Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, says challenges affecting the administration of justice in Nigeria are being addressed with much hope for positive reform as more result-oriented work is in progress with expected changes.
He said addressing delays in the administration of justice should involve imposing sanctions by a more intentional regime for the award of adverse and wasted costs.
Prof. Osinbajo spoke at the 20th memorial anniversary symposium in honour of a legal practitioner, Bankole Aluko, (SAN) on the theme“Administration of Justice: the Ideal Standard, the Nigeria Reality and Our Potential” on Friday.
A statement by his media aide, Laolu Akande, said the vice president who spoke on the issues of judicial appointments, delays in the dispensation of justice, democracy and digitisation in the judiciary among others, noted that the administration of justice system was the foundation of law and order, commerce and democracy.
“The court is a taxpayer-funded public resource. The wasting or abuse of its finite time and resources without strict consequence will eventually discredit the system.
“Adverse costs are paid to the successful party in a civil case and wasted costs are directed against legal practitioners for poor professional standards in the conduct of a case.
“Severe costs should attend adjournments, there is no greater waste of taxpayer’s funds than for a scheduled case to have to be adjourned. It is only heavy costs that will discourage this malfeasance.”
He noted that certainty or predictability of judicial outcomes is one of the major strengths of the common law.
Regarding the impact of the law on democracy, Osinbajo noted that the democratic rights of the people and their confidence in the notion of a government of the people, by the people, for the people, suffers when the system of electoral justice fails to see itself as a handmaid of the democratic process.
Citing the decision of the Supreme Court in the 2019 elections in Zamfara State to buttress his point, he noted that to make sense, judicial decisions and reasoning must in most cases meet the common notions of fairness and justice.
“The system of justice must recognise the larger principles that it serves. In judicial interpretation, the spirit is as important as the letter of the law. Otherwise, judicial decisions become technistic applications far removed from common sense.
“The notions of justice that would meet public expectations of fairness and equity are those that promote substance over form. The observance of technicality over merit will always alienate the system of justice from the people it is meant to serve,” he said.
On the expectations from judicial officers, Prof. Osinbajo said “while we ask for the best from our judicial officers, we must equally ensure that the conditions under which they operate are not only befitting but are good enough to attract the best of minds in our profession.”