Some stakeholders in the judicial sector on Saturday said that they expected more from the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Reviewing the performance of the administration in the judicial sector in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the stakeholders said that the administration performed below expectations in upholding the rule of law.
They said that the judiciary was attacked and disregarded by the administration, hoping that the in-coming administration would do better.
They, however, praised the Buhari administration’s efforts in infrastructure development.
Prof. Teddy Idiabeta, a Professor of Law and Legal Tech Practice Consultant, claimed that the judiciary in the last eight years did not get the desired support from the Buhari administration.
He cited alleged storming and searching of some judges’ homes by security personnel without warrants over some allegations, as part of developments which did not speak well for the administration.
He added that the removal from office, with an ex-parte order, of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, over allegations bordering on false declaration of assets among other criminal infractions, showed high handedness.
“Another example of disregard for the judiciary and the rule of law was in the President Buhari’s cashless policy directive where he had come up with a directive on the new Naira notes which ran contrary to the interim order the Supreme Court of Nigeria earlier granted on the new Naira notes before it finally determined the substantive suit concerning the policy,” he said.
Idiabeta also said that the administration witnessed strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, which paralysed judicial activities for months.
“We heard the judiciary has been given full autonomy. We can only know the real meaning of full judicial autonomy, when we start to see the benefits of the implementation in the various states where the laws are in operation,” he said.
Idiabeta, the Founder of Professor Teddy Idiabeta Law Consult, said that the alleged ‘attacks’ on the judiciary and the COVID-19 pandemic, however, brought about desired innovations and developments in the judiciary.
“As it is often said, in periods of crisis, breakthroughs are achieved.
“The Nigerian Judicial Council in May 2020 rose up to the occasion with some technology-based innovations to promote access to justice and fair hearing in line with global best practices in the justice administration system.
“Some of the notable innovations in the National Judicial Council Directives of May 2020 are e-filing, e-service of court processes, especially with familiar tech tools.
“Some states have, pursuant to the National Judicial Council’s Directives of May 2020, also come up with some practice directions and laws to promote access to justice with the use of technology, in line with global best practices,” he added.
According to him, the National Judicial Council’s Directives of May 2020 has impacted on the judiciary by promoting technology-based access to justice in Nigeria.
He regretted that most lawyers had yet to develop their skill to prepare for the opportunities the new models of justice administration presented.
“My hope is that, by the time judges and other stakeholders in the justice administration system become better familiar with the implementation of the innovations in the new laws and practice directions that have been enacted, with incentives from the in-coming government, our judiciary will experience an impeccable transformation and be a judicial system of global standards by its operations.”
Dr Yemi Omodele, Principal Partner of Omodele Chambers, Ikeja, said that the judiciary would have performed better if given necessary resources and support by the administration.
Omodele said that improvement in the remuneration of judges and other judicial officers and workers would boost the performance of the judiciary.
According to him, clamour for an increase in the remuneration was not adequately addressed by the administration.
He added that the independence of the judiciary would have added to the achievements of the administration.
“The issue of independence of the judiciary resulted in weeks of strike by judiciary workers,” Omodele said.
He also said that the judiciary lacked enough judges under the administration to handle increasing cases across the country.
Omodele said that judges were over-worked both at the federal and state levels.
The lawyer advised the incoming administration to promote effective and efficient dispensation of justice.
He also called for establishment of more court of appeal judicial divisions in deserving states to reduce workloads of appeal court justices.
Mr Chris Ayiyi, Principal Partner, Ayiyi Chambers, Apapa, Lagos, also scored the administration low in upholding the rule of law.
He said that stakeholders in justice administration expected more from the administration.
Mr Chibuikem Opara, a lawyer with the Justification Chambers, Ikeja, said that the administration also performed below expectations in the areas of economy and security but did well in infrastructure development.
For Mr Spurgeon Atene, also lawyer, the Muhammadu Buhari administration ought to do better in the justice sector.
He expressed dissatisfaction at the level of protection of the rule of law under the administration.
Ataene also said that human rights violation was not adequately tackled by the administration.
He advised that merit should strictly be used in the appointment of judges, adding that the best hands should be encouraged to be on the bench both at federal and state levels.
According to Mr Douglas Ogbankwa, a former Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch, the judiciary did not fail under the Mohammadu Buhari administration.
He said that the Supreme Court stood firmly as the policy court of the country under the administration although it was misunderstood in some issues.
Ogbankwa, however, regretted that the removal of Onnoghen and the resignation of the immediate past CJN Tanko Mohammed, did not give the judiciary a good image.
The lawyer said that state governors were the ones working against the independence of the judiciary.
According to him, Buhari, in Executive Order 10, provided an institutional framework for the enforcement of Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides that any money standing to the credit of the judiciary should be paid directly to the heads of courts, from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
He said that the 36 state governors got lawyers to set same aside at the Supreme Court.
Ogbankwa said that branches of the Nigerian Bar Association should do more to promote independence of the judiciary at the state level.
He advised governments to do more to protect the rule of law.
Mr Nkereuwem Anana, former counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, also frowned at storming of judges’ homes by security operatives and Onnoghen’s removal with an ex-parte motion, saying that they stained the image of the administration.
He also alleged that the administration recorded lack of independence of the judiciary and inadequate remuneration of judicial officers and workers which, he said, negatively affected justice dispensation.