NPRC Legal Committee Report

No Comments » December 28th, 2006 posted by // Categories: Sovereign National Conference (SNC) Project



The way forward
for the legal system in Nigeria:

A report of the
Judiciary & Legal Committee of the NPRC

 

Friday, May 20,
2005

 

The Judiciary and
Legal Committee of the National Political Reform Conference has submitted its
report on the future of the legal system in the country. The members looked at
the various arms of the legal process and suggested the way forward. The members
examined  the following:

 

1. Independence of
the judiciary
2. Enforcement of court judgement
3. Decongestion of courts
4. Delay in the Administration of Justice and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
5. The establishment of A Constitution Court and A Constitutional Court of
Appeal for Nigeria.
6. Harmonisation of the civil procedure rule throughout Nigeria.
7. Rationalisation of the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
8. The administration of Juvenile Justice in Nigeria: Proposals for Reform and
Harmonisation.
9. Separation of the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.

10. Removal of the
powers of the Attorney-General in relation to the exercise of Nolle Prosequi and
the granting of fiat for private prosecutions in criminal matters.
11. Compensation for victims of crimes
12. The law of restitution
13. Executive Immunity under section 308 of the 1999 constitution.
14. The rights and legal status of women in Nigeria
15. Discipline of legal practitioners.
16. Prisons reform.

 

 

ABRIDGED REPORT
OF THE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY AND LEGAL REFORMS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

This executive
summary gives a very succinct account of the major observations or
recommendations the Committee has made. The next section is an introductory
part, which explains the general background to the report, outlines the terms of
reference which the Committee has covered and the methodology it has followed to
conduct business and arrive at its decisions. The main body of the report, which
has been broken down into convenient chapters, gives a more detailed account of
all the observations the Committee has made and recommendations arrived at.

 

 

INTRODUCTORY
CHAPTER

In the light of a very lively debate over the list of items supplied by the
Makarfi report; the contribution of members on these; by reference to other
resource materials supplied by the secretariat and numerous memoranda received;
and drawing heavily from the vast and varied experience of the distinguished
members of the committee, the Committee distilled the following themes. In
assessing its assignment and providing general directions to members, the
Committee, during its general debate, considered and kept in view certain
ideals, goals and objectives which should assist greatly in bringing about a
profound judicial and legal reform that will last long, command the respect of
all, be realistic and in accord with a federal polity the entire gamut of which
is itself up for a thorough review and reform. They include the following:

 

(a)  A realization
that, on the whole, there is not much that is wrong with the existing legal
rules, judicial institutions, processes and the personnel entrusted with the
dispensation of justice. At its core, our problem is attitudinal. Hence, any
reform proposal must not only address or effect mere changes to rules, laws,
institutions and processes but must address this key problem;
(b)  There is undue if not, in some cases, unconscionable delay in our judicial
process. This phenomenon results in denial of justice, dents judicial integrity,
breeds uncertainty in legal relations, discourages aggrieved persons from
pursuing legal remedies and scares away investors;

(c)  A painful
acknowledgment that access to affordable justice, one which the ordinary people
will relate well to, is not available;
(d)  The pressing and indisputable need to strengthen and enhance the
independence of the judiciary in all its ramifications including its fiscal
autonomy was felt and adequate measures proposed towards the attainment of this
goal;
(e)  The need was highlighted to ensure the prevalence and respect for the rule
of law, devising additional and more autonomous ways and means and institutional
framework for ensuring that orders of the courts are obeyed and judgments
enforced;
(f)  The desirable goal of maintaining the National Judicial Council as a
bulwark for the safeguard and enhancement of the independence of the judiciary
was identified. On the other hand, there was a recognition of the need to make
the NJC more representative in composition and outlook and tailored to be in
accord with our federal system;

(g)  Aware of the
painful incidence of corruption in our judicial system, amongst a few bad eggs
among judges and legal practitioners, the Committee has considered additional
ways and means of dealing with this malaise particularly as regards
strengthening the institutional framework and mechanism for the discipline of
legal practitioners. It should be noted that the NJC has been doing an
appreciable job dealing with reported disciplinary cases of judicial personnel.
(h)  The deplorable condition of prison inmates, other detainees and
correctional institutions is a matter which perturbs the mind and must prick the
conscience of all to call for a radical and urgent reform of our prison system.
(i)  Having regard to the status of women and children under our laws, we are
also faced with the stark reality that we ought to be querying how
gender-friendly our laws are and how protective they are of our children.

(j)  The vexed
issue of how to deal with very sensitive political questions pertaining to intra
and inter party squabbles, prevalent and pervasive undemocratic practices which
attend political party nomination and recurring incidence of conflicts between
organs of the state government, and the need for devising a mechanism for a
dispassionate expeditious resolution of election petitions, have all combined to
urge for the reopening of the question as to whether or not we need a
specialized court in the Constitutional Court, to deal with these issues.
(k)  The need has been felt for the evolution of simplified rules of civil
procedure, which will augur well for expeditious dispensation of justice.

(I)  The question
was discussed as to whether the interest of justice, the cause for the
enhancement of the independence of judiciary and finding a remedy for the
prevalence of multiple prosecuting agencies will not be best served with the
adoption of a mechanism which separates the office of the Attorney General, at
Federal and state levels, which is a purely professional office, from that of
the Minister/Commissioner of Justice, an office con political and more belonging
to the executive arm of the government of the day.

(m)The need has
been felt for the rationalization of the recurring conflicts between the Federal
High Court and State High Court of justice and potentially, with the
Constitutional Court, were this to be established.
(n)  The uproar and public indignation at the prevalent recourse to hiding
behind the constitutional provision which affords the Executive at Federal and
state level absolute immunity from prosecution by some of these public officers
perpetrate illegalities has led many to call for the total lifting of such an
immunity.

 

 

INDEPENDENCE OF
THE JUDICIARY

With a view to enhancing the independence of the judiciary in the areas of
appointment process, the removal process of judicial officers, funding for the
judicial arm and sundry other matters, the Committee has recommended the
following:

 

Recommendations
 

(i)  in appointing
judicial personnel qualities such as merit, competence, integrity are
pre-requisites which must be kept in mind;
(ii) while recommending for the retention of the present appointment procedures,
the Committee urges for a mandatory greater consultation with the Bar which must
be constitutionally guaranteed;
(iii) due process and fair hearing should be introduced in the process of the
removal of heads of courts so as to confer greater protection and remove
arbitrariness and politicization of their removal;
(iv) some novel constitutional provisions have been suggested to make a
categorical statement guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary

(v)  to make it
more representative and accord with our federal polity, the NJC has been
expanded in composition
(vi)  to ensure greater financial autonomy of the judicial organ and insulate it
from manipulative tendencies of the other organs, it is recommended that all its
funds, capital and recurrent, shall be a first charge on the Consolidated
Revenue Fund of the Federation.
(vii The Order of Precedence which relegated the Chief Justice of the federation
to the 4th position in the nation

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