President Muhammadu Buhari recently made case for the creation of special courts for the speedy administration and dispensation of justice in the country. The president, who stated this at the opening ceremony of the 2019 All Nigeria Judges Conference of Superior Courts in Abuja, admitted that he was aware of the challenges facing the judiciary.
According to the President, “I will advise that the conference should in its deliberations consider how to create an effective 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.” He also stated that the government had been committed to a number of justice sector reforms such as review of extant laws and enactment of new laws to improve the lives of Nigerians.
We believe that the president is worried over the slow pace of justice in the country, especially in corruption and crime-related cases. The president’s aim in making case for special courts is to expedite action on the administration and dispensation of justice. It has also been observed that the average life-span of a case from the lowest to the highest court in the land takes between 8-20 years. It may even take more. And considering the time-honoured maxim that “justice delayed, is justice denied,” the long time it takes to get justice in the country is certainly not good enough for our justice system.
The President’s apparent even-handed approach to the subject is very important, knowing that the issue of special courts or even the designation of existing courts for special purposes is one that will elicit divergent views.
It is worth pointing out that Section 6(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides for the number and types of courts that exist in the country and such others as may be created. So the constitution does not preclude the possibility of creating specially designated courts. The debate has always been on the desirability or otherwise for such special courts outside the ones stipulated in the constitution.
However, it cannot be denied that frustrations exist in the administration and dispensation of justice in the country. The courts are either too slow to respond to the existing and emerging threats to justice or appear not to have sufficient structures to deal with new threats altogether. In this wise, stakeholders are worried and want measures to remedy the situation. One suggestion that has regularly come up is the creation of special courts to deal with the new crimes.
Frustrations arising from judicial processes are most noticeable in corruption and financial crimes as well as crimes associated with elections. Corruption in the country has become so endemic. But many citizens have watched successive administrations in the country come up with one gambit or the other to remedy the scourge of corruption, but the monster is not about to be tamed. In fact, it has grown in impunity and confidence, in spite of the best efforts of the present administration which has made the fight against it its mantra.
Another area of great frustration has to do with the new threats to peaceful coexistence of the people as a result of the desperation of political actors during elections. Our elections have become so violent in recent times. This has tended to reverse the gains the country has made in its democratic journey so far. Instead of elections being the celebration that they have become elsewhere, they are fast becoming killing fields, with compromised security officials looking the other way. Without doubt, the regular courts appear not to have been able to deal with these new threats to peace and peaceful coexistence of the citizens of this country. The need to dispense justice in these areas with speed has been sorely lacking.
This is probably why President Buhari has proposed the setting up of special courts or in the alternative the designation of existing courts to speedy up the dispensation of justice. We support the move and urge for more judicial reforms in the country.