WE are in full support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for efforts to be channelled towards setting a reasonable time limit for criminal cases. He handed this charge to the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in a keynote address read on his behalf through a virtual interaction by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
While stressing that the fabric of our society “is stitched together by our system of justice and law enforcement”, Buhari asked these important questions: “Why can’t we have timeliness in all our cases?
“Why can’t we put in place the rules that will state that a criminal trial all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months in duration?”
The way we see it, the NBA is a major stakeholder, interest group and advocate for judicial reforms and rectitude. There are other stakeholders, such as the Bench or Judiciary, Legislature, and the Executive which must act in concert to actualise this laudable reform idea.
We believe that the ball is squarely in the president’s court to take the initiative.
This should have formed part of the nine-point exit agenda that Buhari unfolded to the diplomatic community when some of them visited him recently to present their credentials.
Buhari had obviously marketed his action agenda for the final three years of his regime with a view to getting the buy-in of our international friends and partners.
A smarter, more efficient and professional dispensation of justice in Nigeria would be a sound legacy if Buhari chooses to spearhead it in the same way that the Jonathan administration had pushed for the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015 before handing over power.
We suggest that the president assembles a small committee of the three arms of government to explore the best ways of amending the ACJA with time-limiting provisions.
This multi-arm panel is also necessary because the reforms that will have to be done to achieve speedier justice delivery will go beyond amendment of the Act.
It will involve granting more independence and funds to the Judiciary, hiring more judges at all levels to tackle the caseloads, streamlining administrative processes to remove the incidence of conflicting judgements, stricter monitoring of corruption among the general judicial workforce, among the others.
It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. If we can work together and achieve a faster justice delivery system, the benefits from it will be endless.
Nigerians will repose more confidence in the ability of the Judiciary to give them justice, which is crucial for keeping the people law abiding. Most people who take the law into their hands do so due to lack of confidence in our judicial system.
Even our efforts to attract foreign investment will benefit from speedier and more efficient justice delivery.