Vice President, Professor Osinbajo on Tuesday urged stakeholders in the judicial sector to work hard in reversing the negative perception about the speed of justice delivery in the country.
He challenged the bar to use the summit to address the issue of long delay in the disposal of cases in the nation’s court, as such he stated goes a long way in determining how other nations see Nigerian and want to invest in the country.
The VP faulted the way and manner appointees are been scrutinize, adding that the take-a-bow policy be discarded, adding that appointment issues should no longer be treated with kids’ gloves.
Also speaking at the event, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), called for more transparency and openness in the administration of the budgets of both the Judiciary and Legislative arms of government.
The AGF who was responding to questions at the opening plenary, noted that the judiciary has consistently lamented poor funding and yet no one can tell how the money allocated to them was been expended.
He further stated that for the issue of inadequate funding to be addressed in the judiciary, there must be a system in place that will allow the financial books to be opened. “The starting point is transparency and accountability … let the books be opened”, he said.
According to the AGF, even though the budgetary allocation of the judiciary is higher than that of the National Assembly, the lawmakers seem to be better off than the judiciary, so there is the need to know how much is provided and how it is applied.
The same way that the executive opens its books for public scrutiny, the same way the legislators and the judiciary should open theirs”, he stated.
On the issue of appointment of judges, Malami advocated the need for a legislation that will remove all bottlenecks that take away merit in the process of selecting and appointing judicial officers.
He maintained that the current guidelines used in selecting and appointing judges promote incompetence, adding that the consideration of federal character principle further robs the bench of merit when appointments are been made.
Meanwhile, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba who described Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as one of his heroes commended him for his contributions to the transformation of the Lagos State judiciary during his tenure as Attorney General.
Agbakoba recalled the efforts made by Professor Osinbajo in driving judicial reforms in Lagos and described him as his hero especially in leading the charge for justice sector transformation in Nigeria.
According to him, “two heroes that I have, one is actually the Vice President, as Attorney General of Lagos State, you delivered quick and straight to the point, and things worked.”
The former NBA President noted that as Attorney General in Lagos State, Osinbajo won the hearts of many through his pragmatic leadership of the justice sector in the State.
In similar vein, Justice Amina Augie of the Supreme Court, noted that during his tenure as Attorney General of Lagos State, the VP “did a wonderful job and things worked well at the time.”
The Justice of the Supreme Court explained that “in those days when our Vice President was Attorney General of Lagos State, I participated in at least 3 stakeholders’ forum in which papers were presented on what the government wanted to do in the justice sector in Lagos. Each time before he came up with a new law like the one on Civil Procedure and the rest of them, they held stakeholders’ forum and got contributions from everyone.
They had a sort of synergy and it worked for everybody, and before you knew it, Lagos State would have come up with a new law that becomes a template that other states now followed.”
Earlier in his welcome address, President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata, noted that the declining state of the nation’s justice sector was the major reason for the convocation of the summit.
“Today, I believe that our call to action must begin from our admission of the state of affairs of our administration of justice that we are thoroughly dissatisfied with. There is a convergence of opinion of both the Bar and the Bench that the Nigerian justice delivery system is not operating at its optimal best”, he said.
Among the issues the NBA President said would be looked into at the summit, is the process of appointment into the bench of various courts in the country which “must be manned by not just the best hands we can find but also by incorruptible minds”.
He urged stakeholders to commit to statutory and constitutional reforms, institutional and funding reforms, and manpower reforms for the desired change to take place.
“The lips service that we have paid to these reforms over the years must stop from today”, he said, while appealing to both the bar and bench to uproot every divisive tendency that is hampering the effectiveness of the justice sector in Nigeria.