THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN COURTS AND TRIBUNAL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
The judicial powers of the Federation and of States are vested in Courts established by section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and other courts established for the Federation by an Act of the National Assembly or in case of States, Law made by the relevant State House of Assembly. The Judicial powers gradually, due to increase in litigations and criminal trials beyond the capacity of the regular courts, were no longer exclusive to the Courts but rather had to be shared with tribunals established for particular purposes. This development consequently brought about two parallel systems of adjudicating institutions operating side by side.
While some tribunals, like the investment and Securities Tribunal, have justified their establishment by dispensing Justice timeously and by experts in the particular field of the tribunal’s jurisdiction, others seem to have defeated the very essence of their establishment like Code of Conduct Tribunals. Tribunals like the Code of Conduct Tribunal apart from being redundant is seen as an agent of the Federal Government since it is absolutely controlled by the Code of Conduct Bureau, which is directly under the Presidency. This explains the redundant nature of the tribunal as it serves more or less as a stooge of the Presidency from where most of the culprits should have been arraigned.
The Laws establishing various tribunals have their inbuilt shortcomings that hinder the trial procedure or occasion unnecessary delays contrary to the very essence of establishing the tribunals.
The courts in Nigeria could be said to have contributed in some measure to the development of Law, particularly in the field of animal Law and Constitutional Law. However administration of Justice seems to suffer several challenges. Some of these challenges were attributed to factors associated with adversarial system, coupled with rancorous nature of proceedings and so on. Details of this has been vividly elucidated. The development in respect of funding of Courts has been pointed out.
The court of law is an organ belonging to the judiciary department in the 3 arms of government in Nigeria. Public administration of justice is the primary function of the court. The courts are established with certain powers. The doctrine of separation of powers, places the three arms of government (Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary) on equal pedestals but with different areas of authority and responsibility. While the executive, implements laws enacted by the legislature in the course of governance, the courts interprets same for easy implementation. The courts, therefore, has long been an instrument of stabilization and a tool for administration of civil Justice.
Administration of justice is one of the vital functions of the courts. Generally, the word justice may mean reasonableness, fairness, equality of treatment e.t.c however, the courts have the most authoritative say in the determination and pronouncement of what justice is in every situation involving
claims and counter claims to legal rights and duties. Justice viewed in this context is an attempt to define the workings of the Nigerian courts in relation to how it determine and adjudicate matters brought before it. Relevant to this, is the concept of fair hearing, composition of the courts and the correctness of procedural rules. All these must be taken into account before the courts can perform its role and function Justiciably; hence section 36 of the 1999 constitution emphasizes on the right to fair hearing both in civil and criminal matters. This implies both substantive and procedural fairness taking into accounts jurisdiction and composition of courts.
The relevance of the courts has been emphasized by the jurists and writers to include as part of the functioning tools in governance. A court occupies a very unique position and performs near omnipotent functions, deriving from the role assigned to it in the constitution1. In Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) provides that, “The judicial power of the federation shall be vested in the courts.”2 This power includes the power to adjudicate disputes between all persons, government and any person, interpretation of the law, determination of appropriateness of all actions, proceedings, citizens’ rights and obligations of government, agencies, corporate bodies or persons.3 The
functions of the courts therefore, include the promotion of justice, rule of law, stability, democracy, human rights and good governance and opportunity for sustainable progress, all of which form the bedrock of civil justice. In other words, the courts play a vital role in ensuring justice, by enabling a conducive atmosphere for
individuals and groups to appreciate their potentials and strive to contribute their quota in dispensation of justice. The court does not only guarantee humane and tolerable governance but also ensures stability in the political system4.
As highlighted above, the judicial powers of the Federation and of States are vested in courts established by section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and other courts established for the Federation by an Act of the National Assembly or in case of states, law made by the relevant State House of Assembly. The judicial powers gradually, due to increase in litigations and criminal trials beyond the capacity of the regular courts,
were no longer exclusive to the courts but rather had to be shared with tribunals established particular purpose. This development consequently brought about two parallel systems of adjudicating institutions operating side by side.
While some tribunals, like the investment and Securities Tribunals, have justified their establishment by dispensing justice timeously and by experts in the particular filed of the tribunal’s jurisdiction, others seem to have defeated the very essence of their establishment like Special Military Tribunals, which hardly respect the fundamental right to fair hearing much less any other right. Tribunals like the Code of Conduct Tribunal apart from……………