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NIGERIA: Towards Efficient Criminal Justice System

Governor, Kayode FayemiKayode Fayemi, in this speech, notes the importance of making the courts functional in the interest of an efficient criminal justice system
Let me start by appreciating the Ministry of Justice for organising this retreat. I am advised that this is the first time in Ekiti State that a retreat of this nature is being organised for Magistrates.

This is, indeed, a welcome and important development in our efforts to prioritise the administration of justice the state.
I have severally stated that the administration of justice in Ekiti State is in need of review; not review for the sake of it but because our people desire a more effective and open system of justice.

Indeed, the eight-point programme of action of my administration challenges us to support a system of justice  that moves away from a rigid law and order paradigm, towards one based on greater efficiency, professionalism and effectiveness. There is no doubt that in order to achieve this in concrete terms we need to recognise and value the importance of the magistracy in justice administration in the state.

At the inauguration, the Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, identified six key result areas for transformation. These are the areas that I asked the ministry to concentrate on in the next 12 months. These are:
· An integrated, efficient and professional Ministry of Justice
· Effective and efficient provision of legal and legislative services to the state.
· Strengthening Courts and the other structures administering justice without compromising their independence
· Safety, security and freedom from crime for everybody in Ekiti State

· Human resources development
· Fair and equal access to justice for all, taking into account the diversity of the needs of all those who live in Ekiti State.
I have since then received and approved the implementation plan of the ministry and I note that the process of implementation has begun in earnest. I am particularly pleased that the approach of the ministry has been consultative and inclusive, recognising the relevance of all those who work in justice sector in the state.

The theme of this retreat is apt and relevant to the current concerns of my administration. Achieving safety, security and freedom from crime for everybody in Ekiti State is an important priority for my administration. I know that this requires that we strengthen the legal framework for dealing with crime and criminality as well as support all our courts without compromising their independence.

It is for these reasons that the State executive Council approved the administration of criminal justice bill. I want to urge the House of Assembly to support the speedy passage of this legislation.  I am convinced that this progressive legislation will promote the efficient administration of criminal justice in Ekiti State. I note that the criminal justice bill is one of the topics for discussion at this retreat; I ask that you make concrete recommendations that will further assist the House of Assembly in the consideration of the bill.

Enabling an appropriate legal framework for the administration of criminal justice is important but no less important is the need to ensure that our courts are suitably endowed to enable them administer justice effectively. I believe that the environment in which or judicial officers work is as important as the work they do. The need for a new building for the Ekiti State judiciary is long overdue.

My vision is for a judicial complex that is modern, functional and responsive to the needs of the people of Ekiti State. I hope that my office and the chief judge can agree on the architectural design of the proposed court to enable us move to the next stage. I am also aware of the unsatisfactory physical state of many of our magistrate courts. I have directed that the Ministry of Justice to prepare an infrastructural audit of these courts to enable us commence a phased rehabilitation where necessary and in other cases, explore options for relocation.

Aside from experience, training is the most important way of acquiring skills and knowledge. But, it is also an effective way of changing attitudes and of increasing personnel motivation. It is important that training programmes are designed on the basis of systematically identified training needs. I want to use this opportunity to announce that I have directed the Ministry of Justice to urgently prepare for my consideration, a proposal for the establishment of the Ekiti State Judicial Institute.

This is in furtherance of the Ekiti State Judicial Institute Law 2010. I am persuaded that the institute will provide a sustainable framework for the continuous education of our magistrates and similar judicial officers. In my view, the institute is best suited to ensure that training programmes are designed on the basis of systematically identified training needs. The institute when operational will also complement the efforts of the National Judicial Institute.

Today, my administration will be presenting new cars to all magistrates in this state. This we have done even in the face of our limited resources and the many developmental needs of this state. This is an important phase of our resolve to improve the conditions of service of our judicial officers. The Attorney-General has informed me of his desire to convene a discussion with all judicial officers in the state on what more we can do in this regard. I look forward to receiving his proposals.

I wish you all a fruitful deliberation and I hope that the outcome of this retreat will contribute to ongoing efforts of my administration to deliver effective, efficient and speedy dispensation of justice for the people of Ekiti State.

-Fayemi, the Ekiti State governor, delivered this speech at a retreat for magistrates in  Ekiti State on improving the administration of criminal justice, held at the Ikogosi Warm Springs Hotel, Ekiti

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