‘Why Justice Sector, Court Administration should be Split’

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Stakeholders have canvassed a split between justice sector administration and court administration as a way to tackle inherent problems in the judicial system.

They suggested that judges will better concentrate on the issue of quick justice delivery, if another body is given the task of handling administrative matters.

Members of the Bar and Bench examined the issue recently at this year’s edition of the SPA Ajibade & Co. Business Luncheon, which held in Lagos.

Principal Partner, SPA Ajibade & Co, Mr Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), urged stakeholders to find a way to address the problem with the administration of justice.

He said: “I think our judges are overburdened. They are being asked to do things that they are not either trained for or they do not have the capability or the resources to do. And these are the issues bedeviling the administration of justice.

“There is a general consensus that things are not working properly and this is just another attempt to try and find solutions.”

According to him, if judges are free of the burden of managing administrative affairs of their courts, they would have time to attend to more cases, thereby enhancing the speed of justice delivery.

Lead speaker, Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey, a former Solicitor-General in Lagos State, said failure to make a clear distinction between justice administration and court administration had for long hampered the efficiency of the justice system.

He suggested that Nigeria should emulate the United States of America, the United Kingdom and South Africa, where both components of the justice system have been separated.

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Arthur-Worrey said: “I thought that often we don’t make the distinction in Nigeria between the administration of justice, which is supposed to provide the end product – judgment and ruling – and the administration of the court or the physical elements of the court management, without which the administration of justice itself will be largely inefficient.

“Things like power supply, generators, diesel etc should not be the concern of judges. But today, judges are the ones that basically manage their courts. They are the ones that replace bulbs because the system is just not fast enough to catch up.

“I know for instance that many judges don’t have competent secretaries. They are typing their judgments themselves and it has got to a stage that it is an expectation; but it is not supposed to be.

“All you require from a judge is his or her intellectual capacity, understanding of the law and a level of efficiency in applying the law.”

Oyo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Oluseun Abimbola, said where the executive was even willing to allow the judiciary enjoy financial autonomy, there was no structure in place to achieve it.

But Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), argued that much as the idea of creating a clear dichotomy between justice administration and court administration sounded beautiful, it might do little to address the problem of delayed justice if there were no change of orientation among the stakeholders in the court.

Fagbolunlu described the problem of delayed justice in the court as a reflection of the falling values of the Nigerian society.

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He added: “If there is one lesson I have learnt, it is that the problems lie with us, not the rules. The judges, the lawyers, the court officials and it even goes beyond the leaders of this country, those who are responsible for implementing the constitution.”

Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo of the Court of Appeal, who stood in for Justice Sidi Bage of the Supreme Court, as the chairman on the occasion, lamented the piecemeal release of the judiciary’s budget by the executive.

She lamented that the kind of accommodation being provided for judges were not suitable.

To make justice delivery more efficient, Justice Obaseki-Adejumo advocated more use of technology and continuous training for court support staff.

The Nation

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