Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari last Wednesday proposed that criminal cases from the High Court to the Supreme Court should be concluded within 12 months, while civil cases should not last stay beyond 15 months.
Buhari was speaking at the 60th Annual General Conference (AGC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), with the theme, ‘Stepping Forward.’
The President, according to thenationonlineng.net, was represented virtually by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the NBA’s first virtual AGC. He described justice administration in the country’s courts as “terribly slow”, adding that it needed urgent reform.
According to the president, it took too long for the courts to decide and eventually dismiss the election petitions he filed to challenge his losses in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential polls.
Buhari said: “At the end, I lost all three cases. I wondered then, why it needed to take so long to arrive at a verdict and if I had won the case, someone who did not legitimately win the election would have been in the office all that time.
“In 2019, I was no longer petitioner; I had now become a respondent in the case of Atiku vs Buhari and the whole process took barely six months; just over six months.
“What was the difference? The law had changed since my own in 2003, 2007 and 2011. You had now introduced time limits for election petitions. Everything must be done within a six to eight-month period.
“My question then is why can’t we have a time limit for criminal cases? Why can’t we have a rule that will say a criminal trial all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months? And why can’t we do the same for civil cases? Even if we say that civil cases must not go beyond between 12 and 15 months. I think that for me will be stepping forward.”
The President also lamented three other issues: multiple and conflicting court orders, judicial technicality rather than “clear common sense” and opaque process of appointing Judges.
Out-going NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN) commended NBA members for remaining united and professional.
He said: “Those who are bent on dividing the Bar” would not relent. But we must always remember that we are one united Nigerian Bar Association. We must continue to ensure that we remain a united bar association; we must not be divided along ethnic, religious and other lines. It must always be ‘One is for all, and all is for all,” he stressed.