Group calls for introduction of court managers in justice sector
A group dedicated to enhancing citizens’ participation and improvement of security in Nigeria – Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative, has called on stakeholders to introduce court managers in the justice sector.
The managers, the group stated, would be tasked with the responsibility of harmonizing roasters for inspection of detention facilities to avoid conflicts and unnecessary adjournment of cases. Also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), the group made the call recently at its quarterly meeting held to present findings on court monitoring as observed in Lagos State between March 2018 and November 2019.
The meeting had as a theme, “Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in the Judicial Sector.”Reviewing the report, Hadiza Usman of the Public Defenders Unit, PWAN, noted that 83 percent of criminal cases across high courts and magistrate courts was valued below N10,000,000; 75 percent of which were corruption related.
Usama added that seven percent of the cases was valued between N10,000,000 and 50,000,000 while four percent was valued between N501,000,000 and above.
“At the Magistrate Court, 16 percent of the cases was on corruption offences and eight percent comprised offences against the state including rioting, breach of peace and sedition.“There was an increase in corruption cases as 40 percent of observed cases was on corruption while 15 percent was on murder, manslaughter or kidnapping”, she stated. On bail related matters, the report showed that only 33 per cent of all bail applications was granted while 67 percent was denied.
The report however acknowledged improvement in current judicial system in relation to speedy trials and recommended a proper case management system to track when cases are filed in order to ensure that they are assigned to judges for early enough for trails. The report also indicated that it takes an average of 39 days for cases filed to be assigned to judges.
“In corruption cases, it takes an average of 67 days while other criminal cases take up to 70 days, which is contrary to Section 252(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which states that assignment should be done within 15 days from the day of filingThe group also disclosed that some judicial officials demand for gratifications before they could carry out their duties, “which can sometimes delay perfection of bail granted to defendants.”
Responding, Justice Josephine Efunkunbi Oyefeso of the Ikeja High Court, admonished the group to report any officer found asking for bribe to the appropriate authority.“If you notice this kind of behavior from court staff, please report it to the appropriate authorities so it would be looked into”, the judge stated.