1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study
Nigeria, like many other countries of the world usually undertake legal and judicial reforms as efforts geared towards their overall development programs. The reason for this is also quite obvious. Nigeria finds herself in a situation where her judiciary advance inconsistent case law and carry a large backlog of cases. The resulting implication is the eroding of individual and property rights and by implication, the stifling of the private sector and its growth. There is ultimately also, violation of human rights. Delay in justice delivery affects fairness and the efficiency of the judicial system. This is also acting as an impediment to the public’s access to courts, which, in effect, weakens democracy, the rule of law and the ability to enforce human rights or even economic interest.
One of the ways of evaluating an effective justice delivery system is by the number of cases that it manages to dispose off and the time taken and even the process involved. The Nigerian judiciary reputed to be the last hope of the common man, crumbles under the weight of a heavy caseload. The criminal justice system in the country endures prolonged delay in the administration of justice. There is also the congestion of courts with inadequate infrastructure, the congestion of prisons with daily influx of either accused persons or suspects awaiting trial with several instances of arrest and detention for unduly lengths of time even before trial or conviction. A cardinal principle of justice under the
Nigerian legal system is the presumption that a person accused of any crime is innocent until proven guilty. However, the continued incarceration of an accused person without speedy trial questions the claims to observance of fundamental rights of liberty and fair hearing.
In the context of judicial reform programs, some measures have been taken to reduce the duration of the litigation process by identifying avoidable sources of delay, which tend to slow down and even halt proceedings unnecessarily. Such reform include repealing or amending some laws that have probably lost touch with present reality and enacting of new ones that can meet the needs of the ever-changing socio-economic conditions. It is true that there have been some reforms in the Nigerian judiciary. This for example had led to some changes in the Civil Procedure Rules of most courts, passing into law of the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Evidence Act 2011.
The necessity of such reforms is obvious. The truth is that no combat against corruption for instance or crimes such as terrorism, now plaguing the nation can be said to be credible or complete without an effective and robust judicial system that is to be relied on. It is only such properly administered judicial system with speedy capability of guaranteeing individual rights and freedoms, as well as protecting victims from the arbitrary exercise of power while punishing criminals, that is an essential catalyst for good governance and uplifting the socio-economic wellbeing of the nation and her citizens. Everyone, everywhere in Nigeria should enjoy the equal, but also speedy protection of the law if there is to be both justice for all and meaningful development.