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Access to Justice in Nigerian Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

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Access to Justice in Nigerian Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

Access to Justice in Nigerian Criminal and Civil Justice Systems


Ani Comfort Chinyere (Mrs.)

LL.B (Hons.) BL; LL.M., Ph. D

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The effectiveness of a country’s judicial system can be measured by the efficacy of its access to justice. Access to justice is an essential instrument for human rights and the rule of law to flourish in Nigeria. The setbacks to access to justice in Nigerian civil and criminal justice system are quite exigent. These setbacks include: delays, cost of litigation, complex legal rules and procedure, lack of awareness and legal knowledge. Delay and corruption are also some of the factors hindering smooth flow of access to justice. This article reveals that it is only when an individual has unhindered access to the law courts or other medium that guarantees speedy affordable justice that it can really be said that his rights have been enforced. Such rights include his human rights, contractual rights etc. The full embrace of emerging processes like restorative justice and victim offender mediation, are guaranteed to bring justice not only for the State and the offender, but also to the victim of crime. The full adoption and practice of case flow management, front loading of cases, pretrial conference and alternative dispute resolution,(ADR) are certain to reduce or eliminate delay and greatly reduce cost of litigation. Class action litigation and public interest litigation are forms of civil action that have the capability of satisfying the yearning of a group of people, especially the poor to access justice, through a single suit. 


Access to justice refers to the substantive and procedural mechanisms existing in any particular society designed to ensure that citizens have the opportunity of seeking redress for the violation of their legal rights within the legal system. It focuses on the existing rules and procedures to be used by citizens to approach the courts for the determination of their civil rights and obligations[1]. It may also be considered as the ability of people from disadvantaged groups to prevent and overcome human poverty by seeking and obtaining a remedy, through the justice system, for grievances in accordance with human rights principles and standards[2]. One of the prerequisites of a system that assures access to justice is that the judiciary must be independent. An independent judiciary is the most effective guarantee that society has for ensuring constitutionalism, individual rights, law, order, and stability.

This article essentially deals with the concept of access to justice in Nigerian civil and criminal justice systems. It studies the factors that influence it, notably, delay and corruption. The article examines the various laws; both international and domestic that guarantee access to justice for Nigerians and considers how these laws have been deployed to widen the access to justice in Nigeria.

This article is structured in three major segments. The first segment discusses the avenues for accessing justice. It considers the international and regional courts and committees like the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the ECOWAS Court, and the Nigerian judiciary. The second segment deals with access to justice in criminal matters. It discusses the right to counsel and legal aid for indigent criminal defendants. Plea Bargain and restorative justice or justice for crime victims are also discussed. The article canvasses the necessity for the embrace of a complete victims remedy through the practice of restorative justice.

The third segment focuses on access to justice in the Nigerian civil justice system. It recognizes delay as one of the major hindrance to access to justice in civil proceedings just like in criminal proceedings, and goes on to discuss processes put in place to eliminate or at least reduce such delays. Such processes include: case flow management, the court automated information management system, the frontloading system, and the pre-trial conference. A discuss on access to justice in the twenty first century will not be absolute without considering some emerging concepts like alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This segment x-rays the practices of the ADR outfits; the Lagos State Citizen’s Mediation Centre (CMC) and the Multi-Door Courthouses (MDC). It proposes ADR as akin to a vehicle loaded with the answers to the problems encountered while seeking access to justice. Other processes that help convey justice to groups like class action litigation and public interest litigation are also discussed.

1. Avenues for Accessing Justice

When we talk of access to justice, it is important to start with determining who gives the justice.  Where can an aggrieved person go to seek redress or justice? Such avenues can be found in international, regional and domestic fora


The United Nations recognises that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all

members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. To maintain justice and freedom for the human race, the United Nations has set up several judicial and quasi judicial organs in form of courts and committees. Though most of these organs can only be accessed by States who are parties to the relevant Convention setting up the Court or Committee, yet the effect of any decision of such court or committee is felt by the individuals in those countries that are subject to the decision.

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice, also referred to as the World Court or ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.  It is located at The Hague in the Netherlands and was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations. It began work in April 1946.[3] It settles legal disputes between states and gives advisory opinions to the UN and its specialized agencies.  Its statute is an integral part of the United Nations Charter. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

Besides the ICJ, there are various other international Criminal Tribunals that exercise criminal jurisdiction. These include the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and the more recent Special Court for Sierra Leone.


The United Nations Human Rights Committee

Article 28 of the United Nations Covenant on civil and political rights (CCPR)[4] established the Human Rights Committee as the organ for the implementation of the CCPR.  Individuals can only take matters to the Human Rights Committee through the Optional Protocol. The Protocol unlike other methods of implementation of the Civil and Political Rights Covenant is not part of the Covenant. It is a separate treaty, which was adopted and opened for signature and ratification by the General Assembly on 16th December 1966 and entered into force on 23rd March 1976.[5] It is one of the exceptions to the long-standing conception of international law, as the law, which governs relations between states alone.[6] By the optional procedure, the Human Rights Committee could receive and consider communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant.  The Committee cannot receive any communication if it concerns a state party to the Covenant that is not a party to the protocol. A state can only ratify the protocol only if the state has ratified or acceded to the Covenant.[7]


Before the Committee considers any communication from an individual, it must have ascertained the following factors:

  1. That the individual has exhausted all available domestic remedies, except where the remedies are unreasonably prolonged.[8]
  2. That the communication is not anonymous.[9]
  3. That the communication is not an abuse of the right of submission of such communication.[10]
  4. That the communication is not incompatible with the Covenant on civil and political rights.[11]
  5. That the state party complained against is a party to the protocol.
  6. That the same matter is not being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement.[12]


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights[13]

Article 26 of the African Charter gives States parties to the Charter the duty to guarantee the independence of the Courts and to allow the establishment and improvement of appropriate national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the  Charter.

Article 30 establishes the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensures their protection in Africa. Part of the functions of the Commission is to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights under conditions laid down by the African Charter and interpret all the provisions of the Charter at the request of a State party, an institution of the OAU or an African organization recognized by the OAU[14].

The Commission works through reports or communications from State parties, individuals, groups of individuals and NGOs. The Commission will only entertain Communications relating to human and peoples’ rights that meet the following criteria:

  1. Indicate their authors even if the latter request anonymity.
  2. Are compatible with the Charter of the Organization of African Unity or with the present Charter.
  3. Are not written in disparaging or insulting language directed against the State concerned and its institutions or to the Organization of African Unity.
  4. Are not based exclusively on news discriminated through the mass media.
  5. Are sent after exhausting local remedies, if any, unless it is obvious that this procedure is unduly prolonged.
  6. Are submitted within a reasonable period from the time local remedies are exhausted or from the date the Commission is seized of the matter, and
  7. Do not deal with cases which have been settled by these States involved in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, or the Charter of the Organization of African Unity or the provisions of the present Charter.[15]

 The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) came into being on January 25, 2004 with the ratification by fifteen member states of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Establishing the ACHPR[16]. It is a regional Court that rules on African Union States’ compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Court is located in Arusha, Tanzania. The Court was set up to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples` Rights.[17]

Access to the Court is open to the following:[18] the State Party which has lodged a complaint to the Commission; the State Party against which the complaint has been lodged at the Commission; the State Party whose citizen is a victim of human rights violation; African Intergovernmental Organizations; a State Party who has an interest in a case[19]; relevant Non Governmental organizations (NGOs) with observer status before the Commission and Individuals[20]

The jurisdiction of the Court extends to all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol and any other relevant Human Rights instrument ratified by the States concerned[21]. The Court can apply as sources of law any relevant human rights instrument ratified by the State in question, in addition to the African Charter[22]. In other words, the ACHPR could become the judicial arm of human rights agreements concluded under the aegis of the United Nations[23]. Unlike the African Commission, the African Court possesses the authority to issue a binding and enforceable decision on cases brought before it.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice was set up in 2001 pursuant to the Protocol on the Community Court of Justice[24] and the provisions of Articles 6 and 15 of the 1993 Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States. Article 76 (2) of the 1993 Revised Treaty and Articles 9 and 10 of the Protocol, set out the jurisdiction and the rights of access to the Court.

The primary function of the Court is the interpretation and application of the ECOWAS Treaty and the Protocols and Conventions.

The first case the Court handled was the case of Mr. Afolabi Olajide vs. Federal Republic of Nigeria[25]. In this case, the applicant instituted this action, claiming among other things, that the unilateral closure by the Federal Republic of Nigeria of her boarder with Benin Republic from the 9th to 15th of August 2003, is unlawful and a breach of Article 3 (2) (d) (iii) and Article 4 (g) of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and a violation of his right to freedom of movement of his person and goods, right to egress and ingress as guaranteed by the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States, 1993, the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods and Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


The respondent objected to the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit and urged the Court to strike out the case. He submitted that the appellant had no right of direct access to the Court. He contended that under Article 9 of the Protocol, the only instance a national would have access to the Court is when his country brings action on his behalf. The Court while striking out the proceedings, held that the contracting parties to the Protocol are the member states of the ECOWAS and that the applicant could not bring the proceedings against his country or member state, which is saddled with the responsibility of instituting proceedings on his behalf. The Court, would have made a landmark decision on the interpretation of the rights under the African Charter, bothering on human rights, but for the denial of jurisdiction.


