Lady Justice on Digital: Citizens’ Access to Justice Must Not be Altered
The cost of justice in Nigeria is too expensive to buy. Though in the extant law of our country it is settled that Justice is free as bail. But in reality, either of the two grants without fund.
The arrival of Covid-19 in Nigeria has really reshaped our lives. It touched any area you may think of; economy, education, aviation, just mention any sector, I will show you its impact on it. Therefore, judiciary is not an exception.
I have missed those days in court as a student when Barrister Akpotus did vibrate the court with his eloquent words that could move Judge to give ruling in his favour. But It saddens my heart that Covid-19 has turned many lawyers to digital argumentum and Zoom’s contentioner.
This beauty of law is in practice, and the best way for students of law to learn how law it is, is to attend the court proceedings. Now, Covid-19 has turned lawyers’ appearance to a digital hearing and left many students unaware of what is going in courts.
Some legal proceedings went the same way, and rubbed some Nigerians the wrong way. Though many have gone to court to argue virtual hearings as unconstitutional, yet yielded no result. The mode of application and filling cases in courts has also taken a new dimension that nobody has ever premeditated. Now Lady Justice can now appear on digital. Which makes justice difficult for some Nigerians to achieve it.
In Nigeria, the cost of securing justice coupled with the time spent in court is a discouraging factor for a lot of Nigerians. Therefore, the resort to self-help is prevalent, while some prefer to suffer in silence rather going to court to seek for justice.
A justice delayed, they say, is a justice denied. So also, a justice rushed is a justice denied. In order to make settlement of disputes attractive and appealing to Nigerians, the length of time spent on litigation must be reduced drastically by putting needed facilities in place to achieve a quick dispensation of justice.
However, the cost of accessing judicial process must also not be prohibitive. Free legal services for the indigent who have suffered any form of injustice must be encouraged. Independence of judiciary must not be compromised. Judge or court should remain last hope of a common man.
In the case of MANGRAHT V. ODUBA (2004) 4NWLR, Per Aderemi (JCA as he then was) said: “It must always be remembered that citizen’s accessibility to courts is the hall-mark of civilised societies operating under the rule of law. Nigeria, I believed is not an exception. A society that shuts the doors of its courts of justice against individual who may wish to vent real or even imgined grievances against other individuals or against the state or its functionaries cannot be said to be operating under the rule of law.”
Justice must be done without fear or favour, having no regards for the status of the parties involved in a case. Because, be so high you may, the law is above you. And be so low you may, the law will protect you.
God bless Nigeria.
Olayinka Abdurrazzaq is a 300 level law student, University of Ilorin.
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