A bill seeking to set timeframes for various categories of courts in Nigeria within which they must dispense justice in criminal and civil cases before them has passed second reading at the House of Representatives.
“This bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to set time within which civil and criminal cases and matters are heard and determined at trial and appellate courts in order to eliminate unnecessary delay in justice administration and delivery,” the explanatory memorandum on the legislation reads.
Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Mr Onofiok Luke, who sponsored the bill, said when the proposal becomes law, it “will entirely change the face of justice in Nigeria for the good of all.”
Leading debate on the bill, Luke said in part, “It is more pleasing that this proposal is made in this particular legislative house which is known to be pro-people. The pace of justice delivery in Nigeria is alarmingly slow. On average, cases stay a minimum of five to 15 years before determination and judgment. The snail-like pace of justice delivery has caused great discomfort, inconveniences, and hopelessness to litigants, investors, and businesses.
“People only know the date they approach the court but they do not know when their matters will get determined. The inability of our judicial system to deliver justice to the people within reasonable time has occasioned great frustration on the part of the people and has caused them to resort to self-help. Slow justice delivery serves as a stumbling block to Nigeria’s industrialisation drive and foreign investment.”
The lawmaker also noted that there are so many suspects in criminal cases who are “wasting away,” leading to the congestion of correctional centres and case lists in our courtrooms.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who noted that the bill had some issues that needed to be addressed, said the House Committee on the Review of the Constitution headed by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, would scrutinise the proposal.
The bill, which passed first reading at the House on September 29, 2020, particularly seeks to amend Chapter VII, Part IV of the Principal Act by inserting a new Subsection ‘A’ in Section 287.
Superior courts are to deliver their judgment between 270 and 330 days, while the junior courts deliver between 210 and 270 days.