Nigeria Judiciary System Problems And Way Out

Project and Seminar Material for Law

Nigeria Judiciary System Problems And Way Out

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

The Judiciary represents the court system in the land, it symbolizes judges and justice. It is the third arm of any modern government. This was popularized by Montesquieu, the French political philosopher and jurist who postulated that there should be separation of judicial duties from legislative and executive functions to forestall tyranny.

A court system implies a judicial arrangement of graduated competences of hierarchal structural arrangement from lower to superior courts, courts of first instance to Supreme Court, where appeals are taken or heard, and special courts or tribunals, exists in modern democratic countries.

Lastly, for the administration of justice to be fair and equitable in any political setting, it should combine autonomy with accessibility and a certain degree of uniformity. To be fair means that it is objective and fearless. To be equitable implies that court rules are equally applied, as rewards and punishment to both the poor and the rich. Autonomy connotes independence and authority.

1.1 Background to the Study

The Judiciary arm of government is responsible for interpreting the law of the land, while applying it in situations where they are necessary; this makes the job of the Judiciary a very critical one. The law of the land constitutes the bases upon which judgments are ruled; it is therefore fundamental that its interpretation and application be carried out with absolute alacrity and meticulousness (Chambers, 2005). The Nigerian Judicial System comprises of ‘the Body of Benchers’ and ‘the Bar’ itself. The Body of Benchers is a collection of the highest ranking legal practitioners in the country which is headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation. It also has as its members the respective Chief Judges of the States of the Federation and certain very reputable lawyers in the country, whereas the Bar is a body of all the barristers in the country. These together constitute the ‘Nigerian Legal Class’.

The Nigerian Judicial System has come a long way, taking its origin from the colonial era. It was saddled with the responsibility of checking the activities of the Executive and Legislative arms of government. The Judiciary as a matter of fact, plays a very vital role in the development of the country considering the fact it is the mechanism that oversees to the usage and management of power in the country. If the power that is vested on the Executive and Legislative offices is not checked, the bulk of the citizenry will have lots of troubles and challenges to contend with (Akpuru-Aja, 1999).

The primary responsibility of the Judiciary is to ensure that the Executive and Legislative arms of government function within the ambits of the constitutional provisions made available to them. The Judiciary ought to stand isolated while performing its constitutional duty. It does not need any interference from the Executive or Legislature in carrying out its primary assignment. It operates independent of any external disturbances and functions with the constitutional power vested in its office.

The Nigerian Judicial System has had lots of challenges to contend with. During the shambolic military era, the Judiciary was subjected to abject emasculation to the extent that it lost the substance to its name and only existed as a nomenclatural entity. To say the least, ‘the Judiciary sank into oblivion’. But with the advent of democracy came an organized political façade that accorded the Judiciary its rightful place as the watchdog of the polity. The importance of the Judiciary in any political system cannot be over-emphasized, hence the constitution provides for its absolute independence to enable it perform its sacred constitutional function without sentiments and reservations (Akpuru-Aja, 1999).

Personnel problems constitute by far the most daunting challenge facing the judiciary and is the single most important problem threatening the sanctity of the judiciary as the bastion of justice. The judiciary comprise of judicial officers who are human beings and therefore subject to the vagaries of human nature in its insidious form. While there are good, intellectually sound and upright judicial officers of impeccable character and integrity in Nigeria, it is sad to say that a sizeable percentage of judicial officers in Nigeria fall below the standard expected of judicial officers in the area of intellectual capability, uprightness, character and integrity and this reflects in the poor quality of judgments delivered by the various courts in Nigeria and the growing problem of conflicting judgments and the attendant confusion it brings in the legal system in Nigeria

The judicial system in Nigeria is beset with several deficiencies in its procedural set up that make it very difficult to obtain justice and quick resolution of disputes in courts. Most of the procedural rules of the various courts in Nigeria are in dire need of reform and review to make it accord with the need to discard technicalities and uphold substantive justice. A situation where many cases in Nigerian courts take years to be resolved does not bode well for the judicial system and encourages resort to self-help by disgruntled litigants.

