THE Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), on Monday blamed the judiciary for its bad reputation abroad.
Osinbajo who said this at the opening ceremony of a two-day stakeholders’ summit on administration of justice in Lagos State, organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, said it is regrettable that the Nigerian judiciary does not enjoy good reputation abroad.
He said the trend was blameable on the failure of the judiciary to document its activities in terms of data and statistics, thereby giving room for others to speculate and judge the judiciary based on their worst experiences.
Osinbajo who gave the keynote address and was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), recalled, that in a 2014 English Court of Appeal decision, IPCO (Nigeria) Limited vs Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, described the Nigerian judicial system as being bedevilled by ‘catastrophic’ delays.’”
He said the message he took away from the incident was that, apart from the fact that the Nigerian judiciary needed to begin to take the issue of delay more seriously, it is also important to distinguish mere perception from hard data or statistics.
“One of the problems of not having easily accessible data or statistics is that it gives room for others to speculate and paint us in bad light, oftentimes relying on perceptions informed by the worst experiences,” Osinbajo said.
While admitting that the delay was a major problem in the judiciary and it was caused mainly by human activities or inactivity, Osinbajo appealed for a change of attitude among the stakeholders in the judiciary, starting from judges, lawyers, down to court workers.
He made a case for award of cost against lawyers and parties, who deploy delay tactics, adding that judges must also stop the habit of coming late to court and leaving early.
“If we can agree that these problems are against our collective interests as practitioners and stakeholders, then we must make a firm commitment to tackle the problems by changing our attitude and standing up for what is right,” Osinbajo said.
In his speech, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, said for any nation to experience economic growth, it must first have a functional judicial system that would not only encourage local and foreign investors to invest in the state, but also guarantee conducive environment for such businesses to thrive.
Ambode said experience over the years had shown that societies with equal and unhindered access to justice have a better environment for economic growth and poverty alleviation than those that do not.
“As a government, we are well aware that to achieve our socio-economic goals of a safer, secured, peaceful and more prosperous Lagos State, we need a functioning justice sector, which guarantees not only the maintenance of law and order, the enforcement of human rights and freedom, but also provides an administration of justice ambience that protects investments and encourages economic development,” Ambode said.
He listed some of the major challenges currently being faced by investors and entrepreneurs to include the ease and cost of doing business and over-regulation of business processes, saying that the summit was not only timely but a veritable platform for experts to proffer solutions.
“We are mindful of the need to attract foreign investment, and public private investment, especially in the area of provision of infrastructure. No economy can develop without sustained infrastructural development. I firmly believe that discussions around all these issues are pertinent for this august gathering,” the governor said.