24th June, 2014
The victory of Ayo Fayose in the recently concluded election in Ekiti State has again raised the question of his eligibility for contesting in the first place, considering the corruption and other charges against him that were inconclusive in court before his emergence as the PDP candidate.
Fayose’s case typifies the usually orchestrated delay in the dispensation of justice that has reduced the justice system in the country to a mere joke. The now established ugly and frustrating norm in the judicial system that gives room for cases to drag in court endlessly, which is attributed to rampant corruption, must be checked to save the judiciary from further slide into utmost disrepute.
In a recent address, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, a retired President of the Court of Appeal, made it known that the Nigerian judiciary parades some dishonorable characters not fit to be judges that got into the system and rose to the highest level of the judicial career. Decent elements within the system must strive to redeem it by being internal monitoring agents, while also not relenting in advocating for procedural changes towards enhancing transparency.
The push for the actualization of a new judicial code of ethics that was earlier initiated by some members of the judiciary should be sustained. And the code should reflect current realities and challenges towards tackling judicial corruption in the country.
The executive and the legislative arms of government must also contribute towards strengthening the judicial system by providing resources for the sector to overcome challenges due largely to institutional incapacities, especially in terms of infrastructure. With this done, in-built and unnecessary delay mechanisms and failings on the part of some judges would be curbed.
The snail-speed of administering justice has also been attributed to poor investigation by the police and other relevant agencies mandated to establish facts and ensure seamless justice delivery. Efforts should be stepped up by the government to sanitise these institutions and rid them of elements that have chosen to undermine the system for selfish gains.
Apart from public office holders getting away with their loot despite having corruption cases to answer, the slow growth of the Nigerian economy has also been tied to the ineffective justice system. Investors are wary of committing their funds into an economy where they are not competely assured of swift justice in times of litigation. There is no reason why matters of justice should not be concluded speedily as it is done in fairly advanced countries such as Singapore, where it takes just about six months to conclude the hearing and determination of cases in the high court. All appeals are also concluded there within six months.
Because justice delayed is justice denied, it is unacceptable and inexcusable for most cases of corruption preferred against governors who served between 1999 and 2007 to still be in court. And it is even more disheartening that the trials in many of the cases are yet to commence. There must be a change in the attitude from the present way of dispensing justice in the country.
The National Assembly should hasten to pass the bill that makes clear provisions for the length of time a case should spend in court. The criminal procedure that has also remained largely old and unresponsive to quick dispensation of justice should also be reviewed and brought at par with what obtains in other countries where there are no issues of endless adjournments and awaiting trials that force cases to drag in court for many years as is the case in Nigeria.