By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the delay in delivery of justice in the country.
Buhari, in his remarks at the opening ceremony at the biennial All Nigeria Judges’ Conference at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja, also called on the Legislature and the Judiciary to cooperate with his government in his anti-graft campaign.
Buhari told the delegates that the prime purpose of any government was to regulate social relations within its territorial jurisdiction stressing that without the rule of law, the government will degenerate into dictatorship or anarchy.
He said “For the judiciary, the public expects 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.
“Furthermore, there are 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.
The knock-on efforts of these delays and dis-continuities range from loss of confidence in the judicial system to over-crowding of prisons. This is an area Your Lordships should pay close attention to in your efforts at reforming the system.”
The President said he had instructed the governors to tour their prison facilities with their Chief Judges with a view to disconcerting them.
On his call for cooperation in his anti-graft war, he said “My lords, as all of us are aware one of the objectives of this Administration is to combat graft and other forms of corruption so endemic in our public life. The executive cannot achieve these objectives alone. We require the close cooperation of other arms of government.
He continued “My lords, earlier this year the Judiciary came under investigation. Let me again assure the judicial community, this action taken by the Executive was in no way a prelude to usurping the powers of the National Judicial Council or aimed at intimidating the Judiciary as wrongly portrayed in some sections of the media. Executive and legislative officials were also investigated
I am aware that the majority of judicial officers are learned and incorruptible and day in day out acting in the best spirit of their oath of office.”
Buhari said he was not ignorant of the challenges facing the Judiciary saying that his government has begun to address them.
Bearing these in mind, this Administration increased allocation to the Judiciary from N70 billion to N100 billion in the 2017 Budget. A similar figure has been proposed for 2018.”
He commended the Chief Justice, Justice Walter Onnoghen, for his resolve to collate all cases of corruption and financial crimes in lower courts with a view to reassigning them to special courts.
Onnoghen in his remarks said that the Judiciary has been at the eye of the storm in recent times due to the activities of some bad eggs among the judges.