The discernible challenges encountered in a transitional society and the pervasive belief of denial of justice occasioned by undue delay have been attributed to the factors militating against an effective justice delivery system.
These, among others were the submission of the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, at the 2018 Lagos Innovating Justice Conference,LIJC, held at the Landmark Event Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos.
At the Conference organised by The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), the Governor who was the Guest of Honour, highlighted other factors inhibiting quick justice delivery in the country.
“My experience, spanning four decades as a legal practitioner, participation in active Bar politics, serving in several capacities, the culmination of which was my election as President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and my current assignment as Ondo State Governor are sufficient reasons for the confidence I exude to discussing issues bordering on administration of justice in Nigeria
“I have been opportuned to relate with persons who have traveled around the world in seeking solutions to the delay in justice delivery and research revealed that all the players in the justice sector; the Lawyers, Judges, Clients and the Court Registry have contributed to the issue”, he said.
According to the governor, for the Judges and Court registry, the volume of cases that come before them was overwhelming, adding that their ability to dispose of them timeously was hindered by the sheer volume.
“The lawyers who want all issues relating to their client’s case heard, would desire to take all the time to have every relevant and somewhat irrelevant issues tabled before the Judge to sway the case in favour of his client.
“Sometimes, it is the failure of the Registry to timeously treat administrative issues concerning cases that leads to its delay. These problems have undoubtedly, made justice inaccessible and complicated”, he explained.
Profering solutions to make the justice system accessible, he mentioned some of the innovations to include; filing of briefs of arguments at the Court of Appeal and timing of oral arguments.
Others are filing of witness statements to save the time for taking oral testimony, filing of written arguments at the High Court, arbiter of the appellate Courts discouraging interlocutory appeals among others.
Governor Akeredolu who added that the transcribing machines have been observed in some courts, but have not been put to use, stated that despite the introduction of those measures, there have been little impact on improving the accessibility to justice.
“Innovations, are necessarily integral for development in a society. The dynamism inherent in human affairs, ensures that all sectors in a socio-political system are amenable to changes and a country liberally permissive of errant attitudes where deviance is not sanctioned appropriately, would grapple with developmental issues.
“All judicial system is erected on a tripod and its success is measured in terms of how these three stands are satisfied.
“The society needs justice to achieve peace and progress, a Litigant/Complainant deserves justice for perceived wrong while the Defendant must also be convinced of meriting the penal measure meted to him/her.
“Despite all I have stated, we still require a system that would make it a lot less complicated and I hope that we can identify processes that can tremendously improve accessibility to justice and impact human subsistence in the global ecosystem”, he stated.
Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of Hague Institute for Innovation of law, Dr Sam Muller in his welcome address, said access to justice revolves around our daily activities.
Dr. Muller stressed that in the last five years ,the institute has been involved in the project in fifteen countries with a view to come up with innovations and research on how to address lack of access to justice delivery.
He said one billion out of over eight billion people across the globe are faced with at least one justice problem which has made 30 percent of the population to disregard any believe in justice while the remaining 70 percent pursue it with the hope that they will get justice at the right time.
”This is why a programme of this nature is created to critically brainstorm and proffer practicable panacea to it so that people will be encouraged to have faith in the nation’s justice system ”
”We are looking at addressing this issue through the use of data information that will be generated and then come up with innovations that will be adopted and then transform all into one entity that will bring about user friendly justice. Data +Innovation + transformation = to user friendly justice ” Muller said .
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo who was represented by the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in, Mr Yemi Dideolu commended the Hague institute for contributing greatly to the nation’s justice system in the last three years it came into the country.
Also in her keynote address, a former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili who spoke on “Power of data to democratize access to Justice”, noted that societies are created to find solutions to myriads of challenges or problems facing man .
The Co-founder of Transparency International, emphasised that the greatest problem of Nigeria was inequality and the judiciary, having been given the power to protect the nation’s democracy and the people expected to come up with various reforms that will bring innovation to our justice system.
While calling on lawyers in Nigeria to be connected with what the institute was bringing up in terms of innovation, maintained that the nation’s judicial system, being the last hope of poor, has to be revolutionised to enable people have confidence in it.
Dr. Ezekwesili who maintained that innovation must be done in a replicable manner for the justice system to be viable, hinted that the best thing to do for the poor was to ensure easy accessibility to justice.
The former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Supo Sasore, SAN, while explaining that rule of law remains an embodiment of the justice sector, advocated the need to invest in the sector like some developed countries have done.
He added that innovation must not be technologically driven to achieve its purpose, but rather come with some measures that will make every institutions under the sector work through political will and strict legislation.
The conference was attended by lawyers, rights’ activists and personalities from the corporate world.