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Ani Comfort Chinyere (Mrs.)

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

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Delay in the Administration of justice has become a very worrisome feature of our justice delivery system. It is more worrisome when the case is a criminal matter because of the likelihood that the accused person might be in detention, where he is not granted bail, pending the determination of the suit.

Section 36 (4) of the 1999 Constitution[1], 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 person should be released.[2]

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.[3]

Despite the provisions in section 35 (4) (a) and (b) abhorring long detention without trial, long detentions without trial still persists. These detentions may last for as long as ten years or more, causing congestions in the courts and prisons. The case keeps being adjourned ad infinitum, sometimes the adjournments are orchestrated by the accused persons. A survey of cases completed by the Supreme Court between 1999 and 2005 revealed that it took an average of 10 years for criminal cases to be completed, from filing at the trial court to final disposal at the Supreme Court.[4]


The problems confronting the criminal justice system would be greatly ameliorated if a proper solution were found to the problem of delay in trial. Delays in trials constitute a grave impediment to the right to fair hearing and due process, as justice delayed is justice denied. Delay is quite detrimental bearing in mind the fact that it can be quite tormenting for the suspect. The painful fact is that in such situations most of the time, the suspect is incarcerated and languishes. Some of the suspects even die before the case is concluded or spend more time than the term of imprisonment they would have served if they had been convicted.


The problem of delay in trial is a direct outcome of so many other problems confronting the agencies involved in criminal justice administration. The following are some of the problems that contribute to delays in trials: The practice of remand; requests for adjournment and delays by the police in investigation and by the Ministry of Justice in filling information and proofs of evidence; 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.


This paper analyses the various problems that contribute to delay in criminal justice administration. It proffers some solutions to this seemingly unending malaise in the criminal justice system.


  1. The Practice of Remand.

Remand is a term used to describe a situation where a suspect who is charged with an indictable offence is ordered by a court of law, to be kept in prison custody, pending his bail, ultimate trial or release on the advice of the DPP.


The police practice of charging cases to incompetent courts and prosecuting by incompetent prosecutors often leads to remand. By section 23 of the Police Act[5], the police officer may conduct in person all prosecutions before any court whether or not the information or complaint is laid in his name. However, this is subject to the provisions of sections 160 and 191of the 1979 Constitution (now sections 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution)[6]. From the wordings of section 23 of the Police Act, it appears a police officer can prosecute cases in the High Court. By necessary implication, the police can prosecute but the power to conduct such prosecutions is subject to the provisions of sections 174 and 211of the Constitution. This issue was the bone of contention in the case of Olusemo v. Commissioner of Police[7] where the court held inter- alia that by the provisions of section 23 of the Police Act, the police officer may conduct in person all prosecutions before any court in Nigeria, but that the power to conduct such prosecutions is subject to the provisions of sections 160 and 191 of the 1979 Constitution. [8]


Remand is a term used to describe a situation where a suspect who is charged with an indictable offence is ordered by a court of law, to be kept in prison custody, pending his bail, ultimate trial or release on the advice of the DPP.[9]

Basically the following situations may give rise to remand by a court.

  1. Where the court refuses to grant the suspect bail, even though it has the jurisdiction to grant the bail.
  2. Where the court had granted a suspect bail, but he fails to fulfill the bail conditions.
  3. Where the court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.


The first situation stated above is possible, where the court does not feel comfortable enough to grant the suspect bail for various reasons, which might include,

  1. The likelihood of the accused committing some other offence while on bail.
  2. The criminal antecedent of the accused.
  3.    The likelihood of the accused interfering with the investigations[10].
  4. The likelihood of further charges being brought against the accused;
  5. The probability of guilt;
  6. Detention for the protection of the accused[11]


The second situation may arise where the court imposes very stringent bail conditions[12]. Some judges and magistrates give outrageous bail conditions with the effect that the bail is as good as not having been granted.

The third situation giving rise to remand usually occurs as a result of the police practice of charging cases to incompetent courts and prosecuting by incompetent prosecutors. The police often take suspects who have committed serious offences to the magistrate courts, which have no jurisdiction to try such serious offences, on a holding charge to be remanded in prison custody, pending the out come of the legal advice by the DPP, or his ultimate prosecution at the High Court. The result is that people remain in custody for years[13], abandoned in dreadful conditions, with abysmal food, very poorly ventilated and extremely congested cells and without basic amenities. Some of the suspects even stay longer than the period they would have spent if they were actually convicted.

