Judicial Reform

 

 

The successes and impact of the judicial integrity programme with Nigeria's National Judicial Institute (NJI), Chief Judges of the country and senior judiciary officials, and 10 State judiciaries are well recorded and will be expanded to cover more states in sync with the next level of development of NJI institutional and human capacities.  Future programme work also aims at supporting the implementation of those judicial integrity action plans that have been developed within the ongoing programme in 10 states, and significant state level financing, but requires additional funds for full delivery achievement of the Action Plan's goals.

The project " Support to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Judiciary"(funded by the European Union), which was launched in 2006 and completed in 2010, supported the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and, on the other hand has also assisted the Nigerian Judiciary and other justice sector stakeholders in the strengthening of integrity and capacity of the justice system at the Federal level and within 10 Nigerian States.

Working in cooperation with the National Judicial Institute in this regard the project has helped to prepare the ground for several reform policies primarily focusing on improving governance, accountability and transparency of justice sector institutions. A large scale assessment of justice sector integrity and capacity was carried out providing baseline data allowing for the measuring of progress in the various areas of reform. The data was also used in the development of action plans at state level aimed to enhance access to justice, in particular by prisoners awaiting trial, to improve speed and quality of justice delivery, and to build the confidence of court users by increasing accountability, integrity, impartiality and independence of the courts. Subsequently, the implementation of these action plans was supported through policy and technical advisory services, training, and the provision of equipment. A monitoring exercise of the implementation of these plans is ongoing. The project has also helped build the operational capacity, efficiency and performance of the justice sector by jointly funding Judicial Research Centres (JRC) with the pilot state governments.

Five years into implementation, the project has been able to aid national counterpart institutions in making significant achievements. The project has achieved its various outputs and the activities finalized in November 2010. A handing over period to the beneficiary has enhanced the local ownership and ensured sustainability.

ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE PROJECT

Regarding the justice sector, the assessment conducted in 2007/08 with the assistance of the project confirmed impressive improvements made in the period 2002 - 2007.  More specifically, the justice system had become significantly more accessible, with the average time prisoners had to spend in remand reducing from 30 months in 2002 to less than 12 months in 2007. The general awareness of prisoners with regard to bail has also improved with 68% of the respondents being aware of their right to apply for bail in 2007, as opposed to only 43% in 2002. Prisoners, moreover, had better access to legal assistance, with 56% being represented by a lawyer as opposed to only 38% in 2002. Similar progress could be registered with regard to timeliness and quality of justice delivery. The number of months that it had taken court users on average to resolve their legal matters had reduced from 27 months in 2002 to a little over 12 months in 2007.  The administrative systems of the courts has also improved, with 87% of judicial officers finding the record-keeping efficient or very efficient, as opposed to only 44% sharing this opinion in 2002. As concerns the prevalence of corrupt practices, in 2002, 77% of lawyers and 43% of court users claimed that within the last 12 months prior to the interview they had been approached for the payment of a bribe in the context of a court case. When these stakeholders were asked the same question in 2007, only 16% of the lawyers and only 2% of the court users admitted that they had been approached for the payment of a bribe. With regard to the independence, impartiality and fairness of the courts, 19% of the judges felt that judicial appointments were politically influenced and not based on merit, while 50% of the lawyers claimed to know of judicial decisions that had been inspired by politics. However, in 2007 findings seemed to suggest that judicial independence had been strengthened with 24% of lawyers stating that they were aware of a judicial decision during the last 12 months which in their opinion had been influenced by politics, and 8% of judicial officers claiming to be aware of a judicial appointment having been influenced by political considerations rather than merit.

Collectively all of these improvements have helped to enhance public confidence in the justice system. In 2007 the percentage of court users who stated that they had not used the courts during the last two years despite a need to do so had reduced from 42% in 2002 to 36% in 2007. At the same time, those court users who indicated that they would use the courts again based on their experience increased from 58% in 2002 to 69% in 2007.