By Ocheneyi Alli
The Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) says the justice sector in the country can overcome the current challenges weighing it down to function properly.
Over the years, the stakeholders in the system have identified funding, budgeting and administration of the Nigerian Judiciary, as being the greatest challenges
confronting the Nigerian Judiciary.
Olumide Akpata, the NBA President , however, expressed optimism that these perennial issues can be surmounted if some workable – solutions the NBA proffered on how to tackle these challenges ( during the Justice Sector Summit ) early this year , are implemented. especially as regards the funding, budgeting, and administration of the Nigerian Judiciary.
Akpata recalled that at the end of that summit, the NBA called for :
▪︎Urgent fundamental reform of the Justice sector, noting that in spite of the high expectations that the society have of the Justices, some of the basic necessities which they require to function properly are currently lacking.
▪︎Independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary
” Besides their stagnated income over the years, a situation where there is no formal scheme for the mandatory appointment of judicial assistants for the Justices, no regular training for their improvement, limited or no internet access for their operations, is, to say the least, unfortunate.
” For Justices of the Supreme Court, who are generally known to be taciturn in
making demands, to resort to penning down their grievances in the
unprecedented manner that they have done indicates that they had
obviously reached their tolerance peak,” he said.
▪︎Transparent management of allocated resources
“The Judiciary must not only be, but should be seen as being, above board and transparent in the management and allocation of the resources currently available to it.
▪︎ The Judiciary must entrench the
principles of accountability and probity in the manner in which it expends allocated resources. While the fight for increased budgetary allocations for the Judiciary continues, it is important that the available resources be used for the welfare and wellbeing of our Judicial Officers, as well as for the improvement of the infrastructure and facilities required by our Judges and Justices to effectively discharge their duties.
There is a clear need for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the Judiciary (with the Supreme Court leading the charge) is providing the necessary template to other arms of government on transparent procurement and budgeting.
This will reduce the perception in some quarters that the Judiciary is not accountable to anyone and is also not self-regulating.
▪︎Decent working conditions and adequate compensation
“As I have noted elsewhere, this is election season, and we are all witnesses to
the humongous war chests that the politicians and political parties are amassing.
The only way to insulate and make our Judges and Justices immune to the temptations of being corrupted by these politicians is to assure them of decent working conditions and adequate compensation both in and out of service
▪︎ Restore Public Respect
Our Judges and Justices, on their part, have a duty to ensure that the honour and respect that is accorded the Judiciary by the public is not lost or dwindled, and that the public continues to hold the Judiciary in the highest esteem. For us at the NBA, we will continue to do all that we can to defend and support the Judiciary towards achieving these objectives, enthroning probity, and generally living up to expectations,” he said.