The courts have had course to state on several occasions that the holding charge is not known to our criminal laws, and have gone ahead to declare it illegal[14]



The use of remand appears to be a necessary evil within the criminal process, and no complete and satisfactory substitute has been found presently. It is equally a worldwide practice. The first solution here would be to reduce the situations giving rise to remand. Since magistrates do not have the jurisdiction to try such cases like armed robbery, murder, etc, it is suggested that such cases should be taken straight to the High Court for trial, instead of the current practice, where the suspects is taken initially to the Magistrate Court on a holding charge, pending DPP’s advice and preparation of information.


The second measure would be to set a time frame for the remand. The Proposals for the amendment of the Lagos State, Criminal Procedure Law, proposes an amendment of section 236, of the Criminal Procedure Laws of Lagos State, so that an order of remand shall not exceed 100 days in the first instance. This is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, we are of the view that a period of 100 days remand is too long. One would be more comfortable with a situation where the initial period is 7 days, that is, 1 week, and the review period, of 5 days. It is recommended that other states in the federation should also set time limits on the use of remand in their laws. It is also important to make the remand process, as less excruciating as possible, by ameliorating the harsh conditions so that detention is not a harrowing experience.

Since the police lawyers can prosecute in the High Courts, more lawyers should be recruited into the police to advice the police and prosecute the cases directly at the High Courts. Besides the provisions of sections 174 and 211 of the Constitution on powers of the Attorney General to prosecute, there is no law requiring the police to send the case files to the DPP for legal advice. This practice is a result of incompetence within the police. There are a few lawyers in the police legal departments. If more lawyers are employed in the police legal departments, delays occasioned by remands by Magistrates due to lack of jurisdiction, would be a thing of the past. It is also desirable that police lawyers should take over the prosecution of cases in the Magistrate Courts to give prosecution the decorum and finesse it requires, which only proper legal training can offer.

It is also recommended that the Chief Magistrates should be empowered to try homicide cases, so as to reduce delays and decongest the courts and prisons.


  1. Requests for Adjournment by the Prosecution and Delays by the Police in Investigation and by the Ministry of Justice in Filling Information and Proofs of Evidence.

Most of the time 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. The suspect is thenceforth made an indefinite guest of the police, while the investigation goes on and on. Lack of funds and vehicles to transport officers to distant places, and the problem of absconding witnesses are some of the factors that hinder police investigations.


Poor investigation could lead to difficulty in producing the suspects or witnesses. Commenting on this fact, Mr. Frank Odita, retired Police Commissioner, observed that poor investigation might not be due to failure, but inability of the police to obtain valid information either from relatives, neighbors or family members at the scene of crime. Detection, investigation and apprehension of crimes is easier in societies who do not care for relationships and are bold to expose any criminal irrespective of any relationship between the offender and the eye witness.[15]


Sometimes witnesses give wrong addresses or may change addresses without any notice, making it difficult or impossible for summons to be served. Even where the summons is served, the average Nigerian is unwilling to be involved in the criminal process. It is common knowledge that once an offence is committed, most people prefer to keep aloof and deny that they ever witnessed the incident. This culture is as a result of lack of trust in our criminal process generally and the police in particular, whom they believe, could make them to become suspects in the case, and detain them if they volunteered any information. Other reasons why people do not get involved as witnesses, might be borne out of fear that they could be attacked if they said what they knew. This apathy on the part of the public, coupled with the fact that it is not an easy task to keep attending court in our system that is bedeviled by constant adjournments, makes some witnesses attend irregularly, or not at all.


The non-payment of witness allowances also does not help matters, especially with the constant hike in fuel prices with the attendant rise in the cost of transportation. Not many people are willing to spend time and money without any refund, especially where they have nothing to benefit personally.

The prisons have not lived up to expectation in ensuring the prompt attendance of suspects in their custody to court. This is mainly due to the lack of adequate transportation.


