CHIEF Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Mukhtar has been praised for the changes she is making in the judiciary. She has less than a year more in office, yet the matters she had set as her agenda when she took office in 2012, are still there. She has more work to do before she leaves in ensuring that justice is speedily dispensed.
“It is common knowledge that our security agencieAs usually rush to the courts with suspects, before looking for evidence to prosecute them. The persistent use of the “holden charge” by these agencies to detain awaiting trial suspects is a major contributor to the high number of cases pending in our courts,” she said as she inaugurated new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN.
Justice Mukhtar suggested that the inadequate attention that security agencies paid to surveillance on crime suspects was a major reason for poor prosecution. Elsewhere, she said, surveillance could sometimes last for years, to get enough evidence for prosecution.
“But in Nigeria, suspects are promptly arrested and oftentimes arraigned in court, even when no evidence for prosecution has been gathered. The backlash from such failure of proper investigation by our security agencies is the resultant hike in the number of cases pending in the courts,” she said.
The consequences of poor investigations of cases include the high number of suspects awaiting trial. Some spend more than 10 years awaiting trial, some die. Without adequate evidence against them and the constant transfer of police personnel, some cases are abandoned, condemning suspects to years in jail, sometimes exceeding their punishment if they had been convicted.
What justice can a man get if he is released after 20 years in detention without compensation? What compensation can pay for a man’s years in illegal confinement?
She captured the finality of the denial of justice more succinctly. “To exhaust complete remedy in a case, that is from trial court to Supreme Court, could take up to 20 years with the original litigants dead and substituted and in some cases the substitutes also dead and substituted”.
We agree with her. She is in podium position to see the judiciary change in our generation. Time is running out, but she can seek out organisations and review institutions that can facilitate quicker dispensation of justice even after she is gone. Justice Mukhtar should remain different. Sanitisation of the judiciary is incomplete without overhaul of the laws, the police and the prisons.
Justice Mukhtar should in her remaining time commence processes to achieve delivery of justice in the wholesome manner she anticipates. She has profound concerns on the matter and should not allow any challenges to stall her attention.