Nigeria: 2020 - Lagos Lawyers Want Vibrant, Courageous, Corruption-Free Judiciary

14 January 2020

Some Lagos-based lawyers on Tuesday called for a more vibrant, bold and corruption-free judiciary in 2020 to facilitate justice administration.

The lawyers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that 2020 should mark a positive transition from an era of delay in justice dispensation to that of speedy justice delivery.

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According to them, all factors clogging the wheels of smooth proceedings must be nipped in the bud.

Convener of the Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary, Mr Bayo Akinlade, told NAN that the judiciary must learn to assert its independence in 2020.

"The judiciary in 2020 must take the front role in the protection of fundamental rights and liberties of citizens.

"There must be the elimination of all forms of delay in delivering justice, and the judiciary must learn to deal decisively with all incidences of corruption within its ranks," he said.

Akinlade urged called for facilities in the courts, adding that there should be judicial activism to protect citizens from oppressive tendencies.

"Administrative functions of the chief judge should be divested in another person who is a qualified and experienced administrator.

"The judiciary should encourage the unity of purpose by taking advantage of existing laws that give it some oversight powers especially within the administration of the criminal justice sector," he added.

Also, a rights activist and lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, said that judges should take speedily, public interest cases which border on the interpretation of the Constitution.

He noted that justice delayed would be justice denied.

"It is my observation that some judges appear weak in cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution, as some of these suits, in some cases, become academic exercises.

"The Nigerian judiciary must take steps to redeem its image and be corruption-free; where this fails, then who do I report an erring judge too?" he asked.

On his part, a constitutional lawyer and social critic, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, urged that 2020 should be characterised by a people-oriented judiciary that could "feel the pulse" of the nation.

"One way to do this is for lawyers with a bent for activism to chronicle the cases and show where the pendulum swings.

"This watchdog system can make judicial officers sit up, knowing they are being watched," he said.

Ataene added that judges and magistrates should brace up to the challenges of justice delivery particularly with a view to instilling discipline.

"Judicial officers who have made 10a.m. and beyond their sitting time should desist from such; lawyers should not be made to wait at their behest.

"I also suggest that judges who have the propensity to "descend into the arena" of cases, should desist from it; they must remain impartial.

"For a quick justice delivery, cases which are not slated for trial should be adjourned for the court to concentrate on matters for trial.

"There should be more compliance with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2015, and I urge other states to adopt the same to suit their systems."

Ataene called the creation of a bar/bench forum which should meet periodically to assess the growth of the judiciary.

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