This case brought out the limited scope of the Court and the denial of access to ECOWAS citizens. The judgment provoked an intense debate on the urgent need to amend the Court Protocol with the sole aim of accommodating individual’s access to the Court[26]. Criticisms of the provisions of the Protocol and the effect on the individual necessitated the adoption of the Supplementary Protocol[27] amending the preamble and articles. The Supplementary Protocol guarantees the basic fundamental freedoms to ECOWAS citizens. Under the amendment, individuals and corporate bodies can bring action for the determination of an act or inaction of a community official, which violates the rights of the
individuals or corporate bodies. Individuals can also apply for relief for violation of their human rights. All that is required now is for member states to ratify the Supplementary Protocol.


The Nigerian Judiciary

One of the prerequisites of a well established democracy is a liberated, strong, impartial and well motivated judiciary. The Judicial systems in flourishing democracies, besides being the custodian of constitutional governance and democracy, should be independent in every sense of the word and well equipped to dispense justice to all and sundry without hindrance or prejudice. It should inspire belief of citizens that justice shall be done in all cases.[28]

The Constitution[29] established the Federal and the State Courts and gives the National Assembly or any House of Assembly, the right to establish or abolish Courts with subordinate jurisdiction to the ones enumerated in the Constitution.[30]  The following courts are the only superior courts of record in Nigeria:

  1. The Supreme Court of Nigeria;
  2. The Court of Appeal;
  3. The Federal High Court;
  4. The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  5. A High Court of a State;
  6. The Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  7. Sharia Court of Appeal of a State;
  8. The Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  9. Customary Court of Appeal of a State


These Courts are empowered to adjudicate upon matters between persons, or between government or authority and any person in Nigeria, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.[31] Besides these Courts, there are other Courts of special jurisdictions, namely:

  1. the juvenile Courts
  2. Coroner’s Courts
  3. Court of Resolution.

In addition to the above mentioned Courts, we have the National Assembly Election Tribunals and the Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Tribunals[32].


Access to the courts is a mirage to a great number of Nigerians who have one redress or the other to seek in the court of law. This situation remains so for the average Nigerian for a myriad of reasons aptly articulated by Justice Oputa. In his words:

“In his search for justice and redress resulting in the effectuation of his rights, the ordinary citizen of Nigeria is caught in the mess of a rather vicious circle:


  1. The Court cannot adjudicate upon and effectuate his rights unless there is a suit complaining about the breach or threatened breach of these rights filed in court.
  2. The people especially the illiterate masses of our country do not even know what their human rights are. They may therefore not even know when those rights have been or are being infringed.
  3. Even if the ordinary citizen knows of his rights and knows that they are being infringed, he may be too afraid to sue the powers that be. It does require considerable courage to drag the Chief Executive or functionaries of the Government to Court. And very few people have that courage.
  4. Where there is an awareness of the right and the knowledge or realization of its breach or threatened breach and the courage to prosecute the claim, the prospective litigant may be too poor to embark on the luxury of a costly and prolonged litigation up to the Supreme Court”.[33]   


The judiciary should truly be independent. In this respect, it should be politically insulated from the legislative and the executive power. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests. In this respect, separation of powers requires that the judiciary alone holds all powers relative to the judicial function and the legislative and executive branches may not interfere in any aspect of the judicial branch. Any pressures upon the judiciary should be opposed by all groups.[34] A judiciary that dispenses, and is seen to dispense, fair and impartial justice, efficiently and effectively is a prerequisite for unhindered access to justice for litigants and accused persons.


Fiscal independence and accountability are vital to the development of the Nigerian judiciary. However, to reap their benefits and ensure the long-term sustainability of the developments, the judicial appointments system must also be reformed. The current rules and procedures for screening and nominating judges must be improved to ensure that they are transparent and respond to the need to nominate competent and impartial members of the bar. In the case of promotions, the rules and procedures also have to be linked to a transparent and systematic performance monitoring and evaluation system. Incentives and institutional support must be improved to encourage capable candidates to volunteer for judicial posts, and encourage desirable incumbents to remain in government service.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) carried out a project in Nigeria from March to July 2003 on Strengthening Judicial Integrity and Capacity in Nigeria.[35] The project among other things, dealt with:

  1. Setting clear objectives concerning:
  2. Access to justice
  3. Timeliness and quality of the trial process
  • Public confidence in the courts
  1. Efficiency and effectiveness in dealing with public complaints, and
  2. Co-ordination throughout the criminal justice system.
  3. The introduction of measurable performance indicators for the above mentioned objectives; including institutional integrity, judicial independence, the abuse of substantive and procedural discretion, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of the justice system.
  4. The establishment of a coalition of key stakeholders, representing the three pillars of integrity, namely, the justice system institutions, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the civil society, represented by the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the mass media and the Bar Association.
  5. The fast track implementation of reform measures, which have potentials to impact standards of judicial conduct, raise public confidence in the judicial system and strengthen the rule of law.
  6. Increased awareness regarding the:
    1. Negative impact of corruption
    2. Levels of corruption in the judiciary
    3. The role of the judiciary in combating corruption
    4. The various judicial reform efforts.

It is essential to urgently implement the output and recommendations of the UNODC project on Strengthening Judicial Integrity,[36] which is a blueprint for fighting corruption within the judiciary.


  1. Access to Justice in Criminal Matters

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirms that everyone is entitled to the equal protection of the law; that the accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, in a fair and public hearing, by an “independent and impartial” tribunal; and that no one should suffer arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.  Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[37] provides that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. The Covenant grants anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention free access to a court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.[38]  It affirms the right of every human being to equality before the law court and tribunal, fair and public hearing, etc.[39]

At the regional level, Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights[40] also states that every individual shall be equal before the law and shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.  Article 7, goes further to emphasize the above provision by stating that every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. The right to have his cause heard consists of certain ingredients which the article enumerates as follows: the right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations and customs in force; the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal; the right to defence, including the right to be defended by counsel of his choice; the right to be tried within a reasonable time by an impartial court or tribunal. The Charter prohibits condemning anyone for an act or omission which did not constitute a legally punishable offence at the time it was committed and inflicting penalty for an offence for which no provision was made at the time it was committed. Punishment is personal and can be imposed only on the offender.

The Constitution is the major domestic statute that provides protection for persons accused of crimes. Besides the fundamental human rights provisions which have some elements of equal protection and equal treatment of citizens, section 36 (4) of the 1999 Constitution[41], is specific on giving justice to the offender. The rights under the fair hearing provisions are basically concerned about due process and they are covered by section 36 (4)-(12). They include: the right to be tried in public within a reasonable time[42]; right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty;[43] right to be informed promptly, in the language which he understands, of the nature of the offence;[44] right to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;[45] right to defend himself in person or by a legal practitioner of his own choice;[46] right to examine witnesses for the prosecution and have witnesses testify on his behalf;[47] right to an interpreter;[48] right to obtain copies of judgment;[49] right not to be held guilty of a retrospectively created offence;[50] right to protection against double jeopardy (that is, right to plead autrefois acquit or autrefois convict[51]) right not to be tried for the same offence after pardon;[52] right not to be compelled to give evidence at trial[53]; and right not to be convicted of an unwritten offence.[54]


Amnesty International reported in February 2008, that at least 65 percent of Nigeria’s prison inmates have never been convicted of any crime, with some awaiting trial for up to ten years. The Report revealed that most inmates in Nigerian prisons are too poor to afford a lawyer, with only one in seven awaiting trial inmates having access to private legal representation. The report went on to state that only 91 legal aid lawyers work in the country and stated the appalling prison conditions, which included severe overcrowding, which seriously damage the mental and physical health of thousands.[55] Amnesty International also exposed how all too often, people not suspected of committing any crime are imprisoned along with convicted criminals. Some were arrested in place of a family member the police could not locate; others suffer from mental illness and were brought to prison by families unable or unwilling to take care of them. Most have no lawyer to advocate on their behalf.[56]

Right to Counsel and Legal Aid[57] for Indigent Criminal Defendants
One of the most important conduits for effective access to justice for a person accused of a crime is having counsel to advice and defend the person. The philosophical basis of the right to counsel was articulated by Samuel Dash,[58] when he said:

“Without the assistance of counsel, the defendant is practically powerless to challenge the prosecution. It is the lesson of human experience that even in the case of the most well-intentioned prosecutors, the absence of such a challenge can result in carelessness and failure to review the evidence and properly prepare the case, which makes it easier to convict the innocent”.[59]


The importance of the assistance of counsel to an accused person was also underscored by David Fellman in the following words:

“Without the assistance of counsel, most persons accused of crimes are not likely to have an adequate defence. A defendant needs a lawyer as urgently as a sick man needs a doctor, and in many instances, more urgently, for while nature often heals the sick without outside aid, it seems to have little concern for the plight of the accused”.[60]  


Equal access to law is an essential feature of the rule of law and the adversarial system, which we operate,[61] yet the Constitution fails to back it up with adequate provisions guaranteeing access to counsel for the poor. The vast majority of people charged with crimes in Nigeria as in many other countries cannot afford private counsel. Although international standards require provision of free and effective legal assistance to all indigent criminal defendants accused of serious crimes, in practice many governments fail to live up to this responsibility[62]. Sections 35 (2)[63] and 36 (6) (c)[64] of the Constitution make provisions for a person accused of crime to engage a counsel of his choice. There is no provision in the Constitution guaranteeing access to counsel for the poor. The only place the Constitution mentions provision of legal aid for the poor is under section 46 (4) (b), which empowers the National Assembly to make provisions for rendering financial assistance to any indigent citizen of Nigeria, for the purposes of prosecuting his claims as infringement of the rights under Chapter 4 of the Constitution. This provision appears to be a dormant provision. Till date, there is no known legislation that provides for financial assistance to an indigent citizen.


