Two prominent human rights lawyers, Femi Falana, SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN and some prominent members of the Bar have blamed the appointment and timidity of some of judicial officers as what is responsible for their low judicial delivery and performance.
In a session organised by the Section on Public Interest & Development Law (SPIDEL) at the ongoing annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA in Lagos, the lawyers including Falana, Ozekhome, Joseph Otteh of Access to Justice and Dr. Uju Agomoh of PRAWA were in agreement that though the judges are doing their best considering the environment they operate in Nigeria, there are still rooms for improvement.
In his take, Ozekhome blamed judges for undermining the Judiciary.
Ozekhome, a panelist, disclosed that majority of the Judges, especially at the lower benches, are often scared in delivering judgement, particularly when it affects government or its agencies.
According to him, “Nigeria is in quagmire, Judges are afraid to deliver judgement because Government is on their neck.”
This factor is one of the consequences of undermining the judiciary under the country’s democracy.
He, however, held that the judges must be given independence.
Falana said that often times, majority of the judges are either scared or not up to task to deliver sound and provoking judgement whenever it affects bigwigs and cases of public importance.
He noted that judges must be firm in the discharge of their constitutional duties and “deliver judgement that will impact positively on our democracy”.
Falana also blamed lawyers for being docile for not using the constitution and other statutes to provoke what can make the country’s democracy worthwhile.
Mr. Joseph Otteh, the Executive Director, Access to Justice, explained that a host of factors limits the functionality of justice in the court.
He identified that overcrowded dockets, escalating cost of accessing justice is also a major barrier now as in the case of filing fees.
He mentioned that the courts are not responsive enough to the issue of people having access to the court of law.
“We are still paper driven which is labour intensive and we are not prepared enough for another pandemic.”
Otteh frowned at delays trailing cases, attributing the snag to transfer of judges without adequate preparations.
“Our judges really fail to exercise the courage they need to display when they face challenges like impunity from the state.”
He said, “If the judiciary cannot faithfully exercise their authority, the judiciary will be undermined.”
Dr. Uju Agomoh, Director PRAWA wants the judiciary to use it’s power to stop overcrowding the custodial centres in the country.
She was particular about controlling the rate of reception into custody and duration inmates spend in prison.
She wants lawyers to embrace the legal instrument for prison reforms in their legal practice to overcome the challenges besetting the correctional service.