Yesterday, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Apo delivered its judgment on the bribery case involving a former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan. The former lawmaker had been standing trial for allegedly demanding a bribe for $3m and subsequently receiving $500,000 from a businessman, Femi Otedola, in what was then referred to as fuel subsidy scandal.The court found Lawan guilty of the alleged offense and duly sentenced him to 7 years in prison. The court also demanded that he returns the $500,000 bribe.
Farouk leaving the court
Farouk committed the said crime in 2012 while he was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy in 2012. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC) filed the case against him on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria. But as it is common—almost a norm—for high-profile cases in Nigeria, it took the court nearly a decade to dispense justice.
Why does the delivery of justice take so long in Nigeria? Put differently, why does the wheel of justice grind so slowly in Nigeria? This piece will attempt to answer that knotty question.
The factors affecting the slow dispensation of justice in Nigeria include lack of adequate facilities and manpower in the nation's judiciary, poor remuneration, and welfare package for court personnel, political interference, and ineptitude and corruption among many judges.
Lack of adequate facilities and manpower
The nation’s judiciary, which comprises the courts, lacks adequate facilities and the requisite manpower to enhance the quick dispensation of justice. For this reason, so many case files get piled up on the tables of a few judges resulting in unnecessary delays in the dispensation of justice. People who have been to the courts often complain about attending courts sometimes more than four times without having their cases come up for mention or heard.
Ineptitude and corruption among judges and other judicial officers
Unfortunately, some of the judges and judicial officers in the country are inept and corrupt. Stories abound of how some judges would come to the courts, and after a few case files have been read out to them the court clerk, would adjourn the court and leave for the day.Stories of corruption among judges also abound. Corruption permeates the entire judicial system. Corrupt judges frequently grant frivolous injunctions and court orders to people who have 'grease their palms' to deliberately delay justice. That is why it is commonly said in Nigeria that justice is only available to the bidder. A lot of bribery and corruption happens in high-profile cases in the country.
Poor remuneration and welfare package for court personnel
Judicial officers in the country are poorly paid. The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) recently suspended an industrial action that it had embarked on to push for improved remuneration and welfare package for its members. This factor contributes greatly to the rot in the judicial system, especially as it relates to corruption and ineptitude among judiciary employees.
Political interference and influence
Political interference is perhaps the one singular most important factor responsible for slowing down the wheel of justice in Nigeria. High profile cases, especially those involving top politicians can get unnecessarily complicated because of political interference and influence. This is because the accused in these cases are highly connected and would use their powerful connections and influence to either delay justice, get a favorable judgment or truncate the course of justice.
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