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Rebuild citizen’s trust, confidence, SAN tasks government

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Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential aspirant, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) has charged governments at all levels to be more responsive to the needs of the people by bridging the yawning gap in trust and confidence between citizens and the state.

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According to him, rebuilding the nation post COVID-19 will require effective leadership as the pandemic is not only a public health crisis, but has also heavily impacted and disrupted the economic, political and judicial space.

He made the charge during his firm’s 12th annual public lecture with the theme: “Rebuilding the nation post COVID-19 outbreak: the judicial, economic and political perspectives” in Abuja last week.

Gadzama also emphasised the need to institutionalise the use of technology in the administration of justice in the country.

He said: “It is a notorious fact that the virulence of COVID-19 and its ravaging effects have brought about seismic changes around the world, with its impact heavily felt in arguably all facets of human existence. It has affected how we live and interact with each other, how we work and communicate, how we move around and travel; in fact, every aspect of our lives has been affected.

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“As a matter of emphasis, COVID-19 is not only a global pandemic and public health crisis; it has also severely affected major pillars of various nations’ existence, with Nigeria getting its fair share of the spoils. On the economic front, it has brought about significant reductions in income, rise in unemployment, disruption in the transportation services, losses in service industries, low productivity in the manufacturing industry, increase in prices of goods and services, to mention but a few. This has triggered the urgent need to chart a way forward towards rescuing our economy.”

In the judicial sector, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, courts, he noted, were labouring under overloaded dockets and case files.

The closure of the courts arising from measures aimed at curbing the pandemic, he said, sadly exacerbated the problem.

“Awaiting trial detainees had their hearings which may have led to their release from custody stalled, litigants were left frustrated by the impasse as cases slated for hearing within the period of suspension were stalled, and cases whose cause of action arose within the period of suspension could not be heard.

“The reopening of courts created nightmarish scenarios as judges, court staff, lawyers and litigants battled to reschedule hearings that could not take place during the lockdown. The result was a backlog that tested the limits of the Nigerian judiciary, bearing in mind that the system is already bedeviled by protracted trials and undue delay. Justice delayed, they say, is justice denied,” he declared.

Gadzama reminded that the Nigerian judiciary has been stuck in analogue mode for so long, to the detriment of the country.

He therefore declared that it would not be out of place to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic came as a wake-up call on the need to deliberately bolster the institutionalization of the use of technology in the administration of justice in Nigeria.

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His words: “The political structure is also not left out. The pandemic highlighted the need for leaders across all levels of government to be more responsive to the needs of the people. As we all know, there is a yawning gap in trust and accountability between citizens and the state in Nigeria. There have to be viable attempts to bridge this gap because ultimately, power resides in the people. Effective leadership to build confidence and trust is vital.”

In his keynote address, the Chairman of Dialogue Groups, Dr. Mahdi Shehu, stressed the need to have selfless and well-intended political leaders, resilient political institutions and structures, sound economic policies, and reliable and dependable justice system to rebuild the nation.

The chairman of the occasion, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, in his remarks, hailed J-K Gadzama LLP for its consistency in organising its annual lecture series as part of its corporate social responsibility, and for bringing on board some of the brightest minds in Nigeria to discuss pertinent issues and for charting a way forward for the country.

He described this year’s theme of the lecture series as timely given the current situation in the nation and globally.

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