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Buhari calls for speedy dispensation of justice

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President Muhammadu Buhari has frowned on the slow pace of trials in the courts and called for reforms that will limit criminal trials up to the Supreme Court to one-year term and civil trials to between 12 and 15 months.

Buhari spoke through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the opening session of the virtual 2020 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)’s Annual General Conference themed ‘Step Forward’ yesterday.

He said no other group outside the legal community was as crucial to the sustenance of democracy, law and order as the men and women in the legal profession.

The conference coincided with the body’s 60th anniversary and drew participants from within and outside Nigeria.

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“I believe we need to step forward and resolve some of the emerging problems of our system of administration of justice. Reform is urgent because the fabric of our society is stitched together by our system of justice and law enforcement.

“We cannot afford to have the stitches undone. The first issue I would like to commend to your consideration is the terribly slow pace of trial in our courts. I’m not a lawyer, but I have been a beneficiary of the judicial process,” Buhari said.

Lamenting the times he spent at the election tribunals trying to challenge the victory of his opponents, the president expressed happiness that the law had changed to limit the time frame to eight months.

He wondered why time limit was not applied to other cases aside election petitions.

“Why can’t we put in place the rules that will say that a criminal matter all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months in duration? Why can’t we do the same for civil cases? Even if we say that civil cases must not go beyond 15 months, I think, that for me would be stepping forward,” he declared.

In his address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Muhammad, said the judiciary was doing all that was possible to ensure justice delivery to all without fear of favour, affection or ill-will.

By endorsing virtual filing of electronic processes, he said the judiciary was ready to utilise technology and warned lawyers to desist from filing frivolous applications that constitute abuse of court process.

He applauded the association for holding the virtual conference amid the pandemic, noting that it exemplified the doggedness of the bar under the leadership of Paul Usoro.

The keynote speaker, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, noted that legal practitioners play many roles in a society.

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