Updated: Jan 4, 2019
The justice system of any country comprises civil and criminal proceedings. In order to achieve an effective judicial system, various courts are created with a view to ensure that litigants that appear before them are satisfied with the court decisions. How these courts are able to deliver their final verdict with a view to determining the fundamental rights of the contesting parties is always crucial in the judicial system of any country. A quick dispensation of justice with minimal delay will foster the confidence of citizens in the judicial system, ensure a healthy society where the rule of law is always upheld and also help in building the institutions saddled with the responsibilities of protecting the rights of individuals and maintaining peace and order in line with Goal 16 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In assessing the current state of the Nigerian judiciary in the fight against injustice, it has been observed that delays characterize judicial institutions which have over the years weakened the system thereby making citizens lose hope in the judicial system. For example, it is no dispute that there has been series of complaints and public outcry over the cumbersome nature of how litigants are to approach the court for legal redress and judicial interpretation. These challenges are attributed to many factors ranging from the delay before a case is finally determined, inbuilt constraints in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and judicial technicalities. These challenges make it difficult for individuals to protect or enforce their fundamental human rights in the face of injustice or inequality. This explains why the popular notion and perception of justice as an illusion in Nigeria holds sway.
Of utmost importance also is the challenge of corruption among court officials and law enforcement agents. This trend has increased the level of crime rate within the country as criminals carry out their activities with the notion that the institutions (courts, law enforcement agencies and other related institutions) are not effective and efficient enough to address criminal acts and injustice against innocent and helpless citizens. For instance, the Centre for Law Enforcement Education (CLEEN), a non-governmental organisation in Nigeria established to investigate public opinions of governmental issues, undertook research on national crime and safety in 2012 with 11,518 male and female adults sampled from the 36 states of the federation. The study revealed that the number of people who were afraid of becoming victims of crime increased to 75% in the year 2012 as against 72% of the previous year. The report further stated that 1 in every 3 participants witnessed one form of crime or another during the research period. Those who were not satisfied with the judicial processes cited institutional ineffectiveness, corruption, inadequate feedback and insensitivity on the part of the Police, Prison Workers and Court Personnel as their major reasons.
The judiciary forms an integral part of any state and it is hoped that reforms such as the establishment of special courts to try special cases and the anti-corruption campaign in the judiciary, as well as the law enforcement institutions, will strengthen the judicial process and institutions and further protect the fundamental rights of individuals, while ensuring a healthy and peaceful society in line with Goal 16 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.