An Overwhelmed Legal Structure

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The legal framework of the Nigerian system is the custodian of law and order in the country, it is the provisions of the law {in the instant case the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria}, and the judiciary to adjudicate the applicability of the laws to provide a sane society for everyone. What this means is that the judiciary is what guarantees and protects the fundamental human rights of every citizen and foreigner alike, and so important to the development of a nation’s policy and economy.

Without mincing words, the Nigerian system is porous and has a lot of loopholes that hinder improvement. Foreign investors are sometimes skeptical coming into Nigeria to establish a business because it takes years for our courts to give a final verdict on reliefs sought by plaintiffs/claimants. The courts are not solely responsible for prolonged adjudication in the country, every player in the industry has a role to play in determining the pace of proceedings, even down to the court clerks and registrars, no one is exempted.

Take for instance, if a party is suing a government agency, the Attorney General of the Federation or State depending on the circumstance, would be included in the suit as a nominal party, being the government lawyer. There are plethora of situations where state counsel from the ministry of justice inform the courts that letters written to these agencies on matters before the court, take too long to respond hindering progress in the proceeding.

Which begs the question, who feels the brunt of a country’s porous system? The legal structure is overwhelmed by the inadequacies of the country’s modus operandi, from the difficulty of executing court’s judgment, to protection of fundamental human rights of citizens, to enforcing breach of contractual obligation between parties, e.t.c. when any party feels aggrieved, he seeks the courts intervention to restore his/her rights, and so the judiciary becomes the stop desk for solving all grievances between parties.

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So apart from the current system already affecting the smooth sail of justice dispensation, the government players in every other sector apart from legal also play a part in determining if justice wins or not. In Kaduna State, a state counsel in the ministry of justice represents the government at the high court, the Nigerian police force is also a government player responsible for crimes committed in the country. For the state counsel to properly represent the state he/she would need a case diary from the police that would detail investigation on the matter thus far, meaning they work hand in hand to apprehend criminals. Now imagine, some years back a state counsel in the person of Swan Stephen, Esq was wrestled down by a police officer, and detained for some hours for demanding a case diary that would assist his representation of the state in court.

Many Nigerians cast aspersion on the judicial sector, saying the courts take too long to dispense justice, forgetting that it is what the system offers that the judiciary works with. It is trite that you cannot give what you do not have; therefore, the courts cannot deliver beyond the capacity provided by the Nigerian Government. When the Attorney General’s office is just a nominal party, and a government agency affected being an interested party, stalls proceedings, how then do we expect the state counsel to do his/her job, and then the courts to adjudicate? It has been rightly said that justice is a three (3) way traffic.

It is a good thing that the vice president of the country is a professor of law and would relate with the current legal structure better than this writer. To my mind, it is imperative that the government pay close attention to the development of the judicial sector, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is a bold initiative, but we must go further to ensure its strict compliance by all parties involved, a law loses force when its applicability is not complied with, or difficult to accomplish. All government players ought to be sensitized on the importance of compliance to court proceedings, obedience of court orders, and respect for the fundamental human rights of the next Nigerian.

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Godspeed!

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