Some learned commentators have questioned the reality in the provisions of section 17 (2) (A) of the Constitution that every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law. Akin Oyebode contends that the Common Law principle of equality before the law is a mere fiction invented to comfort the poor and under-privileged[65]. He goes further to elucidate that despite the Legal Aid Scheme, which plays a therapeutic role, legal assistance cannot change the existing social, economic and political relationships. He asked the hypothetical question:

“What equality of legal services, indeed, can exist between that offered by a NYSC Legal Aid lawyer and that of an experienced SAN, commanding briefs in the N100, 000 bracket?”[66]


Taiwo Osipitan has also questioned the purported equality of justice when considerations of quality of justice are called to question. He queried:

“Of what use is the right to counsel if its ultimate realization depends on the financial resources of the accused person? Is our Criminal Process, which makes the quality of justice an accused person gets, dependent on his financial resources, in harmony with the fundamental social objectives of the constitution to the effect that: “Every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law?[67] Is the social contract between Nigerians to firmly and solemnly resolve to provide for a constitution for the purpose of promoting good government, welfare of all persons in our country on principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice being compromised under our criminal process?”[68] 


The right to a fair trial requires access to a lawyer during detention, interrogation, preliminary investigations trial[69] and appeal[70]. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR), does not expressly guarantee right to pre-trial assistance of counsel, yet, the right has been given international recognition by the American Convention, 1969; European Convention, 1966; and the African Charter, 1981. Principle 1 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, establishes the right to assistance at all stages of criminal process, including interrogations.[71]


While the Legal Aid Scheme provides legal advice to indigents in civil cases, it does not provide for pre-trial legal advice or representation in criminal matters.[72] Counsel can only be appointed for the criminal trial. In contrast, the recently established Office of the Public Defender, (OPD) under the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, extends its services to the pre-trial stage[73].


The former Director-General of the Legal Aid Council, Mrs. Aisha Hassan Baba, revealed that due to shortage of funds, the Council was not able to provide legal aid to the category of persons who require it in Nigeria. According to her, the under funding of the Scheme created a chain reaction of other problems such as inadequately experienced staff, lack of relevant facilities such as office equipment, reference books, stationery, transportation for visits to prisons and police stations, computers etc.[74]


The Council is funded almost exclusively with public funds from the Federal and few State governments.[75] The Legal Aid Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly has a provision requiring State and Federal Governments to make reasonable annual budgetary allocation, never less than 2% of annual budgets to the Legal Aid Fund.[76] Improving the financial strength of the Council will attract experienced lawyers to participate in the Scheme and also improve the remuneration of staff of the Council. Another major impediment of the Scheme is that many Nigerians are still unaware of the existence of the Legal Aid Council, while those who are aware are skeptical about their ability to deliver on its mandate.

The Office of the Public Defender (OPD)

The Lagos State Office of the Public Defender (OPD) was the first of its kind to be set up in Nigeria.[77] The OPD was created to deal with one of the major problems of access to justice, especially in criminal matters where cases are stalled for want of representation for accused persons.[78] The pioneer Head of the Office of Public Defender, Mrs. Bisi Akinlade while giving an account of their activities since inception, stated that about 50 persons charged with armed robbery have been discharged on merit due to the efforts of her office, and not less than 870 accused persons charged with minor offences have been discharged or their matters tried on their merits.[79] The OPD also assists in obtaining bail for persons in police custody and prison awaiting trial.  Mrs. Akinlade testified:

“…for the first time in history, a person can walk into a government department to lay complaint of an unlawful arrest and detention of a relative and there and then without paying a kobo, have legal officers assigned to secure he release of the detainee, and before the end of the day, the petitioner is fulfilled.”[80]


The new Administration of Criminal Justice Law, Lagos State 2007 (ACJL) makes it possible for a defendant to fill a form, indicating a desire to be represented by counsel of his choice or by the office of the public Defender, Legal Aid Council, or any other organization providing Legal Aid[81]. Besides, these legal aid providers enumerated above, a Pro Bono Protocol on Juvenile Justice is currently being developed, in order to assure legal aid for juveniles.[82]

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Several NGOs exist in Nigeria that render free legal aid to persons that cannot afford to retain counsel. Some of the prominent NGOs that offer such services include: Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Constitutional Rights Project (CRP), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), HURI Laws, Catholic Institute for Development Justice and Peace (CIDJAP), Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL), Society for the Welfare of Women Prisoners (SWEWP), Legal Research and Resources Development Centre (LRRDC), Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Women in Nigeria (WIN), etc. These NGOs, unlike the Legal Aid Council’s scheme, are not bound by the same scope and restrictions as the scheme. The only restrictions they might have are the operational ambit set by their programmes’ goals and capacity. The NGOs expose human rights violations, condemn infringement of human rights, fight for the release of persons unlawfully detained, and render humanitarian assistance to victims of human rights violations[83].  They spread their tentacles to every stage of criminal proceeding. Besides the visits they pay to prisons and police stations to interview inmates and select deserving cases for intervention, they also receive applications from accused persons, soliciting their legal aid.  These organizations are very valuable, and quite remarkable in the complementary roles they play in the legal aid scene. This complimentary role is however not strong enough, and there is need for them to work more closely to achieve a more focused system of legal aid.

 The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Individual Lawyers

The provision of legal services to the poor presents one of the greatest moral challenges to the legal profession[84]. The Nigerian Bar Association, with its various branches spread all over the Federation, occasionally takes up the defence of some indigent accused persons. Individual members of the Bar also take up cases of clients who cannot afford their fees, or waive part of their fees on humanitarian grounds. Section 12 of the Legal Aid Act, requires the Council to maintain a list of lawyers in each State, willing to take legal aid cases, either free or for a fee. A. A.  Adeyemi has suggested the introduction of mandatory Pro bono services in the legal profession as a condition for obtaining practicing licences[85]. This entails that every lawyer must present evidence of having handled, at least, three pro bono cases in a single year before his practicing licence is renewed.

Akin Oyebode is of the opinion that the efforts of the Legal Aid Council needs to be complimented by private initiatives of the more visible and successful members of the profession, not just as an insurance policy but as a premium due to their fellow men and women.[86]

Delay in Criminal Justice Administration

One of the most deleterious aspects of our judicial process is the time it takes to secure justice.[87] It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. Section 36 (4) of the Constitution provides that whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he is entitled to a fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal. Section 35 (4) also provides again for a trial within a reasonable time, failing which the suspect should be released.[88]  Subsection (5) goes on to explain the meaning of the expression a reasonable time:


  1. In the case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of forty kilometers, a period of one day; and
  2. In any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable.[89]


The problem of delay in trial is a direct outcome of so many other problems confronting the agencies involved in criminal justice administration. Quite often, the prosecution request for adjournments for various reasons. Notable among such adjournments are the requests to enable completion of the investigation or for the production of witnesses. The police usually arrests the suspects based on a complainant’s report without any investigation. Some lawyers do not prepare well ahead of the trial before going to court and because of this reason, they give all sorts of excuses just to obtain adjournments. Sometimes when they know that their client have got a bad case, they file all sorts of interlocutory applications just to delay or thwart the trial. Besides the problem of adjournments, the following are some of the other problems that contribute to such delays: the practice of remand; shortage of personnel and underutilization of available staff; personnel transfer; delay tactics, indifference and laziness of lawyers; inadequate funding, poor conditions of service; shortage and obsoletism of equipments; staff shortage and inadequate utilization of available staff, etc.[90]


The Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) 2007 contains a lot of innovative provisions aimed at ensuring speedy trials and eradicating prolonged detention. It also contains a time frame for remand orders. In Lagos State presently, a Magistrate has the power to remand a person arrested for any indictable offence only after examining the reasons for the arrest and being satisfied that there is probable cause to remand such a person, pending legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions and/ or the arraignment of such a person before the appropriate Court or Tribunal.[91]


In realization of the need to provide access to justice; a user friendly system of justice and to respond to the issue of delays in the Administration of Justice, the Federal Government has embarked on various reform initiatives[92].

The Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Administration of Justice (PCRAJ)[93] came up with the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, 2005 (ACJ Bill) meant to replace the present Criminal Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Act. The Committee identified long awaiting trial detention, associated with the application of the present remand system as the main problem of the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria.  The ACJ Bill among other things contains provisions to the effect that a Magistrate may have jurisdiction to take remand proceedings even though the person is arrested on allegation of having committed an offence, which if charged, he cannot be arraigned before that magistrate. In other words, the Bill conferred jurisdiction to hear remand proceedings on the magistrate, which is unrelated to the jurisdiction to try the substantive offence with which the person may be finally charged with before a court.[94] The Bill also contains a time protocol for remand[95].



Corruption is a major factor that orchestrates delay and hinders the free flow of access to justice in Nigeria. All the participants in the administration of both criminal and civil justice, namely, the police, the judiciary, legal practitioners, litigants and the prisons, are practically involved in corruption, which manifests in diverse measures.[96] The police exercise the discretion whether or not to prosecute an accused person, based on the evidence it has before it. However, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute may be influenced by the gratification he may have received or have been promised. He could recommend non-prosecution in a case that requires prosecution, or prosecute on issues that would ordinarily not require prosecution. Where he decides to ignore the relevant evidence and decline to prosecute, the tendency is that the officer will have to suppress the crucial evidence. Corruption also rears its head in the decision to either oppose or not to oppose bail applications.