Apart from delay in investigation by the police, inefficient and improper police investigation is a contributory factor to the delay in filling information by the DPP. Where the police fail to investigate a case properly, the DPP might require some cogent evidence, which the police have to produce in other to go ahead with the case. When such evidence is lacking, the DPP might have no other option than to wait for police to provide such evidence. For instance, in a case where a suspect raised an alibi, and police failed to investigate the alibi.


Other causes of delay that affect the prosecution, include delays in receiving reports from handwriting or forensic experts. Sometimes, the prosecution might require analysis of physical evidence, to establish whether there is a linkage between the suspect and the scene of the crime, or object used in the crime. These evidence obtained as a result of the expert analysis, are supposed to be made known to the suspect, so that they can employ their own expertise to examine the evidence, after obtaining the relevant permission. The services rendered by the forensic expert includes: finger printing, ballistic investigation, and enquiries on pathology. There are very few qualified personnel in these areas and their services are in very high demand. The dearth of such experts and facilities causes regrettable delays. Presently, there is only one known ballistician in the country[16]. One can only imagine the delay that is experienced when only one ballistician carries out all the investigations in a country with 36 states.

On this issue, Lagos lawyer, Fred Agbaje, noted that:

“In a criminal justice system, forensic investigation is a critical step in building the prosecution’s case. The failure of proper investigation points sadly again to the glaring inadequacies of the police, which is constitutionally charged with criminal investigation”.[17]



Here again, the need for adequate funding of the police rears its head again. If the police are well funded, there would be no moral grounds for them to claim that they lack funds to carry out their investigations promptly. It is desirable that corporate organizations and private individuals should support the new Police Trust Fund initiative and donate generously, so as to adequately equip the police.

To encourage witnesses to attend court, there is need to ensure prompt and regular payment of witness allowances that are enough to cover the transport and feeding for the witnesses each day they attend court[18]. Such allowances are to be reviewed periodically in line with the inflationary trends. There is also need to enlighten the public on their role as stakeholders in the criminal process, which among others is to ensure that justice is done, part of which entails appearance in court when called up as a witness.


Presently in Nigeria, we don’t have any witness protection scheme as is obtained in other developed countries. Such a program should be set up to protect the witnesses who might be in need of protection due to the evidence they gave, or about to give in any trial.


Investigating police officers should be more diligent in their investigations. They should shun bribery and corruption and perform their duties to their utmost ability. Corruption is the basic element that motivates an officer to neglect important issues in his investigation. There should be a proper checking and reporting system in the police, whereby investigating police officers would be required to make weekly reports that would be investigated by their superiors so as to monitor the investigations and the movement of the case files.

It is also necessary to create a workable liaison between the police and the Ministry of justice for purposes of assisting the Ministry in search and production of case files.


The onus is on the government, both at the Federal and State levels, to ensure that forensic experts, finger printing experts, pathologists and ballisticians do not go extinct in the country. Government should sponsor the training of police officers or other persons either within or outside the country, to perform these duties. In addition to this, State Governments should establish their own forensic laboratories.


  1. Delay Tactics, Indifference and Laziness of Lawyers.

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. This attitude of some lawyers, prompted the late Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige while decrying the congestion of the courts and long delays in the trial process, to comment thus:

“Today, all of us are familiar with the interminable delays in the legal system…. In busy jurisdictions such as Lagos, determining the length of trial is like a shot I the dark. Many young lawyers after a few years of going to court have still not had the benefit of a full trial. At best, all the experience that many have, are a few motions and countless adjournments. It appears that the expertise required now for practice especially when you are a party with a bad case is how to ensure that the case is not heard. Over time, we are coming to a part where many can not rely on the courts anymore”.[19]

It is a common phenomenon for the defence counsel to flood the adjudicatory system with unnecessary adjournments and various forms of applications to cause delay. Instead of following the case to a logical conclusion, the counsel might decide to start by filling an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court. When the judge makes a ruling on the application, this might be followed up with an application for stay of proceedings pending interlocutory appeal on the decision. A notable case on such delays is the case of Abacha v. State[20]. Such delays are ultimately not in the interest of the accused person. The accused person can still be re-arrested and charged on additional grounds if the first charge is quashed at that stage.


