President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, underscored the importance of an enhanced justice delivery system, in a bid to keep the Nigerian legal system in tune with global best practices.
The president made the call at the opening ceremony of the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The 2020 NBA AGC tagged “Step Forward” is holding both virtually and physically from August 26 to August 29 in Lagos and Abuja.
Mr Buhari, in his opening remarks, felicitated with the leadership of the NBA on her 60th AGC and urged that the Bar takes cognisance of its role in the Administration of Justice.
The president who was represented virtually by the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, noted that law and order is crucial to the sustenance of the country’s democracy adding that the legal profession must ensure it plays its role.
“The theme you have selected “Step Forward” is so apt and this means, taking responsibility, and it may also mean making progress.
“There are areas where I believe we need to step forward and resolve some of the problems of our system,” he said
He outlined some of the areas as:
The slow pace of trials in our courts, multiple and conflicting orders of court, seeming bias towards technicalities, the appointment of judges, security, law and order, as well as Rape and Sexual offences.
Harping on the issue of the slow pace of trials, the president said:
“I was before the court for two and half years from 2003 to 2005 and it took me two and a half years to fight for a four-year presidential mandate.
“In 2007, I was again in court for 20 months, almost two years, as petitioner, and later as appellant in the case of Buhari Vs INEC and in 2011 again as petitioner in the case of CPC Vs INEC and at the end I lost all three cases; Then, I wondered why we had to take so long.
“If I had I won the case then someone who did not legitimately win the election would have occupied office all the while.
“I was in court again in 2019; I was no longer a petitioner but a respondent in the case of Atiku Vs Buhari and the whole process took barely six months; Now what was the difference?
“The law had changed since my ordeal in 2003, 2007 and 2011; You had now introduced time limits for election petitions.
“Why can’t we then put a rule that will say that a criminal trial up to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months in duration?
“I think that for me, will be “stepping forward,” he said
According to the president, the speed of our legal institutions and processes must match with the global base
Meanwhile in his remark, The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, also commended the NBA on its 60th AGC and urged its leadership to keep in tune with the evolving ICT.
Mr Malami who was also represented virtually by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Adedayo Akpata, said that at the onset of the pandemic, the office of the AGF took it upon itself to adopt the use of ICT.
He said ICT saw the introduction of virtual court proceedings which helped to keep the courts open and also set the pace for a post COVID-19 Justice system.
“My office will continue to drive the much needed legal reforms in promoting the rule of law, and publishing full financial autonomy for the state legislator and state judiciary and re-invigorating the office of the A-G as the Chief Law officer,” he said
According to him, the foregoing will continue to serve as a catalyst to the things being recovered by his office which includes about 201 million dollars loot, which he said is being plunged into some critical infrastructure.
He said that measures are also being put in place to prevent mismanagement and reoccurrence.
Mr Malami stressed the need for the NBA to rise above circumstances and “step forward” to positively enhance the law-making process.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NBA 2020 AGC has over 22,000 registered delegates
Physical attendance at the conference is holding at both the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos, as well as the NBA Headquarters in Abuja, with not more than 30 persons allowed at the venue.
The conference is to showcase over 28 law sessions to be anchored by renowned Nigerian legal practitioners.