Within the trial process, elements of corruption occur in the decision to strike out, acquit or convict the accused person and in the imposition of sentences. There are always two ways to it. One party is favoured unduly at the detriment of the other party. Where he received gratification, his decision would lean towards the bidding of the party[97] giving the gratification and the other party is short changed.


Lawyers in private practice are not left out in the facets of corruption that take place in the private sector. Most times, they act as link between their clients and the officer involved. Right from when they go to see their clients in police or prison custody, some lawyers gratify the police or warder to see their clients; to obtain bail or for the police to drop the charge against their client. Where they don’t do it personally, they encourage their clients to do so.


The administrative or supporting staff of the judiciary, like the court registrars and court clerks are also involved in corrupt activities. The supporting officers in the judiciary, almost always expect gratification for performing very simple official duties. They brazenly ask for money for lunch for something as little as appending a stamp or signature on a document. Where one needs something like copy of a ruling or judgment, the person might experience some delays, unless he or she promises gratification or has already given it. The court registry staff are often accused of holding lawyers to ransom.[98] It is common knowledge that police still collect money from arrested persons or their relatives before they are released on bail. Investigators sometimes deliberately delay investigation or omit vital information as a result of corruption. In some cases, prosecutors being influenced by gratification received from either the complainant or the accused person, manipulate the trial process to suit the gratifier. Some of the cases of excessive requests for adjournment by the prosecution or the unwarranted grant of adjournment by the judicial officer can be traced to corruption. The prosecutor, accused person’s counsel or the judicial officer could feign sickness and fail to show up for trial, the prosecutor or accused’s counsel could fail to produce the witnesses and then give reasons why the court should adjourn the matter. These are only a few of the ramifications of corruption in the administration of justice.[99]


Plea Bargain

A “plea bargain” is a deal offered by a prosecutor as an incentive for a defendant to plead guilty.[100] The prosecutor negotiates with the defence and reaches an agreement as to what will happen to the defendant in return for a guilty plea.


This might take the form of agreeing to dismiss certain charges in return for a plea to other charges; it might take the form of agreeing to a particular sentence; it might be as little as saying the prosecution will simply remain silent and make no recommendation whatsoever as to the sentence.[101]  Before the passage into law of the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, (ACJL) 2007, there was no statutory provision for plea bargain in our laws in Nigeria. The only semblance of a plea bargain provision was the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act),[102] which made provisions for the possibility of compounding any of the offences contained in the Act. [103] The case of Former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun[104], Mr. Emmanuel Nwude[105], and former Governor Lucky Igbinedion are a few cases where plea bargaining was used to reduce the charges and lower the sentences.  The ACJL makes concrete provisions on plea bargain. Sections 75 and 76 of the ACJL provide for plea bargain and sentence agreements. The Attorney General of the State has the power to consider and accept a plea bargain from a person charged with any offence where the Attorney-General is of the view that the acceptance of such plea bargain is in the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process[106].


Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is emerging as an important way of giving justice to crime victims[107].  It is a means of holding offenders responsible in a manner that respond to the needs of offenders, victims and the community.  Rather than the present heavy reliance on the cost expensive imprisonment as a response to all crimes, restorative justice holds considerable promise as a cost-effective alternative to imprisonment with a major purpose of healing the wounded victim financially, socially and emotionally[108].  Compensation, restoration, and replacement, which are the major fruits of restorative justice, are more beneficial options for the victim of crime than the retributive punishment inflicted by the state on the offender.


Restorative justice has its origin in traditional African dispute resolution. The community was involved in the maintenance of law and order and the interest of the victim was at the fore front. Several modes of penalties were employed in the African method, with the major object of realizing reconciliation, restitution and harmony. Serious crimes were punished with banishment, sometimes death.[109] These forms of punishment of course excluded imprisonment, which is acknowledged to have originated with the advent of colonialism.


The United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power of 1986,[110] grants the victims of crime a plethora of rights. It also declares that informal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes, including mediation, arbitration and customary justice or indigenous practices, should be utilized where appropriate to facilitate conciliation and redress for victims.


The United Nations also passed a resolution on the Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters[111] to establish common principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters.

A search of our statute books reveals that there are scanty provisions dotted in some statutes dealing with victims remedies.[112] Very little and indeed less than marginal emphasis is placed on victim participation. The major remedies evident in our laws are: restitution, compensation, replacement and damages. In recognition of the fact that crime is first and foremost a violation of individual rights, and an infraction of social relationship and social values, these restorative justice remedies, are geared towards making sanctions for offences compensatory and intended not only to restore the victim, as much as possible, to his previous position, but also to go beyond restitution, sometimes including an apology and atonement by the offender. Hence, the victim of an offence would not feel alienated from the justice system; rather, he or she would have a sense that justice has been fully accessed. Regrettably, where the legislations for these remedies are in place, judicial officers make little or no use of the provisions[113]. This unfortunate situation has been blamed on the unsatisfactory state of the provisions.[114]


Victim-offender mediation, (VOM) which is a major component of restorative justice, is a voluntary process that provides an opportunity for the parties, both victim and offender, to meet and discuss the crime and its consequence in a structured controlled environment[115]. There are numerous psychological benefits for victims who have a chance to confront their offender that do not exist in a criminal trial. Revenge does not restore the losses of victims, answer questions, relieve fears, provide closure, or help to make sense of a tragedy.[116] The restorative circle causes offenders to see their actions in new ways after hearing the intimate details of a crime victim’s life before, during, and after the crime.[117]


Under the Criminal Justice (Victim’s Remedies) (CJVR) Bill 2006[118], victims are granted some rights, which fall under four major groups, namely: Pretrial rights, rights during trial, rights during sentencing and post sentencing rights. The CJVR Bill makes copious provisions on victim’s remedies. A court may in addition to or in lieu of any other penalty authorized by law grant compensation and restitution to a victim of crime.[119] Where any other penalty, like fine is also ordered, priority is accorded to execution of the restitution or compensation order.[120]

  1. Access to Justice in Civil Justice System

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights makes several provisions relating to access to justice. Primarily, each State Party to the Covenants undertook to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms are violated shall have an effective remedy by having his rights determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State[121].

The problem of delay is a major challenge in both the criminal and the civil justice system.[122] The average duration of a trial, from the time of issue of summons to the point in time when a final judgment is delivered by the court is eight years, in many instances, beyond ten years with the possibility of the litigation cost exceeding the value of the subject matter of the legal action.[123]

Bolaji Owasanoye identified the following factors among others as the causes of delay in the civil justice systems: Too many cases being listed for same day in spite of impracticality of their proceeding;  Lawyers capitalizing on scheduling too many cases for same day knowing that they will not go on so they do not prepare; not using cogent parts of the rules of procedure available to narrow down the issues like-admissions, settlement of issues, discovery etc. and  some cumbersome rules of procedure that left room for delay.[124]  To eliminate or at least reduce delays encountered in civil litigation, some processes have been put in place and are gaining considerable ground, especially in Lagos State.  These processes are discussed below.


Case Flow Management

To boost prompt delivery and access to justice, new case flow management procedures have been established for the Lagos State Judiciary. Case flow management procedure is a mechanism whereby the rules allow the Judge or the Registrar to take a more proactive role in seeing to the attainment of justice by the expeditious trial of actions[125]. Under the Rules, the judges have a duty to manage the case flow. They are now clearly guided as to when and how this is to be approached. They have the opportunity to take over the management of the case after the defence (or reply where applicable) has been served. This is because in all proceedings each party is under a duty to define the factual issues disputed by them and file them at court within 7 days of the close of pleadings. The pre-trial information sheet that the parties complete and return helps in the effective management of the case by assisting the judge in the important task of settling the issues in the case.


All Judges as well as senior staff members in administration have been trained in applying these new procedure through a series of workshops organized by the National Centre for State Courts (NCSC).[126] Judicial case management if effectively administered provides a valuable tool in a nation’s quest for a more efficient civil justice system that provides low cost and speedy trial – enhancing access to justice[127].  In addition, to deal more expeditiously with the heavy case load, the High Court has been divided into five Judicial Divisions: General Civil Division, Commercial Division, Criminal Division, Lands Division, Family and Probate Division. This new structure has a positive impact on the case flow within the judiciary[128].

The Court Automated Information Management System

The Court Automated Information Management System ensures that the entire civil litigation case flow from filing to final disposition is streamlined, improved upon and automated.
Every Court Process that is filed in Court is electronically recorded at the point
of filing and is viewable in the system with each activity that has taken place regarding that process. Processes and cases can be tracked and managed, thereby eliminating delays and document loss and reducing case processing time. By the time the case reaches the Court, all the key and vital data of the
Case have already been captured into the system including the scanned version of the filed process and the Judge can view in advance, full information on Cases assigned to him/her and he/she can begin to prepare for the Case, before the physical Case file gets to the Court. Once the Cases are in the Court, it is the responsibility of the Court Registrars and Secretaries to update the Cases daily as proceedings take place, and processes are brought to Court, that is, update the Case Inventory, i.e. process, proceedings and correspondence etc.[129] s


The Frontloading System

This is one of the new processes introduced by the new Lagos State Civil Procedure Rules 2004. By this procedure, oral and documentary evidence to be led in support of the pleadings are filed and served along with the pleadings. By Order 2(1) a list of witnesses to be called at trial, the written statements on oath of such witnesses and copies of every document to be relied on at the trial must accompany the claimant’s statement of claim at the time the originating process begins. Failure to comply with such a requirement will lead to the originating process being rejected by the court. Within 14 days of the service of process upon him, the defendant must comply with a similar requirement, that is service of the defence together with copies of documentary evidence, a list of witnesses and their written statements on oath. Any reply to the defence must be filed within 7 days of receipt of the defence. A party may amend his originating process and/or pleadings at any time before the pre-trial conference but not more than twice during the trial before closing his case[130].

