In an effort to speed up the dispensation of justice, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, recently directed that any case fixed for hearing before the Supreme Court must be heard and determined one way or the other on that date.
The policy, as announced by the CJN, is deliberately targeted at the speedy dispensation of justice while a new apex court publication is to encourage lawyers to take advantage of the initiative and ensure they adequately prepare ahead of hearings to avoid any delays.
Appeals would be heard and judgements delivered as necessary and in accordance with the Rules of the Court. Consequently, the situation would leave no room for unnecessary adjournments arising from lack of diligent prosecution, poor preparations or non-appearance by lawyers.
What this indicates, according to the CJN, is “that any matter that is assigned a date must be heard and determined one way or the other on that date”,
”For appeals that may be discovered to have defects, Counsel is advised to take necessary steps to amend such defects before the due hearing date while everyone must come to the court fully prepared for the business of the day,” the CJN added.
We wish to submit that the policy will help utilise man hours lost to incessant adjournments of cases and probably clear the backlog of pending appeal cases. There are no available data indicating how many cases suffer adjournment on daily basis at the apex court, but an adjournment of a single case has multiple adverse effects on the judiciary.
First, it frustrates speedy dispensation of justice the country has been craving for. Secondly, adjournment help lawyers to frustrate cases for their clients who desperately want to hang a bad cases. In essence, this policy would arrest this ugly trend that have become a clog in the wheel of justice.
With thousands of pending appeal cases that filled the Supreme Court diary to the brim and appeals set down for hearing up to the year 2021, no measure should be spare in addressing the issue of delay.
We are of the opinion that the CJN has done the right things because the delay in justice delivery has become a major problem of the judiciary that has continue to rob it of public confidence.
We therefore appeal to stakeholders particularly lawyers, litigants and heads of other courts to embrace the laudable initiative of the CJN and ensure that the policy works.
CJN Onnoghen has earned our commendation for the remarkable steps being taken to guarantee speedy dispensation of justice and no stone should be left unturned in implementing the policy.