The quest to be appointed to the exalted position of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has also been identified as one of the reasons why lawyers file frivolous appeals to the Court of Appeal, thereby clogging the court and causing avoidable delay[21].



Lack of adequate preparation by counsel that has been adequately and properly briefed by his client amounts to professional rascality. Lawyers employed to defend crime suspects should take the matters seriously. Once a lawyer accepts a brief, he should see the matter to its logical conclusion.

The Bar Associations should enlighten the public and encourage them to report lawyers who abandon their cases or engage in unethical conduct, for punishment by the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee.

To put an end to incessant requests for adjournments, it is suggested that a provision should be inserted in the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Law, whereby adjournment in a pending case can not be granted more than twice at the instance of each of the parties.


Stay of proceedings is a clog in the wheel of speedy disposal of cases, especially in criminal matters. Section 40 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act,[22]provides that an application for stay of proceedings in respect of any criminal matter brought by the Commission before the High Court shall not be entertained until judgment is delivered by the High Court.[23] This provision is commendable as it gives full support to the intents and purposes of section 36 of the Constitution. It is recommended that such a provision should be made applicable for all criminal cases. Whatever interlocutory issues the accused person has, should be taken together in the substantive appeal if the accused person is eventually convicted. If he is acquitted, then he would have well justified the fact that no time and finances were dissipated in pursuing needless interlocutory applications.

The Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee should also look into the requirements for conferment of the silk. They should assess the cases that went to appeal. In fact lawyers that file such reckless applications should not be considered for any professional recognition. Such lawyers should rather be disciplined by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee.


  1. Shortage of Personnel and Underutilization of Available Staff

The shortage of judges is not only felt in the High Courts, but is also the problem in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The shortage of judges leads to congestion of cases in the courts and delay in trials.[24]

Apart from shortage of judges, there is also the aspect of laziness on the part of the judicial officers. Some of the judicial officers sometimes start sitting very late or absent themselves entirely from court for various reasons. Some of the reasons include power failure and illness. Absenteeism and short working hours put more pressure on the already congested courts. A legal scholar, G. Ezejiofor, recognized this fact when he observed that the laziness and incompetence of a few judicial officers are key contributory factors to the delays. These categories of judicial officers mask their inadequacy in the following manner:

“They cause 30 or more cases to be put on the cause list. They routinely commence sitting at about 11.30 am and spend the next one-hour adjourning the cases on the cause list and rise at about 1.00 pm. The result is that such judicial officers conclude only a handful of cases in one year”.[25]   


Before the inception of the Obasanjo administration, the police was suffering from insufficient manpower due to 6 years embargo on recruitment. This distressed situation, made the President to order the recruitment of 40, 000 youths into the force for 4 years within the first four years of the take off of the policy, more than 150, 000 new officers have been recruited into the force.[26] Some adjustment and promotions were also approved. The post of Deputy Inspector General was increased from 1-7. Promotion of rank and file, which had remained stagnant for years, was affected.[27] Despite these adjustments and promotions, policemen still complain about lack of promotion. Some of them complain that the degrees they acquired while on the job have not been considered in their promotion. Now that the police staff strength has been beefed up, the police seem to lack proper direction for its men. Majority of the officers are only engaged at roadblocks and check points searching vehicles and persons and extorting money from them. Only few officers are actually detailed to investigate, and prosecute crimes. Hence, there has not been any noticeable improvement in the delay occasioned in the criminal process as a result of police investigation of offences, despite the injection of thousands of new officers into the force.



It is recommended that more judges and magistrates should be appointed by the State governments where necessary, especially where there are existing vacancies.


Absenteeism and lateness needs to be addressed, as they are both serious problems that take off quite a lot of the hitherto unavailable time. By training, and practice, lawyers generally and judicial officers in particular, are trained to be time conscious and honorable, who would require no monitoring. In as much as absenteeism and lateness remains a clog in the wheel of speedy trial, then we recommend the introduction of the electronic clocking in system in our courts. This device records the time an officer arrives for work and when he closes for the day. This would go a long way in checking truancy for both the judicial officers and other staff.