This procedure has a lot of far reaching advantages where it is followed properly.  It eliminates the element of surprise in trials. While the parties and the judge appreciate the nature of case better, the counsel has a better opportunity to prepare for the case before the actual trial begins[131]. The requirement for a thorough preparation of the case before proceedings are commenced should discourage some of the weaker cases from starting at all, and furthermore, lawyers will have to think twice before issuing proceedings.[132]
Pre-Trial Conference

Order 25 (1) of the Lagos State Civil Procedure Rules 2004, introduced the pre-trial conference as an opportunity for the parties to consider whether or not they should go to trial. The claimant must apply for the issuance of a Pre-trial Conference Notice as in Form 18 within 14 days of the close of pleadings. The Judge then orders the issuance of the Pre-trial Conference Notice accompanied by a Pre-trial Information Sheet. The Pre-trial Conference Notice notifies the parties of the date of the Pre-trial Conference hearing and its purpose. The Pre-trial Information Sheet must be completed and returned to the Court seven days before the hearing. The questions that this sheet poses and the information that it calls for are detailed. This is an important document and the more information that the parties provide in answer to it the more effective the management of the case. It will assist the judge in the crucially important task of “settling” the issues in the case. The main objectives of the Pre-trial Conference are to reduce delay, save cost and ensure smooth proceedings.[133]  Pre-trial Conference helps to reduce the contest on documentary evidence, because with the documents already front-loaded, it becomes clear which documents would be objected to thereby reducing the time spent in objecting to documents and ruling on those objections.[134]

The purposes of the pre-trial conference as set out by Order 25 are:

(a) disposal of non-contentious matters which must or can be dealt with on interlocutory


(b) giving directions as to the future course of the action as appear best adapted to secure its just,

expeditious and economical disposal, and

(c) promoting amicable settlement of the case or adoption of alternative dispute resolution.


If the pre-trial conference procedure is operated properly, it has the potential to work to inform the Judge as to the way forward in the case, and to restrict the opportunities for one party to take the other by surprise with the constant procedural or technical objections that presently bedevil the system.


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Concern in making dispute resolution more accessible gave rise to the
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) movement, which started in the United States in the 1970s. Other countries in the world have also increasingly adopted the use of ADR.  Through the adoption of any of the ADR processes, disputants have the option of participating in an informal, yet ordered negotiation that minimizes the cost and emotional strain associated with traditional litigation.  In the real sense, ADR offers procedures that are not as costly, time-consuming, or complex as formal litigation. Its use is intended to address not only the financial barriers to the courts, but also the cultural, geographic, and psychological factors that deter people from formal court procedures. All ADR processes have the following desirable impacts:

  1. they motivate the parties and any representatives to fasten their attention to the case and prepare for resolution;
  2. the parties have “their day in court,” a “hearing” in which they have the opportunity to present their perspectives on the situation and their sense of a “fair” resolution;
  3. often for the first time, the parties have the opportunity to experience a capable presentation of the other side’s case; and
  4. the parties have a window of opportunity to identify common interests and points of agreement, and the opportunity to fashion mutually acceptable settlement options to disputed issues[135].

ADR methods include: negotiation, conciliation, mediation, arbitration, ombudsperson, fact-finding, mediation-recommendation (Med-Rec), mediation-arbitration (Med-Arb) and mini-trial.


Prior to 1999 the focus of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice was on providing Legal services to the government alone. The Ministry in 1999 embarked on a mission to redirect its focus and be a Ministry that provides justice for all.  In a bid to provide fast and simple resolution of disputes and conflicts among citizens and also to protect the weak, the poor and the under-privileged by providing them with access to justice, Lagos State in 1999 established the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights in the Ministry of Justice. It created the following Units under the Directorate:

  1. Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC)
  2. The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and
  3. Human Rights Unit.[136]
  4. The Consumer Protection Unit
  5. The “Justice Now “ Journal Publication Unit[137]

Out of these units, the CMC and the OPD stand out as the units that provide free and efficient access to justice to the ordinary citizen, while the CMC remains the only ADR unit in the Directorate.

Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC)

The Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC) provides alternative dispute resolution services through the process of mediation. By the provisions of the Citizens’ Mediation Centre Law[138], the CMC is empowered to mediate on disputes relating inter alia, to landlord and tenant, employer and employee, family and debt recovery. At its inception, the CMC was the first of its kind in Nigeria as a government institution exclusively devoted to providing free mediation services[139]


There are indications that the CMC would be more vibrant than it is presently if some pending Bills are passed into Law. Section 35 of the Magistrates’ Court Law Bill, 2009, requires a Magistrate to refer proceedings to the CMC. Equally, the Tenancy Law Bill, 2009, requires a magistrate before whom proceedings in relation to the Law is pending, to the Citizens’ Mediation Centre.  The CMC has opened Centers in five other locations within Lagos State all in a bid to reach the populace[140]. The CMC since its inception receives huge number of complaints and records huge settlement success[141].

Multi-Door Courthouses (MDC)

A Multi-Door Courthouse is a courthouse or dispute resolution centre designed to encourage courts and communities to find ways to offer citizens’ alternatives to court-rooms trials for resolving disputes[142].  Multi-Door Courthouses provide timely, cost-effective and user friendly alternatives to litigation. The concept of a multi door courthouse is to have instead of a single court of litigation, some other avenues of resolving disputes viz: mediation, arbitration, conciliation, neutral evaluation and any other ADR mechanism[143]. Through the use of these processes, long standing disputes are resolved in one or two sessions. The parties have the opportunity of being fully involved personally in the deciding or agreeing to terms. All technicalities, bottlenecks and high lawyers fees are which are the characteristic of the traditional litigation are jettisoned for a simple speedy settlement procedure.

The Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse (LMDC) was established in June 2002 in an effort to enhance access to justice by providing opportunity for a just, economical and timely outcome. It is the first court connected Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre in Africa[144]. The LMDC was inspired by the “multi-door” concept enunciated by Harvard Law Professor, Frank Sander.[145] The Abuja Multi-door Courthouse (AMDC) was commissioned on 13th October, 2003 by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice M. L. Uwais, thus becoming the second court connected Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre in Africa after the LMDC. [146] It carries out the same functions as the LMDC. The Kano State Government also established the Kano State Multi-door Courthouse (KMDC) with the same functions and objectives as that of Lagos and Abuja.[147]

There are three ways in which matters get to the LMDC. It could be by direct walk-in, where by a party to a dispute initiates the ADR service by writing to the Director of the LMDC, or visiting the LMDC. The Presiding Judge in a matter already in the course of a pre-trial conference or already in litigation, may where he deems fit, refer the parties to the LMDC.  The LMDC may on its own, directly intervene to assist the disputing parties in any matter where public interest or the interest of the disputing parties so demand.[148]


By Section 19  of the Lagos State Multi-Door Courthouse Law 2007[149], Settlement Agreements reached by the parties are enforceable as a contract between the parties and when such agreements are further endorsed by an ADR judge or any other person as directed  by the Chief Judge it is deemed enforceable under Section 11 of the Sheriff and Civil Process law[150].  The LMDC collaborates and maintains working relationship with other reputable and recognized ADR organizations like the Citizens’ Mediation Centre of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice.  Terms of settlement and memoranda of understanding reached by such organizations can be enforceable where they are filed at the LMDC and endorsed by an ADR judge to become the consent judgment of the High Court of Lagos State[151].


Class Action Litigation

Besides the normal processes whereby individuals or corporate bodies can bring an action to the law court, our court rules allow persons to be joined in one action as plaintiffs or defendants[152]. Class action litigation makes it possible for individual claims to be aggregated into a single lawsuit, resulting in substantial advantages for individuals who might otherwise be deterred by the cost of bringing an individual action.[153] The action must have arisen out of the same transaction or a series of transactions or where if such persons brought separate actions, common question of law and fact would arise. The only exception for this joinder of parties is only where the joinder may embarrass or delay the trial of the action.  While some States require leave of Court or consent of the persons represented, to bring such an action, others do not require such leave or consent[154].


Public Interest Litigation

Public interest litigation provide an avenue for individuals, organizations or any group to seek redress for violations of human rights and other constitutional provisions through the law courts. It has been described by an Indian Judge, Justice Krishna Iyer as a democratization of the judicial office and judicial remedies[155]. He captured the philosophy behind public interest litigation thus:

The traditional view, which we inherited from Britain, confines all litigation to private parties: if a person is beaten, he alone can go to the court; if a person’s property is spoiled by pollution, she must complain. On the other hand, in a democracy, the injury of one person is common concern, and, very often, the victim may be too poor or illiterate to bring their grievance to court. If some organization, oriented in public grievance, thinks of challenging on a victim’s behalf, there is no reason for denying them this opportunity; so we begin with ‘love thy neighbour’ as applicable to jurisprudence[156].


