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May 21, 2018

The reforms of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice In Imo State

The Emergence and Proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra
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The integral Universal picture of Justice is one of a woman blindfolded and welding a menacing sword. This scary image has given rise in me genuine apprehensions about the appropriate uses of the sword in evolving situations.

How does Justice guide itself blindfolded?

In my view, justice would have been better served with eyes wide open. But I am told that being blindfolded means that Justice is fair and acts without fear and favour.

In Imo State like elsewhere in the world, Justice is also blind; blind to the suffering and anguish of litigants pauperized by extensive judicial processes, poorly motivated judicial staff who are always owed backlogs of pays and often striking while awaiting trial mates languish in prisons because of onerous bail conditions. Records of Corruption in the Imo State judiciary however are perhaps lowest in the eastern region but there are seemly no existing and effective policies to monitor and check same as they are not unremarkable and inconsequential.

Our system of administration of justice is also, blind to the phenomenon of babies who serve prison terms with their mothers who got pregnant, often, whilst serving time. The inhumane conditions of our prison facilities can barely be described as reformative but approximately as punitive.

Fortunately, some of our judicial officers preside over their cases without blindfolds but this has not helped them to come to just conclusions more often as desired. It has helped them view the temptations of corruption with better subtlety.

Background: The Nature of our Laws.

Granville Williams gave the impression in his introductory book on law that we can have only an idea of the law. Having an idea of what the law is necessary for us to appreciate the extent of reforms needed for substantive and procedural laws.

I agree with the view in the book, that it is impossible to have a totally satisfactory and comprehensive view of law because it is difficult to have a wholly acceptable definition of the law, its purpose and cause.

Some think that the law is an ass. Some think it promotes order and defines rights and duties. Some think it is a command. I do not think that the law is a command because it is inappropriate to describe the administration of justice as proceeding from a command.

Some people think that the law is an enactment that only becomes the law when it is interpreted. If that were the case, the law is not knowable until it is interpreted; meaning that legal rights and obligations cannot be defined and understood until the law creating them are interpreted by a court of law. Some school of thought also considers the law as normative and prescribing norms of conduct for society.

I think an understanding of the law embodies all of these views in so far the law is written, knowable and clearly stated.

Our customary law is however unwritten and one of the suggested reforms needed is its codification using the repugnancy test.

On the other hand, our legal system is influenced by the English law. Each state in Nigeria has its own legal system under our federal structure. Even within a state, there can be a multiplicity of legal systems under diverse customary laws.

Indeed the sources of Nigerian law and indeed the Imo legal system are Nigerian legislations, English law including the doctrines of equity, statutes of general Applications, customary law, and judicial precedents.

The ethnic customary law preexisted English law in our society the establishment of which can be done by two methods including (1) Proof or (2) Judicial notice.

According to the evidence enactment:

A custom may be adopted as governing a particular set of circumstances if it can be noticed judicially or if it can be proved to exist by evidence. The burden of proving a custom shall lie upon the person alleging its existence but also establish that it governs the set of facts.

However the application of any customary rule is subject to the repugnancy rule.

According to Lord Wright, barbaric rules must be rejected on the ground of repugnancy to natural Justice, equity and good conscience, written enactments and public policy.

The courts it is submitted cannot declare or reject a customary rule as repugnant without examining the consequences of the rule on the individual or party and the society at large.

The courts are however enjoined to observe the enforcement of customary rules in accordance with the views of what has become known as the repugnancy test.

The Administration of Justice in Imo State:

Our State laws are derived from the sources above mentioned, the totality of which administered constitute our system of justice. Some of the laws derived from these sources are however inadequate sometimes or archaic. More often, the procedure for their administration in our legal system remains frustrating or inadequate under scrutiny. Thus in every case before our courts, it is not just the litigants that are on trial but the court system itself.

Indeed the administration of justice in Imo state is anything but satisfactory when we consider the fact that modern civilizations are shaped by their understanding and love for justice which must not be delayed and always seen to be done:

It is a great injustice to litigants when litigation becomes endless and provocatively costly; when judicial officers lose public confidence.

In some states in Nigeria the problems of the judiciary are constantly under scrutiny and deliberate efforts and policy made to provide much needed succour.

In Lagos, constant monitoring and implementation designs to rid the judiciary of legal bottlenecks, provide and sustain humanitarian rights that are indicative of concern and interest in legal development. In Imo State we appear satisfied with the Status quo in the backdrop of a discernible lethargy to implement legal reforms.

Lagos state on its own part makes it a policy of state to monitor human rights abuses and sustain the dignity of the human person although much is still left to be done. It is true that the Police in Lagos state are not expected to take a suspect’s statement in the absence of his lawyer while in Imo state; lawyers are routinely barred from police station with the police compounding felonies, by settling complaints after exploitation of citizens and thus beclouding the level of growing criminality in our cities and obscuring the collation of Crime data.

The problems of legal development and the administration of Justice in Imo State are not only administrative but patently bordering on appropriate legislative processes and monitoring to enable the courts to perform better and guide them to just conclusions.

The courts are placed in grave difficulties to interpret legal rights and civil obligations when there are inherent   procedural irregularities embodied in existing legislation, establishing, guiding and or regulating them. Beyond that are many lacunas in our domestic legislations in the backdrop of the awaited legislative interventions for more elaborate reforms and or uniformity in the High Court and magistrate Courts rules.

 


 

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