The police should pay more attention to the investigation of cases. To this end, more officers needs to be detailed and well trained in investigation and crime detection, so as to shorten the time it takes to investigate a crime and also improve on the quality of investigation. If an officer has few cases to investigate, chances are that he would be more thorough, given the right training and frame of mind, than an officer that is investigating a lot of crimes at the same time.


  1. Personnel Transfer.

Transfer of police and judicial personnel has a negative impact on speedy disposal of cases. Investigating police officers are constantly being transferred from their stations to other stations, either within or outside the state. When this happens, they are no longer available in the court to give first hand evidence or even to trace the witnesses whom they had earlier interacted with. Sometimes, matters are struck out for non-appearance of the police in court. Magistrates also suffer the same faith.  Once a magistrate is transferred, he or she automatically ceases to adjudicate over matters in his former court. A magistrate can only continue handling a part heard matter only if he receives authority in writing to do so from the Chief Registrar of the State High Court


The problem of judicial officers abandoning their part heard matters when transferred to another judicial division is not constitutional and not backed up by any law. The Court of Appeal in Qua Steel Product Ltd v. Bassey,[28] held that the High Court of a State is bestowed with unlimited jurisdiction in any proceedings involving a legal right, and that the issue of judicial division is only a matter of convenience and one of venue and not one of jurisdiction. This decision also applies to the Magistrate Courts. The following are the problems caused by transfer of personnel:

  1. Incomplete investigation.
  2. Delay and congestion of courts.
  3. Inability to locate witnesses.
  4. Loss of case file and exhibits.
  5. Unduly long detentions and death.
  6. Increase in the cost of litigation.
  7. Miscarriage of justice.



Transfer of officers within the police and the judiciary should be reduced to the barest minimum. Where this is inevitable, investigating police officers that are posted outside their former station, should be well funded and given the time to help out in the cases they left unfinished and to appear in court when they are required to do so.


It is also recommended that the police records be computerized with ample information as to the respective postings of IPOs. A database of persons with criminal records should also be created and made accessible to judges and magistrates to enable them ascertain the previous records (if any) and other information on accused persons standing trial before them.

There is need for sanctions to be put in place for non-appearance of Investigating Police Officers to give evidence in court.

There is no legal basis why magistrates or judges should not continue with the cases they were handling hitherto. It would also be good if judicial officers were given up to one-year notice to clear up all outstanding and delicate cases prior to their transfer.


  1. Inadequate Funding, Inadequate Facilities and Poor Conditions of Service.

The various sections of the justice agencies have over the years, suffered from the problem of inadequate facilities and poor conditions of service which are the aftermath of inadequate funding, resulting from insufficient allocation of funds to the agencies. Inadequate funding is the precursor of poor salaries and lack of or inadequate physical facilities. Commenting on the issue of under funding of the justice agencies, Professor Adeyemi said:

“It should be realized that the persistent deliberate under funding of the judiciary and the other justice agencies, has resulted in the low morale of their respective personnel, dilapidation of their physical facilities, obsoletism and critical ,shortages of their equipment (including stationery, typewriters, and vehicles)”.  

It is a recognized reality that for a judge to live up to his judicial pledge and effectively administer justice without fear or favor, he must be liberated from pecuniary humiliation. This fact was attested to when Justice Akanbi, said,

 “…A good judgment flows from a mind that is not bogged by the thought of where do I get my next meal or where do I get the money to pay my sons school fees. Poor conditions of service disturb the mind. It is an obstacle to clear and positive thinking…”[29]  

Poor and appalling salary structure for the judicial staff in Nigeria has always been poor when compared to that of their counterparts in developed countries.

Under the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council is empowered to collect, control, and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the judiciary.[30] This provision, flows from the provision in section 162 (9) of the Constitution, that states that any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Federation Account shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of courts established for the Federation and the States under section 6 of the Constitution.


