Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, Tuesday, identified delay in justice delivery as a major problem bedevilling the country’s judiciary.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the ongoing Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja, decried the pervading level of corruption in the justice sector, even as he called for stiffer sanctions against legal practitioners found culpable in acts of judicial malpractices.
While acknowledging alleged lapses on the part of prosecuting agencies, the Vice President, said the judiciary must accept some responsibility for the seeming inability of the federal government to secure appreciable convictions.
He headed a special session of the conference that focused on highlighting Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP.
Osinbajo further bemoaned what he termed as high level institutional and moral decay in the country, saying it would be difficult to end corruption by just being exemplars of moral conduct.
He said: “We must understand where we are coming from and how to resolve that problem. There is a great deal of institutional and moral decay. There is no question about that at all.
“Just taking an example of corruption for example – it is systemic and has eaten so deep into the society’s fabric.
“It is difficult to simply say that we can end corruption by just being exemplars of moral conduct. It is a lot more that needs to be done. One, there is a need to establish a system of consequence for misbehavior.
“That is a pertinent issue and is one I believe applies to the Bar. The most important thing is that everyone has a responsibility to ensure that there is a consequence for wrongdoing.
“One of the major problems that we have had is that the legal process is not able to deliver justice within a reasonable time.
There are issues that concern public corruption and there are several cases that have been in the court and the government has been criticised that we have not been able to secure a conviction.
“There are those who say the prosecution was not prepared. There are those who say the defence engages in dilatory tactics. There are those who say the judiciary is compromised.
“All of this has to do with our administration of justice system. We must accept some responsibility. The Law Society in England for example accepts responsibility of the discipline of lawyers, including those who engage in dilatory tactics in court.
“If a lawyer wants to delay a case, or has a strategy of either winning the case or hoping that years after the matter will be forgotten, that kind of lawyer will lose his shirt in any other jurisdiction. But here, it’s become an accepted fact. So it is beyond government.
“All institutions such as the NBA must do something. And it really calls for self-regulation. Government is not going to come up with a law to change that.
“This is something we are in control of. We should be able to say that we are going to have to put our foot down here”.
More so, Osinbajo said it was unfortunate that successive governments failed to pay attention to infrastructural developments.
“I think one of the major failings that we have had as a nation is the failure to invest in infrastructure, especially when we were earning significant sums from oil, and I think that has led to several of what we are seeing today.
“The Apapa Port is a 35million metric tonnes capacity; now it is handling 85million tonnes. So we have so many trucks coming out of Apapa, destroying the roads,” he added.