Subtle moves to unbundle the judiciary and make it more effective may have begun with President Muhammadu Buhari calling on judicial officers to work towards the creation of special courts to assist in the speedy administration and dispensation of justice in the country.
The president gave the charge on Monday in Abuja at the opening ceremony of the 2019 biennial All Nigeria Judges Conference of Superior Courts.
According to the president, “I will advise that the conference should, in its deliberations, consider how to create an efficient structure for the proposed Special Crimes Courts or the urgent designation of existing courts as Special Courts with competent and credible judicial officers in order to remove administrative bottlenecks in the judicial process.”
The president said he was not unaware of the challenges facing the judiciary, over which he had had discussions with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
“The government has been committed to a number of justice sector reforms such as review of extant laws and enactment of new laws that will improve the lives of Nigerians.
“Additionally, we have worked closely with the Chief Justice of Nigeria to ensure that judicial budgetary allocations are enhanced in view of the needs of the judiciary.
“I have strongly supported the increase in number of judges at High Courts, Appeal Courts, and the Supreme Court in order to reduce the burden of the work placed on judicial officers. I will continue to do so,” he said.
According to the president, his administration was committed to the economic revival of the country, especially by attracting foreign investment as well as fighting corruption and insecurity. He, therefore, solicited the support of the judiciary in this regard.
“Economic progress can only be sustained in an atmosphere of the rule of law where justice is guaranteed. I must, therefore, express my hope that this conference will achieve its objective of articulating interventions by which this administration’s drive to improve transparency, security, and the expeditious adjudication of commercial, corruption related crimes, including economic and financial crimes matters could be enhanced.”
The president stressed that the constitutional mandate to check and balance governmental powers among the three arms of government creates the environment for continuous constructive engagement and, as such, judges should use the opportunity of the conference to reaffirm their constitutional role as the ultimate arbiters on constitutional and social issues.
He also lauded the dedication of the judiciary in the timely dispensation of electoral disputes and urged them to do more.
“I am proud to observe that the judiciary, both before and after the elections, has improved in its ability to conclude election matters in a timely manner.
“There is still room for improvement and I urge the Chief Justice to initiate a study to understand the challenges of adjudicating election matters and to advise me on the steps that the executive can take to address those challenges,” Buhari noted.
The move is coming after the Federal Executive Council recently endorsed a memo on justice sector reform policy aimed at engendering fair, efficient, and transparent administration of justice.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed after the FEC meeting presided over by President Buhari recently.
He said the administration of the Criminal Justice Act, intended to promote speedy determination of cases, was a product of this reform.
Malami said the intention was not only to work together to ensure speedy and quality administration of justice, but also to promote access to justice for all, stressing that the reformed package would turn things for the better as far as administration of justice was concerned.
“A policy that has been keyed into in respect of which buy-in of the executive, judiciary, and the legislature. A policy that is all encompassing as it relates to institutional accommodation. So, the memo was presented in that respect.
“The three arms of government, indeed, ministries, departments and agencies, have been over time working on a roadmap that was a product of that policy.
“What we had by way of legislation in relation to Correctional Service Act is indeed a product of that understanding and the same thing with executive orders that were put in place,” he had stated.