Nigerian Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo said there was hope for positive reforms in the justice system as more results-oriented changes are currently underway in the country.
He said so on Friday during the 20th year memorial symposium organized by the law firm Aluko and Oyebode in memory of one of their founding partners, the late Mr. Bankole Aluko who died on February 18, 2002.
Osinbajo, who delivered the keynote address at the symposium, said that the reform efforts undertaken jointly by the National Judicial Council, the NJC, the Nigerian Bar Association, civil society organizations and the federal government give hope for real changes in the system.
The vice-president identified the failures in the administration of the judicial system as consequences of philosophical, structural and institutional deficiencies.
“To make sense of judicial decisions and reasoning, in most cases it is necessary to respond to common notions of fairness and justice.
“The justice system must recognize the great principles it serves.
In judicial interpretation, the spirit is as important as the letter of the law.
“Otherwise, judicial decisions become technical applications far removed from common sense.
According to the Vice-President, the notions of justice that would meet the public’s expectations of fairness and fairness are those that privilege substance over form.
“Respect for technicality over merit will always alienate the justice system from the people it is meant to serve,” he added.
Osinbajo said the institutional issues that needed to be addressed were those relating to the quality and capacity of judges, court registries, court staff as well as court infrastructure, including court buildings.
He said the appointment of judges was of critical importance to the administration of the judiciary in Nigeria, stressing the need to subject candidates for the appointment of judges to rigorous processes, as is done in other jurisdictions. .
“It is frankly astounding that the process of evaluating and hearing judges, men and women empowered by law to literally determine the lives and livelihoods of others, is one of the least harsh imaginable.
“There is no clear evaluation process for the selection of judges.
Insisting that the best judicial officers must be appointed at all times, Osinbajo said the government must ensure that the conditions under which they operate are not only suitable, but good enough to attract the best minds of the profession. legal.
“The judge is of course at the heart of the functioning of our judicial system.
It is the court and not the lawyer who should determine the pace of cases.
“It is the court that exercises discipline in the courtroom, preventing and/or punishing unethical behavior.
In doing so, the disciplinary powers of the court, particularly in matters of contempt, must be simplified.
“Today, the technicality of contempt proceedings has deprived judges of their most powerful disciplinary tool.
“To complement the judge in sanctioning unethical practices, there is the NBA and its disciplinary jurisdiction.
But this also needs to be rethought.
“The complaints submitted to him have caught the virus of delays in judicial trials.
The case management function of the judge is a function that needs to be taught and re-taught.
Emphasizing that the certainty or predictability of judicial outcomes is one of the main strengths of common law, the Vice President said that the unresolved contradictory decisions of the Courts of Appeal in Nigeria threaten predictability and make the task of provide legal advice to difficult or even downright precarious clients.
According to Prof.
Osinbajo, the digitization of court processes, records and services is the inevitable new frontier of justice delivery and will significantly improve access to justice and affect trial times.
“Easy-to-use technology is available to deploy at all stages of civil and criminal proceedings, including initiation, service of proceedings and hearing.
“Court records are digitized so that court proceedings can be filed, stored and retrieved electronically with ease.
“Parties can file all processes and evidence online and participate in the proceedings virtually.
“Already, in a laudable response to the realities of operating during a pandemic, the Supreme Court has endorsed virtual court proceedings.
“Technology has already permanently transformed the way we do business.
It is intended to change the functioning of our institutions.
He said the late Aluko had justice reform as one of his favorite topics, adding that they both spent hours analyzing the issues, “That’s why the topic of this conference would have him intrigued” Administration of Justice: The Ideal Standard, the Nigerian Reality and Our Potential.
Welcoming guests to the symposium, Chairman Kofo Dosekun said the late Aluko had a passion for law, which was reflected in his dedication and dedication to his clients and the young lawyers he mentored.
There was also a discussion on the theme of the symposium by a panel composed of eminent jurists, magistrates and a professor of law.
Judicial system: there is hope for positive reforms – VP Osinbajo