Ozekhome, Falana, Otteh, Agomoh Call For Justice System Reform

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Human rights lawyers Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, Executive Director of Access to Justice, Mr. Joseph Otteh and Founder of Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, PRAWA, Dr. Uju Agomoh have called for review of some procedures and laws that militated against effective justice delivery in the country.

They made the call on Wednesday while speaking as panelists at the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law, SPIDEL, at the just concluded NBA Annual Conference holding in the Lagos.

The section was moderated by Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL, Dr. Monday Ubani.

The panelists identified judges appointment process, slow adoption of innovation, outdated laws, overcrowded dockets, high cost of filing processes and corruption amongst many of the factors militating against effective justice delivery.

In his remarks, Chief Ozekhome, SAN noted that it is sad that judgment of courts have become worthless due to the difficulty in enforcing them.

He proposed a total scraping of the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act which makes it mandatory for the Attorney-General to authorise the payment of judgment debt by the government.

Ozekhome also recommended that engagement of private persons for judgment enforcement and budgetary allocation by the federal and state governments for settlement of judgment debt.

” There is need for total reform of the our justice system. What we have today is a mess and is not working. What is the use of a judgment when it cannot be enforced? We need to perhaps have an enable law that will allow private persons to enforce court judgment since the courts appear helpless in enforcing the judgments. The Sheriff and Civil Processes Act should be scrapped. Both the Federal and State governments should also begin to make budgetory provision for payment of judgment debts,” he said.

On his part, Falana said that judges must learn to manage cases before them and the procedure where cases of senior lawyers are heard first in court must stop.

“Our judges must learn to manage their courts if we must ensure speedy dispensation of cases. I see no reason why the provision in the Legal Practitioners Act that allow cases of senior lawyers to be heard first in court must continue. We must stop it and adopt more efficient ways of freeing the court docket,” he said.

Also speaking, Dr. Agomoh lamented the overcrowding correction centres across the country and blamed lawyers for not using the provision in the Correctional Homes act of 2019 to deal with the problems.

“We violate the law that we have created. Section 2, sub-sections one to the end have given the controllers of the Correctional homes the right to take action when the homes are about to be filled to capacity and yet no action has been taken. Lawyers also are not helping matter by not engaging the law to decongest the prison,” she said.

On his part, Mr. Otteh called for a total and complete review of the process of appointing judges in Nigeria and adoption of technological innovations in court management.

“We are still paper driven which is labour intensive and we are not prepared enough for another pandemic. We must adopt innovations. A situation where judges are transferred and the cases in their courts started de novo is unacceptable.

” We must question the appointment process of our judges because the kind of judges in a judiciary ultimately affect the quality of judgment.

“Our judges really fail to exercise the courage they need to display when they face challenges like impunity from the state. If the judiciary cannot faithfully exercise their authority, the judiciary will be undermine.