Impediments to Justice Access

A number of circumstances could give rise to this delay: lawyers riding letters of adjournment of cases, inability of Judges and magistrates to deliver judgments on time, failure of the police or prison authorities to produce accused persons in court for trial, the rule that once a magistrate or Judge is transferred and a new one takes over a case, it has to start De novo, etc. Here are many causes of delay in the Judicial process: some of these are endemic in the system like highly technical and complicated rules of procedure, while others are caused by operatives of the system, those who serve court processes, the lawyers who ask for unending adjournments of cases, and Judges who lack the virtue of remoteness. * While it may be conceded that some delay may be unavoidable in civil or criminal proceedings, since the parties are to be given “adequate time and facilities” for the preparation of their cases, it becomes offensive and injurious to the due administration of Justice when delay is inordinate.

In this connection, the courts should consider seriously the issue of applications for adjournment of cases, and it may be suggested that adjournments designed to aid the due process of litigation should be considered, while those dictated by sheer laziness or a failure to grasp the real issues in dispute should not be entertained. This is because the court has discretion to grant or refuse an adjournment. * However, even as we insist on the desirability of speedy disposal of cases, one must bear in mind the need to give all parties the opportunity to present their cases before final decision by the court. Every party is entitled to a fair hearing and there should be no over speeding and no stampeding in order to enable the trial court arrive at a Just decision. Justice delayed is Justice denied but Justice rushed may result into Justice being crushed”. 2. Cost Of Litigation Relative to the economic situation, the cost of litigation in the country may be so high hat the ordinary citizen can hardly afford adequate legal representation when he has a legal matter to pursue. This is all the more so if one considers that the vast majority are constantly preoccupied with how best to make a living for themselves and their extended family.

As if this were not enough, filing fees in some courts are so high that it is often impossible for majority of Nigerian to have access to the courts. This is particularly so in the case of the Superior Courts, where the filing fees are related to the amount of monetary claims made by litigants. The result is that Impediments to Justice Access By Nonconductor 3. Effect Of Some Constitutional Provisions It is ironical that some of the constitutional provisions basically designed to guarantee the protection of fundamental rights, unwittingly have the effect of precipitating delays in the Judicial process.

In this connection reference must be made to some provisions of the 1999 Constitution {like in the Nigerian case}. Article 36(6). B for instance, provides that “every person who is charged with a criminal offense shall be entitled to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense. 4. Undue Reliance On Technical Rules Law is an inherently technical subject and this technicality is manifested in the various rules and procedures in place. For a litigant to be able to approach the courts, he has to retain the services of a legal practitioner who will initiate the appropriate action, on his behalf.

The litigant, however well educated he may be, is usually unable to understand the intricate processes and rules applicable to his case. The situation is certainly worse for an illiterate citizen, and when one realizes that a vast majority of citizens are illiterate then the actual picture can better be appreciated. Add to this the procedural problems that are often encountered in the filing of suits for the enforcement of fundamental rights, and the picture is complete. There had been controversy as to the proper procedure to be followed in the commencement of actions for the enforcement of fundamental rights in Nigeria.

This problem became more critical following the coming into effect of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979. While some Judges are of the view that the only acceptable procedure is that prescribed under the Rules, others take a contrary position. There s also the related problem of determining whether a claim for the enforcement of fundamental rights can validly be Joined to one relating to other substantive claims. 5. Locus Stands One other factor that is often used to preclude access to courts is the overused concept of locus stand’.

This could indeed create a formidable obstacle in the quest for the protection of human rights. Locus stands is not an easy concept to define but one can say that it basically means the standing to sue. It refers to the right of a party to an action to be heard in a litigation before a court of law or tribunal or the legal capacity f instituting, initiating or commencing an action in a competent court of law or tribunal without any inhibition, obstruction or hindrance. In other words, “for a person to have locus stands in an action he must be able to show that his civil rights and obligations have been or are in danger of being infringed.

Thus, the fact that a person may not succeed in an action does not have anything to do with whether or not he has standing to bring the action”. It is pertinent to mention here that two tests are often used in determining the locus stands of a person, namely, the action must e Justifiable, and there must be a dispute between the parties. The courts have also taken the position, quite rightly in our view, that it is better to allow a party to go to court and be heard than to refuse him access to the court.

This is so because courts should not be rationed. 6. Illiteracy As already mentioned, one other significant obstacle to the realization of access to justice is the high level of illiteracy prevalent in the country today. It is most unfortunate that the socio-economic structure of the country has made it impossible for the vast majority to have access to education, notwithstanding the various velveteen plans and programs by successive governments, which emphasize the importance of education.

This problem has been worsened by the current collapse of public schools, including universities which has now made education an exclusive commodity to be purchased and consumed by the bourgeoisie through private institutions. Yet the inestimable value of education and its capacity to empower the citizenry can hardly be over-emphasized. An educated man will easily adapt to the realities of the situation and have the intellectual capacity to insist on the enforcement of his rights, quite unlike the illiterate. Education thus empowers him to maximize the opportunities and resources available in his environment.

The point must be made that since education has the capacity of liberating the individual from ignorance, poverty and disease, the lack of it has serious mental, political and economic implications which greatly impedes access to Justice. At a particular level, it breeds poverty, docility, and even forced connivance with agents of oppression and normalization. The net result is that, today, a large majority do not have access to social Justice and are alienated from the political and economic structures of society.

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