Supporting Victims of Abuse, Domestic Violence

Kuni Tyessi

It’s no longer news that the 2020 lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic served as eye opener to the daily occurrences in many homes, particularly as it relates to violence, abuse and molestation of women and children. With only about three of such cases reported out of ten incidents, many are withdrawn before taken to the courts. At the courts, many have been struck out due to judicial technicalities while others have suffered prolonged postponements and giving the impression that justice delayed is justice denied.

Report findings have been conducted among 88 legal professionals and 17 judges in Nigeria with the aim to assess various aspects of the judicial system and come up with workable solutions for the good of all, particularly for victims of abuse. This is not forgetting perceptions of controversial decisions, the impact of the decisions on the victims and public trust, the effects of complaint procedures in addressing judicial corruption, external pressures and influences in judicial decision making; reporting and addressing corruption within the judiciary and influence on judicial outcomes, salary transparency and remuneration for judicial officers.

Executive Director, Citizens’ Gavel, Nelson Olanipekun, and his team in the report, “Assessing Judicial Integrity: Challenges and Recommendations for Reform in Nigeria,” noted that findings from the research revealed that 92 percent of online poll with 119 respondents express deep distrust in the fairness of the judiciary and with only five percent indicating trust, revealing significant credibility challenges.

In similar polls, 62 percent of lawyers expressed concerns about the transparency and clarity of judicial proceedings and decisions while 96 percent of the legal profession expressed significant reservations about the frequency and impact of external pressures of judicial decision-making.

Moreso, the survey’s findings shed light on the significant challenges confronting the Nigerian judiciary, which encompasses concerns regarding transparency, accountability, external pressures and corruption which have taken toll in the discharge if justice for the victims. Both legal professionals and judges express deep-seated apprehensions about the integrity and independence of the judiciary, underscoring the necessity for comprehensive reforms to tackle the systemic issues.

On external influences and decisions, 31 per cent of judges and 96 percent of lawyers expressed concerns about external influences and decisions, indicating a shared recognition of outside pressures affecting decision- making processes. Still yet, 55 percent of lawyers, according to the survey, expressed concern about the consistency of judges and judicial officers in adhering to the code of conduct, hinting at potential controversies when ethical standards differ. However, still on external influences, a notable 91 percent also expressed concerns regarding the clarity of rulings’ justifications, with only 11 percent indicating that judges consistently provide clear expectations.

 In adherence to ethical standards, 55 percent of lawyers voiced concerns over the consistency of judges’ and judicial officers adhering to the established code of conduct, hinting at the potential for controversial decisions when ethical standards are not uniformly applied. According to the survey, a significant majority of 71 percent of judges’ report varying levels of encounter rates, indicating that controversies were not isolated incidents, but rather a recurring feature. This suggested that issues of ethics and controversies were intertwined within the Nigerian judiciary and this goes ahead to interfere with justice that should be rightly served the victim.

In terms on integrity and professionalism among judiciary colleagues, a majority of as much as 76 percent acknowledged high standards of integrity and professionalism among many judges, suggesting internal efforts to maintain ethical conduct and address misconduct within the judiciary. This according to the survey is a positive perception that reflects a commitment to upholding integrity and professionalism, which can contribute to fostering a culture of accountability and transparency within the legal profession.

In the case of judges’ perception of corruption’s influence, 47 percent acknowledged a moderate influence and 35 percent perceived a slight influence. This indicated recognition among a significant portion of judges that corruption does impact judicial decisions to some extent, albeit not universally undermining the integrity of every decision. However, “a minority six percent views corruptions influence as high, indicating significant concerns about its profound effects on judiciary integrity and outcomes.”

This is not to say that despite acknowledging the presence of corruption within the judiciary, 12 percent of judges maintain confidence in the integrity of the judicial process, believing that corruption does not influence the quality of judgments. This divergence in perception, according to the survey highlights varying levels of confidence in the judiciary’s ability to resist corrupt influences and uphold decision- making integrity.

To effectively restore public trust and confidence in the judiciary, it is paramount to adopt a multi-faceted approach. Some of them include the idea of implementing measures to enhance transparency in judicial proceedings, including providing clear justifications for rulings and ensuring consistent application for ethical standards and develop guidelines and training programmes for judges to improve clarity and transparency in decision- making processes.

This would have to do with a review and reform complaint procedures to make them more accessible, trust worthy, and effective in addressing allegations, as well as establish centralised reporting channels to provide support and guidance to individuals, victims and organisations engaging with the complaint process.

Another solution is to “Strengthen measures to resist external pressures on judicial decision- making, including implementing safeguards to protect judicial independence as well as conduct regular assessments of external influences and corruption risks within the judiciary, with a focus on identifying and addressing systemic vulnerabilities.”

This is not forgetting the enhancing of “efforts to combat corruption within the judiciary through robust enforcement of ethical standards and disciplinary measures alongside investing in training programmes and resources to promote integrity and professionalism among judicial officers and legal professionals.”

Furthermore, there is the need for a renewal and adjustment of salary scales to ensure transparency, fairness, and adequacy in remuneration for judicial officers and also implement ten mechanisms to regularly review and update salary structure in line with prevailing economic conditions and professional standards.

By diligently implementing the recommended measures, victims of abuse and domestic violence can get the closure that they so desperately need and deserve, while stakeholders can elaborately strive towards the establishment of a judiciary characterized by the highest standards of integrity, fairness, and professionalism. Such efforts are essential for ensuring equitable access to justice and steadfastly upholding the rule of law throughout Nigeria.

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