Public interest litigation has been hindered mainly by the question of locus standi or capacity to sue. The cases of Adesanya v. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Another[157], Thomas v. Olufusoye[158], Akinnubi v. Akinnubi[159] are  instances where the Supreme Court stuck tenaciously to the provisions of section 6 (6) (b) of the Constitution. The basis for these decisions was later punctured by the Supreme Court decision in Fawehinmi v. Akilu[160] and in Owodunni v. Registered Trustees of the Celestial Church of Christ & Ors[161]. The dictum of Ogundare JSC in the Owodunni case is particularly instructive. He declared:

“Section 6 (6) (b) of the Constitution is primarily and basically designed to describe the nature and extent of judicial powers vested in the courts. It is not intended to be a catch-all, all purpose provision to be pressed into service for determination of questions ranging from locus standi to the uncontroversial questions of jurisdictions”  



In South Africa, a case like Grootboom v Oostenberg Municipality[162] have remained a reference case as far as Public interest litigation is concerned and is a good example for the Courts in Nigeria to emulate. Besides doing away with the strict rules of locus standi, Indian and South African Courts have recognized that one of the main impediments to poor people coming to court is poverty since they may not be in a position to bear the cost of expensive litigation and cannot be represented by their more affluent neighbours because of the doctrine of locus standi. [163]  Hence the courts in these and other jurisdictions have interpreted locus standi to favour the public good.


Public interest or social action litigation permits greater representation of collective interests. Interested persons or organizations can raise suits on behalf of consumers, victims of environmental damage, and other groups of diverse interests. Public interest litigation derives its foundation from the basic democratic principle which gives sovereignty to the people[164] and provision of section 4 (2) (C) the Constitution that “participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”


The domestic and international courts in addition to the international commissions have been the medium for adjudicating on such matters. International treaties with universal and domestic application are increasingly being invoked within the domestic jurisdiction. Likewise an increasing number of public interest cases are being litigated before international bodies such as the various committees of the United Nations administering its various statutes, conventions, declarations and resolutions as well as regional organs such as the African Commission on Human and People’ Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).[165]


The case of Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) and the US-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) v. Nigeria[166] is a locus classicus where public interest litigation before the African Commission on Human Rights  yielded some fruits. Our judges should be encouraged by the growing precedence in other jurisdictions where the judges have done away with the tenacious adherence to the issue of locus standi in public interest litigation.


Access to justice is an essential appendage of the rule of law and the fulfillment of the vindication of the right of the citizen.  The purpose of our Constitution is to promote good governance and welfare of all persons in Nigeria on the principles of Freedom, Equality, justice and consolidating the unity of our people.[167]


Realizing smooth access to justice involves a wide range of steps, from amending some of our legislation, to the modernization of court systems, police force and prisons. The aim is to build up respect for the rule of law and due process among stakeholders in the administration of justice and buttress their roles as protectors of those rights, which will ultimately engender unhindered access to justice. A strong, courageous, independent and incorruptible judiciary is indispensable for the people to have confidence in the justice system, thereby shun self help or jungle justice.


The advantages of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) over the traditional litigation are too overwhelming to be ignored. The alien nature of the legal system, the attendant inherent delays, the public’s unfamiliarity with the nature of litigation process, the technical nature of law and its procedure are factors which make ADR a better option for litigants. Lawyers and litigants have to be well sensitized to embrace this new process, which is actually a return to our traditional African dispute resolution method.


Lagos State has faired well and deserves commendation for its achievements in the area of access to justice in both civil and criminal processes. Other States of the Federation should emulate the positive reforms that have taken place in Lagos State.  At the Federal level, there are enough reports and proposals for reforms, which have yielded several Bills, which regrettably, are still pending at the National Assembly. The Assembly is called upon to speedy the legislative processes and pass the Bills into laws.




By Ani Comfort Chinyere (Mrs.) LL.B (Hons.) BL; LL.M., Ph. D. Ag. Head, Centre for Conflict and Dispute

Resolution, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]

[1] Okogbule N. S., “Access to Justice and Human Rights Protection in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects”, in Sur, Rev. int. direitos human. vol.2 no.3 São Paulo Dec. 2005. Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009

[1]  See UNDP definition of access to justice Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009.

[1] Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009

[1] Ibid.

[1] Art. 5 (2) (a).See generally Arts. 1-8 on the procedure for implementation under the Protocol.

[1] See the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act, Cap A 9 Laws

of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

[1] Article 45

Article 56

Protocol to the African Charter on Human And Peoples` Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples` Rights.  On January 22, 2006, the Eighth Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African

Union elected the first eleven Judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ RightsThe Court had its first meeting on July 2-5, 2006. Available at: Accessed on 21/7/2009.

Article 2.

Article 5 (1), ibid.

Such a State may submit a request to the Court to be permitted to join. Article 5 (2), ibid.

Such NGOs and individuals may be allowed to institute cases directly before the Court in accordance with

article 34 (6) of the Protocol.

Article 3

Article 7

They include for instance, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the various conventions of humanitarian law, those adopted by the International Labour Organization, and even several environmental treaties.

The Protocol was signed on 6 July 1991 in Abuja , Nigeria, and entered into force on 5 November 1996.


See Banjo A., “The ECOWAS Court and the Politics of Access to Justice in West Africa.” in Africa Development, Vol. XXXII, No. 1, 2007, p. 83.

A/SP.1/1104 of 2004.

Report of Colloquium on Access to Justice and the Rule of Law Held At Excellence Hotel, Ogba-Aguda, Ikeja-     Lagos From 2nd-5th Nov., 2000. Available at: Accessed on 13/7/2009

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Promulgation Act, 1999, Cap. C 23 Laws o f the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Section 6 (3) (a), 1999 Constitution.

Ibid., section 6 (6) (b). See also the provisions of section 6 (6) (a) which extends the judicial powers of the courts to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law.

See sections 285 (1) and (2) of the Constitution respectively.

Oputa C. A., “Human Rights in the Political and Legal Culture of Nigeria, (Lagos: Nigerian Law Publications Ltd., 1989,) p. 94.

See Report of Seminars on Legal Services for the Rural Poor and other Disadvantaged Groups.

International Commission of Jurists11-16 January 1987 and 27-31 December, 1987.

The project is part of a larger international judicial reform initiative guided by an international Judicial Group on Strengthening Judicial Integrity, formed in April 2000 by the Chief Judges of Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, etc. Nigeria, Uganda and Sri Lanka volunteered to pilot test some of the identified reform measures. The projects were primarily supported by the UNODC, the USAID funded National Centre for State Courts, the DFID funded British Council, and the German Agency for Development Cooperation, (GTZ). These agencies supported the implementation of the project in eight Nigerian States, namely, Benue, Borno, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna and Lagos, and Abuja (FCT). Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009.


Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI)     of 16 December 1966 entry into force 23 March 1976, in accordance with Article 49.

Ibid., Article (9) (4)

See Ibid, Article 14.

African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted June 27, 1981, OAU   Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982), entered into force Oct. 21, 1986.

See also Section 203 of the Criminal Procedure Act; Article 10 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 14

(1)           of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and Article 7 (1) African Charter(See the African

Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act, Cap A 9 Laws of the Federation of

Nigeria, 2004.

Section 36 (4), 1999 Constitution

Section 36 (5), ibid.

Section 36 (6) (a), ibid.

Section 36 (6) (b), ibid.

Section 36 (6) (c), ibid.

Section 36 (6) (d), ibid.

Section 36 (6) (e), ibid.

Section 36 (7), ibid.

Section 36 (8), ibid.

Section 36 (9), ibid.

Section 36 (10), ibid.

Section 36 (11) ibid

Section 36 (12), ibid.

Available at: See also

Accessed on 11/9/2009.


Dash S., “The Emerging Role and Function of the Criminal Defence Lawyer”, North Carolina Law Review, 47, (April 1969).

See also the dictum of Oputa JSC, in Josiah v. State, (1985), 1 N.W.L.R (pt. 1), p. 131 at p. 140. See also,

Okoduwa v. State, (1988), 2 N.W.L. R, (pt.76), Nse Udo Ntita v. State, (1993), (pt. 283), p. 512.

Fellman D., The Defendants Rights Today, (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1976), p. 208.

See the Report of the Committee of the 1959 New Delhi Conference of the International Commission of  Jurists, p. 14. The 1961 African Conference on the Rule of law also emphasized the need for equal access to law for the rich and the poor.

Criminal Justice and Public Security Alternatives to Pretrial Detention and Legal Aid Reform. Available at: Accessed on 6/8/2009.

This section deals with pretrial right to counsel.

This section focuses on right to counsel during trial.

Oyebode, A., The Role of the Lawyers in the Society, in Law and Nation Building in Nigeria. Selected Essays,  (Lagos: Centre for Political and Administrative Research, 2005) pp. 134-135.


Section 17 (2) (A) of the 1999 Constitution.

Osipitan, T.,  “Safeguarding the right to Counsel”, in Journal of Human Rights Law and Practice, Vol. 3    Nos. 1, 2, 3, December 1993, p. 154.

See, the Annual Report of the Inter American Commission, 1985-1986, OEA/ser.L/v/11.68,doc. 8 rev.1,

1986. The European Court has in the case of Murray v. U.K (E C 41/1994/488/570, 8 February 1996),   approved that the right to a fair trial normally requires an accused person to be allowed legal counsel during  the initial stages of police investigation.

The Human Rights Commission in the case of Pinto v. Trinidad and Tobago ( 232/1997) 20July 1990.

