By Kola Bola
Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday identified delay in the administration of justice as a major challenge that must be jointly tackled by all relevant stakeholders in the justice sector.
Osinbajo also urged judges, lawyers and others to change their attitudes while they stand up for what is right.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day Stakeholder’s Summit, organized by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Osinbajo, said stakeholders in the administration of justice must begin to take the issue of delay more seriously and shun all forms of delay tactics.
Osinbajo, the keynote speaker at the summit themed “Contemporary Trends: Catalysts For Justice Sector Reform in Lagos State,” called on the judiciary, as a way out of the problem, to embrace day-to-day system for trials and heavy punishment for deliberate act of delay aimed at stalling cases.
The Vice President, who was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said it was also important for the judiciary to introduce significant costs for delay occasioned especially by lateness, ill-preparedness or deliberate tactics.
“If we can agree that these problems are against our collective interests as practitioners and stakeholders, then we must make a firm commitment to tackle the problems by changing our attitude and standing up for what is right,” Osinbajo said.
The Vice President said Lagos State had a general reputation for trailblazing reforms in the justice sector and in many other sectors in Nigeria and beyond, adding that the summit, aimed at further initiating reforms in conformity with modern trends, was another testament of the fact that the reputation of the state was being taken seriously by the current administration.
He said even though Nigeria was just clawing its way out of recession, it was gratifying that the State Government deemed it important to invest in the summit to address some of the institutional challenges preventing the country from developing a first-class justice system in its commercial nerve centre.
Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, in his address, said for any nation to experience economic growth, it must first have a functional judicial system that would not only encourage local and foreign investors to invest in, but also guarantee conducive environment for such businesses to thrive.
Ambode said experience over the years has shown that societies with equal and unhindered access to justice have a better environment for economic growth and poverty alleviation than those that do not.
“As a government, we are well aware that to achieve our socio-economic goals of a safer, secured, peaceful and more prosperous Lagos State, we need a functioning justice sector, which guarantees not only the maintenance of law and order, the enforcement of human rights and freedom, but also provides an administration of justice ambience that protects investments and encourages economic development.”
Ambode added that his government was working round the clock to ensure a system where all justice institutions in the state are fully automated, alluding to the fact that global strides in commerce and information technology have transformed the world into a global village.
“One of our top priorities is to leave behind a legacy of a 21st century justice sector driven by digital technology and powered by digital literate judicial officers and legal services providers,” he said.