Sir: Amend existing laws to provide reasonable, practicable but non-extendable timelines for doing virtually everything that is done in court – filing of processes, service of processes, filing of all responses, filing and hearing of amendments, the conduct of the trial, delivery of judgement, filing of the appeal, hearing of the appeal, filing of further appeal to the SC, hearing and determination.
Mark my word: reasonable, practicable, but non-extendable timelines. The concept of extension of time must be abolished for Nigeria’s justice delivery system to work effectively. I don’t claim to be a saint; we all are guilty of applying for an extension of time. But we apply for an extension of time only because the law allows it. If the law forbids it, we won’t apply for it; just as we see in election petitions. Let’s abolish the concept. It has made most lawyers lazy, and the justice delivery system unacceptably slow, corrupt and ineffective. It also slows down the economy, delays progress by discouraging investment, especially foreign investment.
Put necessary facilities in place— ICT; alternative source of power since the public power supply is epileptic; necessary support staff, etc
Appoint many more judges and magistrates. You can’t introduce non-extendable timelines without appointing more judges to be able to deal with a large number of cases already pending or expected as a result of the new system which would introduce much efficiency and attract more cases to the courts. At present, no State or court in Nigeria has a sufficient number of judges and magistrates.
Abolish all manner of longhand recording of any proceedings in court; Cut down on the number and length of extant court vacations. Avoid anything that could lead to the shutdown of courts. When courts are shut down, cases pile up.
Introduce enforceable sanctions against judges and magistrates who fail to sit without reasonable cause. Define “reasonable cause,” and give lawyers and litigants the right to write petitions against judges who fail to sit. Set up an independent body to hear such petitions in each state/court. Set a non-extendable timeline for such a hearing. Punishment should range from demotion, withholding of salaries to suspensions or delay or denial of promotions for defaulting judges and magistrates. Let some appeals stop at the Court of Appeal. Just as we have in election petitions for the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly.
The starting point is an emergency stakeholders’ conference to be followed by a committee to draft recommendations that should be implemented without delay. If our courts start working effectively, our country will start working effectively and progress in leadership, politics and economy will set in.
Sylvester Udems Udemezue