Though the National Judicial Council was saddled with the responsibility of funding the judiciary, for both capital and recurrent expenses, sadly, this is not the case presently. Only the recurrent expenditure of State judiciaries is catered for, while capital expenditure, still remains the responsibility of State governments.[31]


The police and the prison also suffer from inadequate facilities and poor conditions of service. The police is the pillar of criminal justice administration in every country, and sets the ball rolling in the criminal process. To carry out their onerous functions, they require to be well trained, well equipped, computerized, and well paid. Notwithstanding efforts taken by the police authorities, towards improving the welfare of its members, complaints still pervade the force. Police stations and barracks are still in shambles. Police stations still lack vehicles and the available ones are fast deteriorating and lack proper maintenance. As for their salaries, it is still far from what could prevent them from looking for illegal ways of supplementing their salaries.

The prison service which is directly under the Ministry of Internal Affairs has also not received any major boost in its funding. The prison is item 48 on the exclusive legislative list.[32]Therefore the administration, funding, management and control of the prisons are the responsibility of the federal government.  Dr. Etannibi Alemika and Emily Alemika in an article noted that prisons are expensive, and due to the lack of political and economic clout of prison inmates and staff, the Nigerian prisons service is often grossly under funded and rarely receives special grants.[33]

The production of prison inmates in court is the responsibility of the prison authorities. Unfortunately, most of the Black Marias are very old and often breakdown at critical moments. Lamenting on the inadequacy of Black Marias, the Lagos State DPP, Mrs. Bola Okikuolu–Ighile, said:

“The inadequacy of the Black Marias presently in use has created a situation where criminal courts in most instances sit only on Tuesdays and Thursdays being days accused persons are conveyed to court. Accused persons usually do not get to Ikeja High Court on such days before 10:30 am because the same Black Maria goes from Kirikiri to Lagos High Court and then to Ikeja High Court. A situation therefore arises where the judges and counsel are made to wait”[34]



If the justice institutions are well funded, the problems mentioned above would be a thing of the past.  Good salaries and allowances for staff of the justice agencies is of crucial importance. This measure, is not guaranteed to eliminate corruption, but it would at least, reduce it.  The Lagos State government took a bold step in an effort to better the lot of the state judicial personnel, by increasing the salaries of its judicial officers by 300 percent in 1999. Other states of the federation should emulate this noble gesture.

The increase in salary did not extend to the police and the prison or other supporting staff of the judiciary and the State Counsel. Since the police and the prison are not under the state control, it therefore behooves the Federal government to address the issue of poor salaries and allowances for these agencies. If these agencies are well remunerated, the more responsibility for uprightness, honor and judicial integrity is cast on them, while the disciplinary machinery for erring members would then be sharpen. These measures will equally restore the public confidence in the system and its personnel.[35]


  1. Shortage and Obsoletism of Equipments.

All the agencies involved in criminal justice administration, suffer adversely from the problems posed by obsolete equipments. Despite the fact that the equipments are obsolete, they are equally in short supply. Lack of modern information technology such as telephones, fax machines, computers and photocopies, have very dire negative effect on the quality of performance of staff of the agencies involved in the criminal process. Most of the telephones in some of the courts and police stations have become obsolete and malfunctional. The officers rely mostly on their personal mobile telephones, which expenses are not subsidized.

Judges and magistrates still record verbatim in long hand. This situation is very arduous and tiring and impacts so heavily on judges, resulting in stress and other serious avoidable health complications.


The efforts of the Lagos State government to computerize the courts have not gone beyond the High Courts. The Magistrate Courts are yet to be computerized. The Courts in most of the states are not connected to the internet and therefore are not linked to any network to access the position of cases filed or pending.

There is equally no provision of statutes and case laws in CD ROMs for their use.  It is quite astounding that our court registries are yet to be computerized in the 21st Century. Records are still hand written and kept in files and registers. Documents are still being typed on manual typewriters. Computers can only be found in the Chief Registrar and Deputy Chief Registrars offices. The judges have computers in their offices, which are strictly used for word processing. They are not connected to the Internet,


The need for computers and the use of information technology can never be overemphasized if we have to do away with delays and inefficiency in the criminal justice system. The global trend is to employ information technology in every conceivable aspect of human endeavor, how much more, such a crucial area like criminal justice administration, which requires datarized up to date information. This fact was recognized by Chief Bola Ige SAN who commented:

