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NBA-SLP Annual Conference 2024: Administration of Justice in Nigeria: Challenges & Reform

NBA-SLP Annual Conference 2024: Administration of Justice in Nigeria: Challenges & Reform
OFFICIAL COMMUNIQUÉ

The Nigerian Bar Association Section on Legal Practice (NBA-SLP) successfully convened its Annual Conference in Kano, Nigeria, from June 2nd to June 5th, 2024. The conference served as a crucial platform for in-depth discussions and deliberations among legal practitioners, judges, policymakers, academics, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders deeply invested in the Nigerian justice system.

Under the theme “Administration of Justice in Nigeria: Challenges & Reform,” the conference aimed to critically assess the current state of the justice system, identify its most pressing challenges, and propose innovative solutions to foster a more efficient, equitable, and accessible legal framework for all Nigerians.

Day 1: Reimagining Legal Foundations and Upholding Ethical Standards

The first day of the conference laid the groundwork for discussions on fundamental legal principles and the ethical responsibilities of legal professionals. Key topics included:

  • The Dilemma of Stare Decisis: Participants engaged in a robust debate on the doctrine of stare decisis, which dictates that courts should adhere to precedents set by previous decisions. The conference acknowledged the tension between the need for legal certainty and the imperative to adapt to evolving societal values and legal challenges. There was a consensus on the importance of striking a balance between upholding established legal principles and allowing for flexibility in the interpretation and application of the law.
  • Enhancing Judicial Capacity: Recognising the pivotal role of the judiciary in the administration of justice, the conference emphasised the need to strengthen judicial capacity. This includes providing judges with continuous legal education on emerging legal issues, expanding research support to enable informed decision-making, and ensuring that judges are adequately remunerated to attract and retain top legal talent. The conference also discussed the importance of judicial diversity and the need to appoint judges who reflect the diversity of Nigerian society.
  • Upholding Ethical Standards: The conference acknowledged the growing concern over the erosion of public trust in the legal profession due to unethical practices by some lawyers. Participants called for stricter enforcement of ethical codes of conduct and disciplinary measures for lawyers who engage in frivolous litigation, delay tactics, and other unethical practices that undermine the integrity of the legal system. The conference also proposed the establishment of a Judicial Public Complaints Committee to investigate allegations of judicial misconduct and promote accountability within the judiciary.
Day 2: Embracing Technological Innovation and Expanding Access to Justice

The second day of the conference focused on harnessing the transformative power of technology to modernise the justice system and improve access to justice for all Nigerians. Key topics included:

  • Digitalization of Courts: Participants explored the vast potential of technology to streamline court processes and enhance efficiency. This includes adopting electronic filing systems, online case management platforms, virtual hearings, and other innovative tools. By embracing digital solutions, the judiciary can reduce costs, improve case management, and make justice more accessible to citizens, particularly those in remote areas.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): The conference recognised the increasing importance of ADR mechanisms, such as arbitration and mediation, as viable alternatives to traditional litigation. ADR can offer faster, more cost-effective, and less adversarial solutions to disputes, thus alleviating the burden on the courts and promoting amicable resolutions. The NBA-SLP underscored the need for comprehensive legal frameworks to govern ADR processes, ensure fairness and transparency, and encourage their wider use in Nigeria.
  • Timely Dispensation of Justice: Participants expressed deep concern about the pervasive delay problem in the Nigerian justice system. The conference explored various strategies to expedite case resolution, including setting clear time frames for different types of cases, imposing sanctions on lawyers who engage in frivolous adjournments, and expanding the use of technology to manage caseloads more efficiently. Additionally, the conference emphasised the need for adequate funding and resources for the judiciary to address the root causes of delay.

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Conference Resolutions and Recommendations:

Based on the insightful discussions and deliberations during the first two days of the conference, the NBA-SLP resolved to:

  1. Advocate for increased investment in judicial capacity:
    • Expand funding for judicial training programmes to enhance legal knowledge and skills.
    • Provide adequate research assistance to judges to enable well-informed decision-making.
    • Ensure that judges are adequately remunerated to attract and retain top legal talent.
  2. Promote the adoption of technological innovations in the justice system:
    • Accelerate the digitalization of court processes through electronic filing, online case management, and virtual hearings.
    • Invest in the necessary infrastructure and technology to support digital transformation.
    • Provide training and support to legal professionals and court staff to ensure the effective use of digital tools.
  3. Advocate for the development and strengthening of ADR mechanisms:
    • Develop comprehensive legal frameworks for arbitration, mediation, and other ADR mechanisms.
    • Raise awareness about the benefits of ADR among legal practitioners and the public.
    • Encourage the use of ADR in appropriate cases to reduce the burden on the courts and promote amicable dispute resolution.
  4. Strengthen ethical standards in the legal profession:
    • Implement stricter disciplinary measures for lawyers’ unethical conduct.
    • Establish a Judicial Public Complaints Committee to investigate allegations of judicial misconduct.
    • Promote a culture of ethics and professionalism within the legal community.
  5. Advocate for measures to expedite case resolution:
    • Set clear time frames for different types of cases.
    • Impose sanctions on lawyers who engage in frivolous adjournments.
    • Expand the use of technology to manage caseloads more efficiently.
    • Address the root causes of delay, such as inadequate funding and resources for the judiciary.

Conclusion:

As the NBA-SLP Annual Conference progresses, further discussions and resolutions are anticipated. The commitment to improving the administration of justice in Nigeria remains steadfast, focusing on addressing challenges and implementing meaningful reforms to create a more efficient, equitable, and accessible legal system for all Nigerians.

Mrs. Boma Alabi, SAN

Chairman, NBA-SLP.

NBASLP2024 #AdministrationOfJustice #LegalReform #JudicialCapacity #TechInCourts #ADR #EthicalStandards #NigerianLaw #LegalProfession #KanoConference

Photos from the NBA-SLP Annual Conference 2024
(L) NBA President, (M) Baffa Bichi, (R) Alh Abdullahi Musa
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