1.2 Statement of Problem

There is no doubt that the Nigerian judiciary is plagued by a myriad of problems ranging from institutional to personnel problems, poor facilities to inadequate financial provisions and procedural to constitutional problems. Previous researchers that has sought need for solution to the problems suggested that there is the urgent need for constant training and re-training of judicial officers in the form of workshops, seminars and symposiums for judges to update their knowledge and restructuring the appointment process of judicial officers to ensure that only persons of acceptable intellectual capability, character and integrity are appointed to the bench. However, the researcher is examining the Nigerian judicial system with and view of identifying the problems within and recommending the way out

1.3 Objectives of Study

The following are the objectives of this study:

  1. To examine the problems in the Nigerian judicial system.
  2. To identify the way out of problems in the Nigerian judicial system.
  3. To determine the factors encouraging problems in the Nigerian judicial system.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions shall guide the study;

  1. What are the problems in the Nigerian judicial system?
  2. What is the way out of problems in the Nigerian judicial system?
  3. What are the factors encouraging problems in the Nigerian judicial system?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses will be tested in the study;

  1. HoThe Nigerian judiciary system is not delivering justice to the people.
    HiThe Nigerian judiciary system is not delivering justice to the people.
  2. HoThe corruption into the Nigeria judiciary system has no way out
    Hi: The corruption into the Nigeria judiciary system has a way outas proposed

1.6 Significance of the Study

The following are the significance of this study:

  1. The results of this study will educate the general public on the problem in the Nigerian judicial system with a view of finding a lasting solution to the problems.
  2. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.

1.7 Scope and Limitations of the Study

This study will cover all the issues within the Nigerian judicial system and also cover the approaches that can be used to solve the problem for better delivery.

1.8 Limitation of Study

1. Financial constraint

Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

2. Time constraint

The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.9 Definition of Concepts


The judiciary is concerned with the interpretation of law, administration of justice by giving concrete interpretation of laws made by the legislative arm.


It refers to an organized or complex whole and assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unitary whole.

Chapter Four

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

4.1 Summary

This study was carried out to evaluate the judiciary in Nigeria there problem and suggest a way out from it. The performance of judiciary should be expeditious, efficient, effective and credible in the society.

The study used three propositions to discuss and analyze the factors that are responsible for slow dispensation of justice in the Nigerian judiciary system, the financial autonomy of judiciary and the condition of service of judiciary staff.

The research identified legal constraints that impede the progress of justice from the judiciary in Nigeria using Enugu State as a reference point, and noted that such constraints stem from the problem of case flow management, long adjournments, absence of counsels and absence of witnesses. Quick dispensation of justice arguably remains the most perturbing aspect of justice system as faultless rules are destined to become redundant, unless adequate safeguards exist for substantial minimization of delays in the judiciary justice system. It was observed that there remains the recurrent problem of case flow management, where a judge is expected to manage the cases filed before him or sent to him in order to avoid congestion in his court. There is equally the inadequacy of infrastructural facilities linked with the negative attitude of some judicial officers to their judicial responsibilities.

However, worrisome is delay caused by legal practitioners due largely to lack of industry. Some counsels do not sufficiently indulge themselves in pre-trials preparations and so, can hardly keep up with the tempo in the court. Problem of assembling witnesses, which are the hallmark of criminal prosecution is also affecting Enugu state judiciary. A situation where no provision is made for the safety of prosecution witnesses before, during and after trial is very inimical to the lives of witnesses.

4.2 Conclusion

In the light of the fact that the Nigeria judicial system is besieged by both institutional and legal constraints, it is obvious that changes are inevitable and that judiciary system should move and adapt to changes in society. Any legislation that fails to respond to societal needs is bound to be fraught with the inevitability of failure. Laws therefore need to be revisited in the form of amendments to evolve a system that has just, humane and responsive in line with what obtains in more advance countries.

4.3 Recommendations

The problem of judiciary in Nigeria as seen from the reference pointEnugu State is enormous. To establish a firm and functioning judiciary, the following are thereby recommended for speedy dispensation:

The objective of the court is a just and timely determination of every case that comes before the court. Court process should be open, efficient, understandable, and accessible in other to create a better environment for those working within the system and better job delivery for the public they serve. The judges should manage the cases filed before them or sent to other court in order to avoid congestion in his court.

It must be acknowledged that witnesses are the pillar of most successful prosecutions and quick dispensation of justice. Thus there should be a witness protection programme before, during and after trials to encourage aid in the speedy disposal of cases.

Again, judges should avoid unnecessary or long adjournment in order not to avoid congestion of cases in the courts. Judges should try and clear cases that have been pending for many years to enhance speedy dispensation of case in the courts.

Absence of counsel also contributes to the drawbacks of the speedy of trials, because sometimes cases are fixed with the knowledge of the judge and sometimes without the judge’s knowledge. Thus judges should monitor the fixtures made by the registrar, in order not to turn down the application.

Judicial financial autonomy is one of the problems that impede speedy dispensation of justice. Judicial right should be granted by providing all the necessary quality that will enable them to provide quick delivery of justice.

Government and judiciaries should keep court fees and costs or fines at low levels to enable citizens, irrespective of their status, to seek redress in court at minimal costs. They should also adopt the 1999 constitution to support the move for a truly independent judicial arm of government since they are the last hope of the common man.

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