“Perhaps a few years ago, it could have been excusable to say that we are still debating the pros and cons of the use of information technology in our courts, ministries of justice and even private chambers. Today, the question you are likely to be asked is ‘how far have you gone in computerization?’ …We must automate as much as possible, all stages of the judicial process. Court registries must be computerized. A judge sitting at his desk should be able to tell what new processes have been filed in the registry at the touch of a key in his computer. The Chief Judge from his table, as well as other judges ought to be able to find out in a minute which judge has the conduct of a case. Judges should be provided with the cases and statute the both local and foreign on CD Rom. At the touch of a key, a judge should be able to find the full report of a case or principles to which he has been referred or upon which he is researching. These facilities are now in use all over the world”.[36]  

The provision of up to date library and cases on CD ROMs for the judges is very necessary to avoid the situations where judges ask lawyers to supply them with copies of the cases or statutes they cited in court for their perusal.  

The police needs to computerize all its operations. All the police records needs to be computerized and made available to other agencies involved in the criminal process. The police needs to be well placed in information technology to be able to fight the various crimes which gets more sophisticated by the day. Any police man, or any officer in the court or prisons for that matter, should at the punch of a button be able to know whether a person has a criminal record, and if so, when, and the offence. It is also necessary to have such other information as the identity of persons arrested daily at each police divisions and stations; the dates for hearing of the pending cases and the courts, etc.

The same should also apply to the prisons. There should be a computerized record of all the convicted persons, in all the prisons their various terms of imprisonment. There should also be a computerized record of all the awaiting trial inmates in all the prisons. Their dates of arrest, offences allege to have been committed, dates of court appearances and the locations of the courts should all be accessed through the computer.

Since constant and uninterrupted power supply has remained a mirage in Nigeria, there is need to provide alternative sources of power supply, like generators in other to utilize these modern equipments, which are all electrically powered. This will not only speed up the criminal process, but also provide a conducive environment for all the staff of the justice agencies to work in.

Prosecution would be significantly improved if experts should be employed to prosecute cases involving specialized areas such as taxation, bank frauds, cyber crimes, money laundering and forensics.[37] The case of FRN v. Kingsley Ikpe[38] is an example of a case that was speedily and expertly handled because of the involvement of experts in stock trade.




 “Delay in concluding a case is not in furtherance of justice. It is inimical and scandalous to the administration of justice. Trial courts should do their best and enhance the dispensation of justice by expeditious conclusion of cases”. [39]

Speedy trial is a very desirable ingredient of fair trial and due process. The court in the above pronouncement, rightly called upon the trial courts to do their best to enhance speedy dispensation of cases. This task should not be left to the courts alone. All the stakeholders in the country’s justice system (lawyers, the police, prison officials, judicial officers, witnesses, prosecutors, registrars, clerks of court and all persons or agencies), should as a matter of necessity do their work diligently in order to minimize the incidents of delay in our courts. If everybody cooperates and discharges whatever duty falls to him or her, efficiently and with commitment, delay of cases would not only be a forgotten issue, the prisons and police cells would decongest drastically and the society would be the better for it.

This paper has presented the problems hindering the speedy dispensation of justice within the criminal justice system. Some solutions have been proffered, towards solving the hydra headed problem of delay. It is hoped that if these recommendations are implemented, the problems discussed here would be solved to a great extent, if not fully eradicated.


[1] 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.

          [2] 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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, A. A. Adeyemi 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.

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


[4] 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.

[5] Cap. P 19 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.

[6] These sections empower the Attorney General of the Federation and the states respectively, to Institute,

and undertake, take over, and continue or discontinue criminal proceedings against any person before

any court of law in Nigeria.

[7] (1988) 11NWLR, (pt. 575), p. 557. See also Osahon v. Federal Republic of Nigeria, (2003) 43 W. R. N., p. 69.

[8] Now sections 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution. These sections deal with the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the State respectively. See Atta v. Commissioner of Police, (2003), 17 NWLR, (pt 849), p.250, where the Court of Appeal reiterated the principles laid down in Olusemo’s case.

[9] The power to remand is found in section 236 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

[10]  Tobi, N., “Police Bail in Nigeria, in the Nigerian Bar Journal”, vol. xix No.2, 1983, p. 26.

