivery, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for an effective and efficient justice delivery, to be achieved, not just on paper.

“Last but not the least, statistics confirm the fact that convicted persons, and those awaiting trial, have outgrown the capacities of the correctional centres. Therefore, a periodic infrastructural rehabilitation of our correctional centres so they are better equipped to accommodate, refine, reform, and transform an inmate, whether during or after an experience, would go a long way to reconceptualizing our perception about these centres. The change should not just be in the name; rather it should be a complete departure of the status quo (prison) to reflect the reality of what is obtainable in the present correctional centre. It is expedient also to hurriedly observe that part of the reasons for these overflows at the correctional centres is the inherent faultiness in the system and I give you an instance. My client had a civil transaction for the purchase of some goods and the agreement was secured with a property, which has a certificate of occupancy. The agreement was breached and he was arrested by the police, charged for a criminal offence and sent to the prison, awaiting his bail to be perfected. Sadly, as we speak, he is still in the correctional centre unable to perfect his bail. An effective and efficient justice system would not criminalize, or assist to criminalize, a civil transaction, in whatever guise presented. For the justice delivery system to be trusted and approach-worthy, all steps towards ensuring its processes and procedures are predictable, as much as possible, must be taken.”

 

Culled from The Sun

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