Submitted by Daniel Pinto. Report of Human Rights Committee vol. II (A/45/40) 1990, at p. 69. Available at: Accessed on 7/8/2009), expressed the view that the state should give preference to appointing counsel chosen by the accused including for the appeal.

See Principle 17 of the U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of 1988. Principle M (1) (F) of the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa (See ACHPR/ Res. 41 (xxvi) 99 (1999) adopted at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right  meeting at its 26th Ordinary Session held in Kigali, Uganda, from 1-15 November 1999) provides as follows:

“Any person arrested or detained shall have prompt access to a lawyer and unless the person has waived this right in writing, shall not be obliged to answer any questions or participate in any interrogation without his or her lawyer being present.”

See Section 7 of the Legal Aid Act, Cap. L9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 See also Adeyemi, A. A., “A Demand-Side Perspective on Legal Aid: What Services Do People Need? – The Nigerian Situation” Paper presented at the International Conference on Legal Aid in Criminal Justice: The Role of lawyers, Non-Lawyers and Other Service Providers in Africa, held in Lilongwe, Malawi, 22-24 November 2004, p. 8, also available at: Accessed on 7/8/2009.

The OPD is discussed below.

Hassan- Baba A., Giving Voice to the Poor Via the Legal Aid Council of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Akpala S., (Ed.), Legal Aid Services in Nigeria: the Humanitarian Perspective, (Enugu: Society for the Welfare of Women Prisoners (SWEWP), 2001), p. 57. Other problems confronting the Council which originate from human resources angle include: high staff turnover, uneven distribution of skills, low morale of personnel and a near absence of continuous education and training in current developments, ibid, p. 57.

Hassan Baba A., Giving Voice to the Poor Via the Legal Aid Council of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Akpala S., (Ed.), ibid, p. 51.

A recommendation has been made that State and Local Governments be required to contribute a stipulated percentage of their income to the Legal Aid Fund, Okonkwo M. U., Legal Aid For Prison Inmates in  Nigeria: Concept and Issues, in Akpala S., (Ed.), ibid, p. 178.

Office of the Public Defender Law,2003. The Body of Attorneys -General resolved at its 58th conference that all  other states in Nigeria must have their OPD. To this effect, Ogun, Ekiti, and Akwa-Ibom States have already set up their OPD.

Akinlade B., “Legal Aid and Access to Justice”, being a paper presented at the Legal Advisers /Law Officers Conference organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos on July 15, 2004, p. 5

Ibid,p. 6.


Section 74

The Penal Reform International (PRI), in collaboration with the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP), UNICEF and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), had initiated the Juvenile Justice Administration Project, funded by the European Union. As a result of this project, a National Working Group on Juvenile Justice Administration (the JJA

Working Group was formed with support from UNICEF. See A. A. Adeyemi, , “A Demand-Side Perspective on Legal Aid: What Services Do People Need? – The Nigerian Situation op. cit. note 72,  pp. 16-17.

C.O. Okonkwo, Legal Aid Services in Nigeria: Historical and Humanitarian Perspective in S. Akpala (Ed.), Legal Aid Services in Nigeria: the Humanitarian Perspective, op. cit. note 74, p. 23.

Boyce Wanda, The Rights and Duties of the Legal Profession in Africa, in The Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession in English Speaking Africa, (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists), 1987,  p. 64.

A. A.  Adeyemi, “A Demand-Side Perspective on Legal Aid: What Services Do People Need? – The Nigerian Situation”, op. cit. note 72, p. 18.

A. Oyebode, “The Role of the Lawyers in the Society”, in Law and Nation Building in Nigeria, op. cit. note 65, p.

49.  Oyebode, A., (Ed.) Law and Nation Building, ibid, p. 160.

Section 35 (4) provides that a person who is arrested or detained by the police should be brought to court within a    reasonable time. Where such an arrested person is not tried within a period of:

a. Two months from the date of his arrest or detention, in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail: or

b. Three months from the date of arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he should (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him), be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears. Subsection (b) of this provision appears confusing. A person who is already on bail does not require any further release. While commenting on this section, Adeyemi A. A noted: This subsection, in essence, contemplates the release of a suspect who was not arraigned before a court within the stipulated period of three months. The problem is that paragraph (b) envisages a person who is already on bail. What kind of release can one now say is envisaged for a person already on bail, if the condition(s) for that release is (are) to ensure his appearance for trial at a later stage? It would require some reconsideration in order to provide a clarification of the issue”. See Adeyemi, A. A. “Police and Human Rights in a Democratic Nigeria”, in David, P. R. (Ed.), Politica Criminal, Derechos Humanos Y Sistemas Juridicos En El Siglo xxi  (Buenos Aires: 2001), p. 29.

See also Article 9 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 7 (1) (d) of the African Charter.

For detailed discussion of these problems, see Ani C. C., Towards Eradicating the Problem of Delay in Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria, in Yussuf F. A. (Ed.) Issues in Justice Administration in Nigeria. Essays in Honour of Justice S. M. A. Belgore, (VDG International Ltd., 2008), p. 137.

Section 268 ACJL Lagos, 2007. The ACJL also contains a time frame for remand orders. Under section 268 (5),    an order of remand made by a Magistrate shall not exceed a period of thirty (30) days in the first instance. After the expiration of the 30 days, the Magistrate shall order the release of the person remanded unless good cause is shown why there should be further remand order for a period not exceeding one month. At the expiration of the further order, the Magistrate is to issue a hearing notice to the Commissioner of Police and/ or Director of Public Prosecutions and adjourn the matter in order to inquire as to the position of the case and for the Commissioner of Police and /or the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why the person remanded should not be released. The Magistrate is to extend the remand order only if satisfied that there is good cause shown and that necessary steps have been taken to arraign the person before an appropriate Court or Tribunal.

The Federal Government has set up various Committees and Working Groups. Some of them include: The National Working Group on Prison Reform and Decongestion, The Inter-Ministerial Summit on the State of   Remand Inmates in Nigeria’s Prisons, 2005, The Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Administration of Justice (PCRAJ), 2005; The Presidential Committee on Prison Reform and Rehabilitation, 2006 and the Committee to Harmonize the Reports of all the Presidential Committees work on Justice Sector Reform, 2007.

The Committee was inaugurated in 2005.

See sections 270 and 271 of the ACJ Bill.

Under the time protocol, an order of remand made under Section 273 the ACJ Bill shall be for a period not exceeding 100 days in the first instance and the case shall be returnable within the said period of 100 days. The court may extend the remand period for a period not exceeding 30 days upon hearing an application in writing showing good cause why there should be an extension of the remand period. The proceedings shall be made returnable within 30 days. If after the expiration of this period of 30 days or the initial period of 100 days, the person is still in custody, the court may on application of the person, grant him bail in accordance with sections 149 to 190 of the Bill.

At the expiration of the 100 days or 30 days remand order, if the person is still remanded and his trial not yet commenced, or charge not yet filed at the relevant court having jurisdiction, the court is to issue a hearing notice to the Inspector General of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation  and adjourn the matter for a period not exceeding 30 days to inquire about the position of the case, and for the Inspector General of Police and/or the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why the person remanded should not be unconditionally released. Where good cause is shown, the court may, upon hearing a request for an extension of the remand, extend the remand for a final period not exceeding 30 days for the person to be arraigned for trial before the appropriate court or tribunal, and shall make the case returnable within the said period of 30 days from the date the hearing notice was issued.

Where good cause is not shown for the continued detention of the person, pursuant to section 273(4) or the person is still in custody after the extended period of 30 days under section 273(5), the court shall with or without any application to that effect, forthwith discharge the person and the person shall be immediately be released from custody.

Adeyemi A. A., The Challenges of Administration of Justice in Nigeria for the Twenty-First Century, in I. A. Umezulike and C. C. Nweze (Eds.), Perspectives in Law and Justice, (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Company, 1996), p. 196.

The parties in criminal prosecutions are usually: the prosecutor representing the State, the complainant or the victim on one side, and the accused person and his counsel on the other side.

Fadayomi E. F., “Eradicating Corruption and Other Economic Crimes Within the Administration of Justice System”, in Perspectives on Corruption and Other Economic Crimes in Nigeria, (Lagos: Federal Ministry of Justice, 1991), p. 207. Nnamani JSC defined legal aid as the provision of legal services to those who, due to financial constraints, may be unable to obtain them from private legal practitioners. See Nnamani JSC, Random Thoughts on Legal Aid, an address delivered at the launching of the Legal Aid Magazine on 3rd April 1985. The different legal aid service providers in Nigeria include the following: The Legal Aid Council, the judiciary, the Office of the Public Defender, Nigerian Bar Association, Non-Governmental.

For more exposition on corruption in criminal justice administration, see Adeyemi A. A., “Corruption in Nigeria: A

Criminological Perspective”, in Kalu A. A.  and Osibajo Y.  (Eds.), Perspectives on Corruption and Other Economic Crimes in Nigeria, (Lagos: Federal Ministry of Justice, 1991), p. 2; Ayoade M.A., “Eradication of Corruption and other Economic Crimes Within the Administration of Justice- (Problems and Prospects)”, in Perspectives on Corruption and Other Economic Crimes in Nigeria, ibid., p.

218; Adeyemi A. A., “The Impact of Corruption in the Administration of Justice in Nigeria”, in Ayua  I. A. and

Guobadia D. A.  (Eds.) Political Reform and Economic Recovery in Nigeria, (Lagos: Nigerian Institute of Advanced

Legal Studies, 2001), pp. 692-695; T., Ospitan and O., Oyewo, “Legal and Institutional Framework for Combating

Corruption”, in E. O. Akanki (Ed.), Unilag Readings in Law, (Lagos: Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, 1999),

p. 258.

