A retiring Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, on Tuesday, stated that the pace of justice delivery in Nigeria is in total paralysis.
Justice Adefope-Okojie, who made the assessment during the valedictory court session organised in her honour by the appellate court, also noted that the situation had degenerated and a desperate solution is urgently needed .
The justice, who spent 27 years on the bench, maintained that it was not acceptable that a case averagely takes more than five years to conclude at trial, more than three years in the Court of Appeal and an average of about 12 years in the Supreme Court.
She said a country that seeks foreign investment must get its court system functional, accelerated and receptive to the needs of the domestic and international people.
The judge also pointed out that no country or business wants to invest in a country where judicial disputes take forever to conclude at all.Adefope-Okojie, therefore, suggested that the judiciary should embrace arbitration to speed up justice delivery.
She said, “As most international companies, including domestic ones, have arbitration clauses in their contracts, to avoid the legal system and determine disputes expeditiously, the Courts must encourage arbitration rather than consider it a challenge to their authority.
“Trial court judges with less than two years to retire must not be assigned new cases. They should finish all the cases on their docket rather than leave matters part heard to be commenced de novo.
“Any case that is not concluded before the retirement, death or elevation of the trial judge must not be made to start de novo, except if the witness had not finished evidence and cross-examined.’’
Also at the event, the president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, described Adefope-Okojie as a hardworking, fair-minded and courteous jurist.