Law News
Towards a more efficient judiciary

There are many challenges confronting the Nigerian justice system. Slow justice administration, with its many attendant consequences, is, perhaps, chief among them. Whenever stakeholders converge to rub minds, it is almost impossible for delayed justice administration not to come up as a topic. Indeed, delayed justice is one of the problems that the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 was designed to address.

As a new legal year commenced across the country, stakeholders are looking for ways to further solve the problem of slow justice administration. This no doubt informed a Bar and bench forum held in Lagos last week.

At the said forum, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Oluwafunmilayo Atilade, said the judiciary had introduced the Bail Information Management System, targeted at achieving a more efficient court administration.

Atilade explained that the BMIS, which captures and documents the biometrics of accused and their sureties, would go a long way in fast-tracking criminal justice dispensation in the state.

The Chief Judge said, “The trials of suspects are usually delayed due to non-production in court by prison authorities who sometimes cannot even identify their specific places of remand.

“The BIMS will be deployed in the 22 magisterial districts and the Lagos and Ikeja divisions of the Lagos State High Court.

“The information will be linked to a centralised data base accessible to everybody and give judges and magistrates confidence to grant bail to suspects.

“It will help to address the issue of awaiting trial inmates because suspects can easily be tracked from the system.”

While this new initiative holds much promise, lawyers, however, said it should be complemented with granting of bail in liberal terms.

The lawyers, who spoke at the forum through the chairmen of the four branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos, observed that granting bail on stringent terms will continue to defeat the purpose of bail because many accused still remain remanded throughout trial period despite being granted bail.

“It is our suggestion that bail conditions should be made more liberal vis-à-vis deposit of money as a condition for bail.

“Bail should be granted on self-recognisance in deserving cases, whether in consideration of the status of the defendant or the quality of legal representation,” the NBA said.

Again the NBA called on the Chief Judge to address the issue of some judges who are in the habit of sitting late.

They observed that while judges and magistrates are expected to sit at 9am, some do not sit until as late as 11.30am.

According to the NBA, much progress may not be made in justice dispensation if this is not addressed.

“We urge judges and magistrates to sit on time and regularly too. Some courts do not sit until 10 or 11am. We appeal that this habit should be done away with as it does not afford legal practitioners and litigants adequate opportunity to manage their time,” the NBA said.

Lawyers called for continuous education for judges because “law is dynamic with new legislation and reforms.”

But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mrs. Funke Adekoya, while speaking on “The role of the Bar in attaining effective and efficient justice delivery,” advised judges against indulging lawyers in a ways capable of hampering justice delivery.

She added, “Cases must be concluded, judgment must be handed down and record of proceedings must be made available.

“For lawyers, they must be able to embrace mediation, avoid objection and stay of proceedings, and avoid unnecessary applications for adjournment.”

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