Larson A., “How Does Plea Bargaining Work?” Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009.

“Plea Bargaining Available at: ”

Accessed on 12/8/2009.

Cap. E 1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

See section 14 (2) of the EFCC Act.

See Ugbehe L, Tafa Balogun Pleads Guilty” The Guardian November 23, 2005, pp. 1-2. It was reported that Tafa Balogun pleaded guilty to money laundering and other charges against him after which he was sentenced to a term of four years and eight months.

See  Kotefe K., “Nwude, Okoli Bag 22 years Respectively” in The Saturday Punch, November 19, 2005. The report indicated that Emmanuel Nwude and Nzeribe Okoli who stood trial for defrauding a Brazillian Bank of the sum of $242 m pleaded guilty and were convicted. The original charges against them were reduced from 91 to 16 as a result of plea bargaining entered into by all the parties with a view to reaching a quick conclusion of the case.

Section 75 of the ACJL 2007.

The Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power ( U.N. Department    of Public Information DP 1/ 895 – August 1986. General Assembly Resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985)  defines a victim as any person who individually or collectively has suffered harm including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of his fundamental rights,   through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws.

Ani C. C., “Extending the Frontiers of Victims Remedies for Crime Victims in Nigeria”, (2009) 1 NJI L.J., P.106.

See Gummi L. H., Restorative Justice and the Criminal Justice System in Africa: : Nigeria as a Case Study  in Compendium of Speeches and Papers Delivered at the 2nd NCMG African ADR Summit (Lagos; NCMG, 2007),  p. 37

See the General Assembly Resolution 40/34, 1986. See also Ani C. C., op. cit. note 102, pp. 108-110.

The Resolution was adopted by the UN Economic and Social Council on July 24, 2002. See Last visited on 11/4/2008

See sections 357, 365,  of the Criminal Procedure Code and sections 261, 263, 268 and 270 of the Criminal

Procedure Act.

Ani C. C., “Extending the Frontiers of Victims Remedies for Crime Victims in Nigeria”, op. cit. note 102, p.

111. The key legislations include: The Penal Code, (Cap. 89 Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963;the Criminal

Procedure Code, (Cap. 30 Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963); the Criminal Procedure Act, (Cap. C 41 Laws of

The Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004); the Police Act. (Cap. P.19 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004).

Adeyemi A. A., “Towards Victim Remedy in Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria” Adetiba S. (Ed.),

Compensation and Remedies for Victims of Crime, (Lagos: Federal Ministry of Justice, 1990),  p. 304 Gummi L. H., op. cit., note 103, p. 35.

See Umbreit M. S., “Restorative Justice through Victim Offender Mediation: A Multi-Site Assessment”,

Western Criminology Review 1(1) (1998) at http:// Last accessed on  11/7/2009. There are over 1,300 victim-offender programs in 18 countries all over the world. For other  benefits of VOM, see Ani CC, op. cit. note 102, pp. 126-127.

Geskee J. P., “One Judges Journey” in Compendium of Speeches and Papers, ibid, p. 27.

The Bill is still pending at the National Assembly.

Section 25 of the CJVR Bill.

Section 32, ibid.

Article 2

See generally, Ani C.C. “Towards Eradicating the Problem of Delay in Criminal Justice Administration in  Nigeria”, in F. A Yusuf (Ed.) Issues in Justice Administration in Nigeria, Essays in Honour of Hon. Justice S.M.A. Belgore (VDG International Ltd. 2008), pp. 136- 153.

See Background Paper prepared by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice at the 4th National Summit of Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice 11-12 July, 2006.

Owasanoye B., “Case Flow Management Procedure” A Paper presented at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Advanced Course in Practice and Procedure, 15th June, 2009, p. 1.

Ibid. p. 2.

Strengthening Judicial Integrity and Capacity in Nigeria, a Progress Report. Available at: Accessed on 11/7/2009

Amadi J., “Enhancing Access to justice with judicial Case Management: An Evolving

Norm in Common Law Countries”. Available at:


Ayo E. A., “High Court of Lagos State Court Automated Information Management System (CAIS)” Presentation by the Hon. Justice Abisoye Esther Ayo (Mrs.) At The 19Th  International Conference on the Modernization of Criminal Justice Systems, Edinburgh, Scotland, June 26- 30, 2005. Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009

Nsugbe O., “New Lagos High Court Rules: Culture Change or Culture Shock”? Available at: Accessed on 12/8/2009

See Okunnu “Delay in Civil Trials: An Outline of Issues that Arise for Consideration,” being a paper presented By Hon. Justice Okunnu at the 4th Summit of Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice, 11th  12th July, 2006. New Lagos High Court Rules: Culture Change or Culture Shock? Op. cit. note 122.

Ibid., p. 4.

See Okunnu “Delay in Civil Trials: An Outline of Issues that Arise for Consideration,” being a paper presented By Hon. Justice Okunnu at the 4th Summit of Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice, 11th-12th July, 2006.

See “ADR Options”, available at: Accessed on 7/9/2009. See also

Aina K., “Med-Arb: A Valuable Settlement Strategy”, in Osipitan T. A., (Ed.), Perspectives on Contemporary

Legal Issues: Essays in Honour of Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (Lagos: 2006), pp. 14-15.

See “The Citation of Lagos State Government, Recipient of NGMC 2007 Corporate Peace Award”, in Compendium of Speeches and Papers ibid, P. 118.

Okikiolu –Ighile B., “Background Paper on the Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC)”, in Okikiolu –Ighile B (Ed.), Perspectives on Citizens Mediation, (LSMOJ 2000), p. 4.

Cap. L. 79 Laws of Lagos State, 2003.This Law has been repealed and a new Law, the Lagos State Citizens’

Mediation Centre Law,2007.

Oluyemi A., “History”, in A Decade of Mediation (Lagos: CMC, 2009), P. 4. Mrs. Atinuke Oluyemi, is the

Director of the CMC.

The branch centers are located in Ikorodu, Onikan, Yaba,and Allen Avenue.

In 2008, CMC registered a total of 12, 038 complaints. Of this number, 5, 967 complaints were mediated on

with a total of 6, 248 mediation sessions held. 4, 779 complaints were amicably resolved. See Ogunlola B.,

“Citizens Mediation Centre Restores Hope to the Down Trodden” in Alausa Alert, March 2009, p. 36.

Peters D., Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Nigeria: Principles and Practice, (Dee-Sage Nigeria Ltd.,

2004), p. 190.

Other ADR processes include: ombudsperson, fact-finding, mediation-recommendation (Med-Rec), mediation-  arbitration (Med-Arb), mini-trial.

The LMDC was initiated and founded by Kehinde Aina, a Lagos based legal practitioner.  He established the

Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG) in 1996, as a non-profit, non governmental organization to midwife the promotion of ADR in Nigerian Judicial System. The activities of the LMDC are  backed by The Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Law 2007.

See The history of the LMDC, in the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Brochure, p. 16

See Accessed on 7/8/2009.

See Accessed on 7/8/2009.

See the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Brochure, p. 7.

Law No. 21, Lagos State of Nigeria Official Gazette, No. 56, Vol. 40.

Where the matter was settled by an arbitration award, it is enforced as provided for in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap. A18 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 or such other amended legislation.

See Section 19 (2) of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Law.

Section 4 (1) (b) of the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse Law.

See for instance, Order 14 Rule 1 of the Lagos State High Court Rules 2004.

Adekunle D. A., “Class Actions”, an Outline of a Presentation at the Session of the NIALS Course in

Practice and Procedure, 2008, p. 1.

While such a leave is necessary in Imo State, it is not required in Oyo State.

Iyer K., “India Three Decades of Public Interest Litigation” in Malcolm Langford Litigating Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Achievements, Challenges and Strategies, (Geneva, Switzerland: Centre on HousingRights & Evictions, 2003), p. 31.

Ibid. The case of Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipality Corporation [1985] 2 Supp SCR 51 and Sunil Batra v.

Delhi Administration case, 1978 SC 1675 are two instances where public interest litigation offered a medium

for a large number of persons to access justice and press for their rights in India.

(1981) 1 All NLR. 32

(1986) 1 NWLR, (Pt. 18) 669

(1997) 2 NWLR, (Pt. 486), 144

(1987) 4 NWLR.(Pt. 67) 797

(2000) 10 NWLR (Pt. 675), 315

2000 (3) BCLR 277 (CC)

Popoola A. O., “Public Interest Lawyering in Nigeria: Development, Basis and Limitations”. Paper

Presented at the Sensitization Workshop on Public Interest Lawyering organized for Legal Practitioners in the South West by Access to Justice. Lagos, August 7, 2009, p. 13.

Section 14 (2) (a) of the Constitution

Popoola A. O., op. cit., note 155, p. 38.

SERAC and CESR v Nigeria Decision:; CESR and & SERAC In 1996, two NGOs – the Nigerian-based Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) and the US-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) – filed a petition with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights alleging that: the oil consortium disposed of toxic waste in the environment contaminating water, air, soil and crops; security forces – police, army, navy and air force, as well as unidentified gunmen – destroyed villages, crops and animals; security forces attacked villagers and executed Ogoni leaders; pollution had led to skin infections, gastrointestinal and respiratory ailments and increased risk of cancers, and malnutrition and starvation were widespread.

See the Preamble to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap. C 23 Laws o f  the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.


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