[11] Ishaya Bamaiyi v. State, (2001) 8 NWLR (pt 715), p.270 at p.291

[12] Eyu v. The State, (1988) 2 NWLR (pt. 780),p. 502

[13] See Garba v.The State, (1972), 4 SC. 118, where the suspect stayed 25 months in detention without


[14] Onagoruwa v. State, (1993) 6 NWLR (pt. 299), p. 333. See the dictum of Tobi JCA at P. 341. See also

the dictum of Galadima JCA in case of Evangelist Bayo Johnson v. Lufadeju and Anor

   (2002) 8 NWLR (pt. 768), p. 192 at pp. 217-218. Article 9 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and   

   Political Rights, provides that it shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained

in custody, but that their release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.

[15] The Guardian, 2004, November 18, Ibid, p. 13.

[16] Ighile, “Criminal Process and System Congestion – Causes and practical Methods of Decongestion”, a paper delivered at the 3rd Summit on Reform of the Justice System held on 16th and 17th June 2004, p. 3.

[17] The Guardian, 2004, November 18,  p.13.

[18] Adeyemi, A. A.  “The Challenge of Administration of Justice in Nigeria for the Twenty First Century”,

in Umezulike, I. A. & Nweze, C. C.  (Eds.), Perspectives in Law and Justice, (Enugu: Fourth

Dimension Publishing Company, 1996) p. 201.

[19] Keynote Address at the Administration of Justice in the Twenty First Century: 1st Summit of

Stakeholders held in Lagos on the 16th of October 2000,p. 12-13.

[20] (2002) 11 NWLR (pt. 779), p. 437

[21] See Etomi G.,  “Justice Delayed” Being a Paper presented at the 4th National Summit of Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice 11-12 July, 2006, p. 3

[22] Cap E.1 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.

[23] See the cases of FRN v. Okoro (2006) 1 EFCLR 221 and FRN  v. Nwude (2006) 2 EFCL 149. Where this provision was put into effect.

[24] Adeyemi, A. A. op. cit. note 18,, p. 201.

[25] Ezejiofor, G. “The Common Man’s Concept of Justice and the Nigerian Judiciary”, in The Judiciary and

    Democracy in Nigeria, p. 57 in Eresha Z. C. & Ogunseye O. A. “The Judiciary Under the Present

Democratic Dispensation”, paper presented at the 2000 Law Teachers Conference, held at Benue State

University, Makurdi.

[26] This Day, 2003, August 31, p. 16.

[27] Two Assistant Inspector Generals of Police were promoted to the rank of Deputy Inspector General of

Police; 5 officers were promoted as acting Deputy Inspector General; 2 Commissioners of police

became Assistant Inspector Generals; 51 Deputy Commissioners of Police were promoted as

Commissioners of Police; 10were raised from Assistant Commissioner to Deputy Commissioner. The

promotions went down to the lowest rank. See This Day, ibid.

[28] (1992) 5 NWLR (pt. 239) p. 67.

[29] Akanbi, M. JCA , “The Main Obstacles of Justice According to Law, in Saulwa, I. M. “Congestion of

cases in the Nigerian Courts: Problems and Solutions, being a paper presented at the Common -Wealth

Legal Education Association Conference, held at Abuja, in November 2000, p. 7

[30] See Third Schedule, Part 1, paragraph 21 (e) of the1999 Constitution.

[31] Ige, B.  op. cit. note 19,  pp. 10-11

[32] See part 1 of the Second Schedule, Legislative Powers, 1999 Constitution.

[33] “Penal Crisis and Prison Management in Nigeria”, Lawyers’ Biannual Journal of Nigeria, Vol. 1, No2,

October 1994. P. 6

[34] Ighile, op. cit. note 16, p. 14

[35] Adeyemi, A. A., ibid, p.  206.

[36] Ige, B. ibid,  p. 17.

[37]  See paper presented by Hon. Justice J. O. K. Oyewole on Delay in Criminal Trials at the 4th Summit of Stake holders in the Administration of Justice, 11th -12th July, 2006, p. 3.

[38] Suit No. ID/143c/2004. This case was a case of stock market fraud and was investigated by experts in stock market.

[39]Atejioye v. Ayeni (1998) 6 NWLR  (pt. 552) at p. 132.

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