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71% of Nigerians lack trust in the judicial system – report

Judicial interference in Nigeria’s electoral process

A recent survey on citizens’ perceptions on governance in Nigeria finds that about 71 percent of Nigerians lack trust in the Judiciary, while about 65 percent lack trust in the anti-corruption agencies, and 40 percent do not believe elections are free and fair.

To understand citizens’ perceptions of freedom of expression and trust in public institutions, Anvarie Tech and ResearcherNG and Bincika Insights, conducted a survey with 1861 respondents across the six geopolitical regions in Nigeria between November 15 and December 10, 2021.

Funded by the Washington DC-based National Endowment for Democracy, ‘The State of Freedom in Nigeria Report’ sought to find out citizens’ views on freedom of expression, political participation, rule of law and corruption with a focus on their trust in independent government institutions.

The survey finds that citizens’ perceptions on access to justice indicate a lack of trust in the judicial system as 71.2 percent of respondents disagree that the Judicial system is fair and treats everyone equally while only 28.8 percent agree that the judicial system is fair.

“Access to justice must be seen as impartial and objective by guaranteeing that individuals and groups will have access to justice in the country and consequently enhance the protection of rights enshrined in the Constitution”.

In response to whether or not the legislature holds the government accountable, a majority of the respondents 56.8 percent disagree while 43.2 percent of respondents agree. The principle of separation of powers and checks and balances is a theoretical framework meant to help and ensure that leaders and operators of various institutions of government do not allow their selfish interests to override public interest and the common good.

Similarly, about 65.2 percent, a majority of respondents disagree that government institutions established to tackle corruption is independent and effective while 34.8 percent agree that government institutions are independent and effective.

Read also: CJN vs Malami: Reforming the judicial system

On freedom of expression across the six(6) geopolitical regions in Nigeria, the survey indicates that perceptions of freedom of speech and the negative implications of exercising freedom of speech are balanced. 50.4 percent of respondents agree that citizens are free to criticize the government without fear, while 49.6 percent disagree.

Furthermore, major cities in Nigeria, including Lagos and Abuja, following the #EndSARS Protests in October 2020, banned all forms of street demonstrations, protests, and processions. However, 59 percent of respondents agree that citizens have the freedom to participate in demonstrations, while 41 percent of the respondents who participated in the survey disagree.

According to the report, citizens’ perception of the ability of the media to report critically about government institutions and officials without fear indicates that 51.4 percent of respondents agree that the media can report critically about government institutions and officials without fear, while 48.6 percent of respondents disagree.

On political participation and elections, a majority of respondents, 69.3 percent, agree that Nigerian citizens are free to organise political groups, while about 30.7 percent of respondents disagree.

The survey in trying to establish whether or not respondents were confident in the electoral process, finds that about 60.2 percent agree that citizens can choose government leaders in free and fair elections, while 39.8 percent disagree.

According to the survey, the decline in trust for the government that was witnessed immediately after the 2007 general election in Nigeria, led voters and indeed the majority of Nigerians to demand electoral reform.