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Group recommends desk review of judicial reform in Nigeria

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A law-based non-governmental organization, Law and Empowerment Initiative has advocated desk review of the planned judicial reform in Nigeria.

The group, also known as Partners West Africa made the advocacy after observing court activities across some states of the federation.

The court observation programme had the support of United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

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The organization worked closely with Kano and Abuja branches of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), FCT and Kano State judiciary, Federal High Courts, Sharia Courts as well as Industrial Courts in doing the job.

Programme Manager, Partners West Africa, Barbara Maigari, at the public presentation of their findings and recommendations said the group adopted four strategies, which include desk review of judicial reforms in the country since 1999; observation of court proceedings; monitoring of cases in various courts as well as interviews conducted on court users.

“A total of 74 observers were deployed across FCT and Kano State, to work closely with Judges,” said Maigari.  At the end of the project, the group blamed some of the lapses experienced in dispensation of justice to heavy workload on the judges, sitting time of courts, supports available to the courts as well as the number of civil and criminal cases listed in the daily cause list.

“The findings showed that support available to the courts is more of manpower. However, this is not complemented by technology either in the form of microphone or public address system as well as electronic recording. These affect the effectiveness of the courts,” Maigari said.

As a way forward, the group urged the National Judicial Council (NJI) or States Judicial Service Commission to devise an objective means of monitoring punctuality and attendance rates of judges and magistrates.

It held that making such information available to the public will not only help in rating their performances but would equally serve as part of the considerations for promotion and merit award for judges.

While decrying the effect of analogue court recordings on justice dispensation, the group further recommended that an urgent step be taken to adopt and secure funding for an automated, transparent and real-time system of recording and disseminating records of court proceedings among others.

Speaking earlier, a retired Justice of Supreme Court, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, stated that justice and security are critical determinant of a state. She added that a society that defaults in due process, known for violation of rights or lack access or affordable justice, is devoid of good governance.

Justice Adekeye further noted that there were still challenges with the democratic process in Nigeria. “In the security and justice sectors, human and financial resources are not commensurate with the demands of the over 180 million population. The process of civil and criminal justice administration demands urgent and implementable actions”, she said.

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