President Muhammadu Buhari has frowned at the slow pace of trials in the courts and called for reforms to see how they can speed up justice delivery in the country.
He stated this on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of the 60th Annual General Conference (AGC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) tagged “Step Forward”.
Buhari at the AGC 2020 holding both virtually and physically from August 26th to August 29th in Lagos and Abuja, urged the association to take cognizance of its role in the administration of Justice thereby limiting criminal trials up to the Supreme Court to one-year term and civil trials to between 12 and 15 months.
Speaking through the vice president Yemi Osinbajo, he said no other group outside the legal community was as crucial to the sustainability of democracy, law and order as the men and women in the legal profession.
“I believe we need to step forward and resolve some of the emerging problems of our system of administration of justice. Reform is urgent because the fabric of our society is stitched together by our system of justice and law enforcement.
“We cannot afford to have the stitches undone. The first issue I would like to commend to your consideration is the terribly slow pace of trial in our courts. I’m not a lawyer, but I have been a beneficiary of the judicial process,” Buhari said.
Lamenting the times he spent at the election tribunals in 2003 to 2005 while it took him two and a half years trying to challenge the victory of his opponents, and also in 2007 when he was again in c ourt for 20 months almost two years as a petitioner,and later as an appallant in the case of Buhari VS INEC, and again in 2011 as a a petitioner in the case of CPC vs INEC and at the end lost all three cases. The president expressed happiness that the law had changed to limit the time frame.
He wondered why time limit was not applied to other cases aside election petitions.
“Why can’t we put in place the rules that will say that a criminal matter all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months in duration? Why can’t we do the same for civil cases? Even if we say that civil cases must not go beyond 15 months, I think, that for me would be stepping forward,” he declared.
In his address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Muhammad, said the judiciary was doing all that was possible to ensure justice delivery to all without fear of favour, affection or ill-will.
By commending virtual filing of electronic processes, he said the judiciary was ready to utilise technology and professionalism in its operations and also warned lawyers to desist from filing frivolous applications that constitute abuse of court process.
He applauded the association for holding the virtual conference amid the pandemic, noting that it exemplified the commitment of the bar under the leadership of Paul Usoro.