Tinubu: We Need More Functional Justice System to Protect Rights of All Citizens

•Declares open national summit on justice 

•Akpabio wants abuse of exparte order curbed 

•We owe president for our achievements, says Ariwoola

Deji Elumoye and Alex Enumah in Abuja 

President Bola Tinubu has charged the judicial arm of government to embark on reforms that would ensure a functional justice system that would support a rapidly growing economy, guarantee basic human and political rights of individuals as well as provide security and justice to all Nigerians.

Tinubu, who was represented by Vice-President Kashim Shettima, gave the advice yesterday while declaring open this year’s National Summit on Justice in Abuja.

Also speaking at the event, President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, observed that the summit was not just a forum for discussion but a call to action, adding that expert’s recommendations must be translated into effective policies that would address not only the current inefficiencies but also future challenges.

According to Tinubu, much could be achieved  when institutions of government, including the three arms of government vis executive, legislature and judiciary, unite to acknowledge their challenges and brainstorm with a view to proffering solutions to the problems bedeviling Nigeria.

He urged the judiciary to align its activities within the tenets of his administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda, particularly as they related “to the priorities on inclusivity, fairness, rule of law, and anti-corruption stance, among other things.”

Noting that his administration had pledged to be impartial and adhere to constitutional principles, Tinubu said the summit availed institutions in the justice sector “an opportunity to push boundaries by identifying needed system changes and critical reforms that would allow Nigerians to reap the benefits of huge investments in the sector.”

Delivering the president’s address, Shettima explained that the federal government was determined to implement its policies and promises made to Nigerians for a renewed hope, through the instrumentality of the “law and the dictates of justice to create opportunities for our people.”

Outlining the preliminary measures he took in order to reposition the Judiciary in the bid to support a just and rules-based Nigeria, Tinubu recalled that his administration made funding for the third arm of government a top priority, doubling it in the Renewed Hope budget 2024 by more that 100 per cent from last year’s budget.

He listed other efforts his government has made to reposition the Judiciary to include full complement of 21 Justices of the Supreme Court as required by law for the first time after many years, and his approval of “a substantial increase in the salaries and emoluments of judges, which is currently undergoing legislative action.”

The president noted that despite progress being made in the justice sector, there “is an urgent need for a functional justice system capable of supporting a rapidly growing economy, guaranteeing basic human and political rights of individuals, and providing security and justice to all.”

Observing that this was why continued reforms had become imperative, Tinubu continued: “Justice sector leaders and professionals need to find the right responses to the challenges we face through policy innovation, citizen-centered reform, systems change, and legislative reform, where necessary.

“I accordingly urge the leadership of all justice sector institutions to seek a new direction and focus on outcomes by creating a justice system that truly responds to the needs of our citizens – one that serves Nigerians now and for generations to come.

“I demand informed and coordinated responses to the identified challenges plaguing the effectiveness and efficiency of the sector. I demand performance so that Nigerians can feel and acknowledge the impact of your reform efforts.

“Ultimately, the expectations are that law and justice should aim to ensure public safety, economic development, peaceful co-existence, and the well-being of our people.”

Earlier in his speech, Akpabio commended the commitment of all stakeholders in the justice sector in building a consensus that would ensure a more robust judicial system that guarantees justice for all irrespective of background and social status.

He underscored the commitment of the National Assembly for a more vibrant and transformative justice system, assuring them that the legislature would play its part by deliberating on the outcome of the summit in a bid to enshrine the outcomes into law.

Maintaining that reforming the justice system was a moral imperative, Akpabio suggested that key recommendations for amendment or review be clearly highlighted and sent to the National Assembly in the bid to ensure speedy and fair dispensation of justice, recommending a bottom to top approach in the proposed reforms.

An area Akpabio claimed required urgent reform was the need for obtaining the Attorney General’s consent before executing judgments.

He observed that the requirement often acted as a bottleneck, delaying justice and undermining the autonomy of the judicial system.

He equally sought reform in the misuse of exparte orders in political cases by judges, saying to curb it,  it was imperative the National Judicial Council (NJC) exercised stringent oversight and met out decisive punishment for judges found to abuse their authority in this manner.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Okukayode Ariwoola, said given expectations from the judiciary, undertaking a holistic reform of the sector had become necessary, noting that “constitutional, statutory and operational reforms in the justice sector is imperative in meeting the aspirations and yearnings of the general public.”

He attributed most of the achievements recorded in the judiciary to the support of Tinubu administration, particularly in the enhancement of the welfare of judicial officers and improvement in their working environment.

On his part, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, emphasised the significance of the revised draft national policy on justice, noting that building a national consensus on the advancement of the justice sector has become necessary.

According to him, the policy sought to improve mechanisms for fair and speedy dispensation of justice; detention and correctional services; restorative justice; alternative dispute resolution (ADR) — developing Nigeria into an arbitration hub on the continent; commerce and economic activities; compliance with treaty obligations; synergy and cooperation across the justice sector; and independence of the judiciary; among others.

“Regarding the emphasis on strengthening the independence and welfare of the judiciary, it is to be recalled that one of the cardinal items on the Renewed Hope Agenda of this administration is to drive judicial reforms to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth and investment, facilitated by the rule of law, and to address the challenges militating against judicial development in our country.

“One key theme that has been added to the National Policy on Justice is Justice for Children. This is in line with our commitments under various inter national, regional and national instruments on protection of children consistent with the guiding principles on the best interest and welfare of the child. The idea is to adopt deliberate and strategic interventions for dealing with children in contact with the law” he added.

National Programme Manager, RoLAC II, International IDEA, Danladi Plang, observed that quality reform would attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment to grow the economy.

He said investors would not want to come to a country where their money would be tied down.

“When you go to litigation they ask somebody to pay money into the court until the case is determined. We have cases that have gone up to 10 years. No investor would want to come to a country like that.

“So improving the efficiency of the justice system is important not only for commercial cases but also criminal, we have seen many people detained for a very long time because their case has not been heard,” he said.

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