Justice Bulletin|



Distinguished Guests I welcome you all to this National Summit on Justice, a critical component of our National Justice Policy spanning from 2024 to 2028. Over the past months, a dedicated team of experts has diligently worked to identify and explore seventeen thematic areas that are crucial for the administrative and legislative reforms of our justice system. Their comprehensive analysis and recommendations have provided us with a blueprint for the transformative changes needed to enhance judicial efficiency and ensure the fair administration of justice across our nation.

This two day summit, spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice and supported by the invaluable contributions of the National Judicial Council and the Nigerian Bar Association, is not just a forum for discussion but a call to action. Permit me to use this opportunity to advise that we should try to translate these expert recommendations into effective policies that will address not only current inefficiencies but also future challenges. Our collaborative efforts from now onwards will shape the strategic direction of our justice system, making it more robust, accessible, and equitable.

We are inspired by the commitment shown by all stakeholders and confident that our collective efforts will lead to a judiciary that not only meets the demands of today’s Nigeria but also anticipates the needs of tomorrow.

The Ministry of Justice, under the able leadership of the Attorney General, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi SAN, has spearheaded this comprehensive review of our justice system in accordance with his promise while appearing before the Senate of Nigeria during his ministerial screening culminating into a national policy on Justice that promises to reshape the landscape of justice in Nigeria. This policy, which has been meticulously crafted with input from diverse stakeholders, aims to enhance the efficiency, accessibility, and fairness of our legal processes.

As the head of the National Assembly, and working in concert with the Committee on Constitutional Amendment and the Committee on Amendment of the Electoral Act, it is our commitment to ensure that these thoughtful and transformative justice reforms are seamlessly integrated into the ongoing amendments. This integration will not only fortify our constitution and electoral framework but will also ensure that justice—both in letter and in spirit—becomes more attainable for every Nigerian.

In the coming months, I will invite my colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives to deliberate on these proposals with the gravity and diligence they deserve. Together, with the insights and support of the judiciary, legal experts, and the Nigerian populace, we will embark on this legislative journey to enshrine these reforms into law.

This is more than legislative duty; it is our moral imperative to fortify the foundation of our nation’s justice system for present and future generations. I look forward to productive discussions and to the eventual realization of these reforms, ensuring a just, equitable, and prosperous society for all.

I will not be telling the truth if I say that we at the National Aeembly are not aware of the delays and backlogs plaguing our courts, which not only deny timely justice but undermine faith in our judicial system.
These delays harm our society’s most vulnerable and create an environment where justice is seen as inaccessible and inefficient. In an era where technology has transformed so many sectors, it is critical that we harness its potential within our judicial processes to enhance speed and transparency.

We are committed to budgeting for the implementation of judicial reforms that will include the adoption of digital tools to manage cases more effectively and ensure that justice is neither delayed nor denied. This journey requires collective effort. I call upon all stakeholders, including my colleagues in both legislative and executive branches, as well as the judiciary itself, to support these vital reforms. Together, we can build a justice system that is fit for the 21st century.

In addressing specific reforms in the Justice Sector, we want to re-emphasize some key vital areas that are worrisome and incidentally most Nigerians seek reforms on them.

It is essential that we reform our approach to interlocutory appeals in civil cases. Currently, these appeals often cause unnecessary delays, prolonging litigation and burdening our courts. As was done in the criminal jurisprudence during the enactment of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, we propose that all appeals in civil cases should be taken only after the conclusion of the substantive case. This change will accelerate judicial processes, reduce backlog, and ensure that litigations are not unduly prolonged by intermediate appeals.

Another area requiring urgent reform is the need for obtaining the Attorney General’s consent before executing judgments. This requirement often acts as a bottleneck, delaying justice and undermining the autonomy of our judicial system. We propose modifying this requirement to facilitate a swifter execution of judgments, thereby enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our justice system. We are not ignorant of the rationale for securing the Attorney General’s consent as stipulated in section of Sheriff and Civil Procesess Act which is to avoid the embarrassment of not knowing that funds earmarked for specific purposes have been diverted in satisfaction of a judgement debt which the government may not know anything about. It our view to enhance efficiency while maintaining necessary checks, we propose replacing the requirement for the Attorney General’s consent with a mandatory notification system. Upon receiving a judgment against the government, the relevant authorities will notify the Attorney General immediately in writing.

Following the notification, the Attorney General will have a specified period, say 30 days, to respond. The response could involve initiating an appeal or settling the matter directly. This timeline ensures prompt action and prevents undue delays in justice delivery.

If there is no response from the Attorney General within this period, the judgment will be executed automatically. This measure is crucial to prevent stalling and ensure that judgments are respected and enforced in a timely manner. In cases where the judgment comes from a final court, the option to appeal is not available. Therefore, the Attorney General’s response would be primarily directed towards settlement. This approach ensures that the government acts responsibly as a litigant and respects the decisions of our highest court in the land. Reforms like this foster trust in the justice system and improve the overall efficiency of legal proceedings involving the government.

Finally we must try and curb the misuse of ex parte orders in political cases by our judges. To curb it, it is imperative that the National Judicial Council (NJC) exercises stringent oversight. We recommend prompt and decisive punishment for judges who are found to abuse their authority in this manner.

We further propose that the NJC establish clear and detailed standards governing the issuance of ex parte orders, accompanied by a defined set of sanctions for violations. These sanctions should be severe enough to serve as a deterrent against future abuses

We recommend that the NJC should conduct regular audits and reviews of ex parte orders issued by judges to ensure compliance with established standards. This proactive approach will help in identifying patterns of abuse early and in administering corrective measures promptly.

In addition to punitive measures, we also emphasize the importance of ongoing training and education for judges on the ethical and responsible use of judicial discretion in issuing ex parte orders.

In conclusion, I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to Mr President His Excellency Ahmed Bola Tinubu GCFR for chosing the right man for the Ministry of Justice of Nigeria. The facts are speaking for themselves. I am also grateful to the Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, whose commitment to reforming our justice sector was not only a promise made during his confirmation but has now been manifested in the innovative approach of this summit. His leadership has been pivotal in setting a new course for justice in Nigeria.

I also extend my heartfelt thanks to the Nigerian Bar Association leadership and the National Judicial Council headed by our own Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwwoola for their relentless dedication and collaboration, which have been instrumental in the success of this summit. Your collective expertise and insight have enriched the recommendations for Justice sector reforms and will undoubtedly shape the future of our justice system.

However, as we conclude, let us remember that the real work begins now. We are tasked with turning the strategies and ideas we have discussed into tangible reforms. This next step is crucial; it requires our unwavering commitment and concerted efforts to ensure that the vision we have laid out here becomes a reality that enhances justice delivery and upholds the rule of law across our nation.

Thank you once again for your dedication and partnership. Let us move forward with a unified purpose to create a just, efficient, and equitable judicial system for all Nigerians.

Thank you and God bless Mr President and Bless Nigeria.

His Excellency Senator Godswill Akpabio CON
The Senate President of Nigeria.

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