Sir Walter Raleigh, a poet and a soldier, wrote in the 15th century in “The Soul’s Errand”; ‘Go, tell the Court it glows, and shines like rotten wood. It may not necessarily be an abuse but it denotes the rate of injustice prevailing over the court. As at that time, the court could no longer meet up the standard of natural justice, equity and fairness due to corrupt tendencies. In our age and time, the court which should have been the last resort of common man, is filled with miscarriages, delays of justice thereby making life miserable, unbearable and regrettable. Every lawyer talk about difficulties in getting criminal justice in Nigeria. The delays in getting justice is what has atrophied judiciary as a veritable organ of governance. The recent cases of Evans – the notorious kidnapper and Abba Kyari – the aiding and abetting police officer would signify the nature of getting justice in Nigeria especially in criminal matters.
In the same vein, Nigerians went to the polls in the first quarter of 2023 and the electoral cases are still being decided in the various tribunals and appeal courts throughout the country. Some of the pending electoral matters have been shifted to Abuja, Lagos due to insecurity and logistics. The 2023 presidential election has been a very sensible issue which the courts are yet to give judgment on. Nigeria has become a peculiar case because her practice of democracy has snowballed into ‘judocracy’. After every democratic election in Nigeria, even when the electoral commission has announced the results; the masses will have to wait for the courts, election petition tribunals to determine the actual winner. The ruling political party had taunted the opposition with the ‘Go to Court’ slogan in a flawed election that lacked transparency. The situation has hoodwinked the appeal court justices leading to delay or miscarriage of justice.
Furthermore, it was the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus who said; “If it were not for injustice, man would not know justice.” And Benjamin Franklin said; “Without justice, courage is weak. Nigeria is actually sitting on a keg of gunpowder which might explode any time. We have often heard preachers tell us that when your blessings are delayed, it does not mean denied and that when God tells you no, it does not translate to never. Needless to say, without justice there can never be peace and progress. We are terrestrial not celestial; mortal not immortal. And we have witnessed a condition where the most wicked, corrupt and oppressive entities live large and prosper. It emphasizes the necessity of timely and efficient delivery of justice. When the legal system/structure in a country fails to provide justice in a timely manner, it can lead to frustration, death, loss of faith in the judiciary and even escalate injustice.
Unfortunately, from 2015 to 2023, Nigerians have had the course to refer to Malcolm Forbes, who said; “When things are bad, we take a bit of comfort in the thought that they could always be worse. And when they are, we find hope in the thought that things are so bad they have to get better”. The change mantra of 2015 was a betrayal and treachery and the renewed hope of 2023 cannot give breath even of polluted air. The situation of the country would collapse the entity and the nation Nigeria if nothing drastic is done. The legal maxim, “Justice delayed is justice denied” stresses the timely resolution, adjudication given to the injured, oppressed or neglected which if not forthcoming is the same as no remedy at all.
It must not be forgotten that problems with the administration of justice in Nigeria include but are not limited to executive suppression and intimidation of the judiciary, pervasive corruption, insecurity and poor standard of legal education. The time factor in the delivery of justice is paramount. The purpose of the criminal law is the prevention of crime. With the delay, neglect and silence; time heals and makes people forget and forgive. The Courts must take cognizance that the longer it takes to deliver judgement, the less effective and impactful the outcome will be. The presidential election in Kenya was ultimately annulled by the Supreme Court in 2017 after a two weeks delay. A likely outcome was witnessed in 2018 by Zimbabwe.
Notably, “No Coffin No Grave” is a poem by Jared Angira that satirizes the corrupt nature of African politicians in the drunkenness with power as they loot away the resources that were meant for the benefit of all. The final end of the greedy ruler was never anticipated even though no one dared to speak out of his evil for fear of the consequences. Buhari told Nigerians in 2015 that they should kill corruption or it will kill Nigeria. Who can estimate the corruption indices in Buhari’s tenure? Despite the suffering, hardship and poverty and the much-taunted corruption in Fuel Subsidy, the presidency during ‘UNGA ’78 in the United States spent ₦509,920,920 for hotel reservations at St. Regis Hotel in New York from September 16 to 23 2023. Reps Members are ready to receive ₦130 million Prado SUVs. And this is how Nigeria would survive? Within 4 months, it is speculated that the federal government has taken a loan of more than $1.5 billion from the World Bank. What is actually wrong with political leadership in Nigeria?
In addition, the forgery saga in the country was much less than the stolen mandate of Nigerians. Majority of the masses had expected that the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal would give them justice, restore hope and assuage the suffering being experienced all over the country. In the matter of presidential election, we do not foresee factors like cost of litigation, constitutional provision, undue reliance on technical rules or other issues inhibiting justice. It appears to be a case of undue allegiance inimical to justice. The APC government has made every institution of governance in Nigeria weak and ineffective. The Police, Judiciary and the electoral commission are all shadows, skeletal impostors. This accounts for the difficulty in investigating crime, prosecution of criminals and the conduct of free and fair elections. A 2021 report by the Nigerian Bar Association found that over 70% of inmates in Nigeria prisons are awaiting trial. Nigeria has enough resources at her disposal to fund the agencies responsible for dispensation of justice. Sadly, public funds are spent on fanning the embers of corruption and promoting inefficiency.
Finally, to avoid negative outcomes, it is crucial for Nigeria to have efficient and transparent mechanisms for resolving electoral disputes in a timely manner. Delayed justice can also lead to increased crime rates. The free operation of terrorists, bandits without prosecution has resulted in continuous killing, destruction of property all over the country. Well-meaning Nigerians lose huge sums of money and cherished possessions due to delay and untimely delivery of justice. So far, the political instability has deterred foreign investment and economic growth. Money that could have been used for infrastructural development and philanthropy are wasted on lengthy legal battles. The delay has caused and engineered more electoral fraud. It is granted that the public trust in the electoral process has been completely eroded. The political tension in the country can further exacerbate to protests, conflicts, instability and social unrest.