President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, August 26, criticized what he called the “terribly slow pace” of justice system in the Nigerian courts.
The president recalled while speaking at the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, how long it took for the courts to decide and eventually dismiss the election petitions he filed to challenge the elections he lost in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential polls, declared that the Nigerian justice system needed an urgent reform.
The President, who was represented by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the conference, said the situation changed when his own victory after the 2019 election was challenged and took just over six months to conclude.
Buhari urged the judiciary to consider a 12-month time limit on the hearing of criminal cases from the high court to the Supreme Court, while all civil cases should be concluded within 15 months.
“At the end, I lost all three cases. I wondered then, why it needed to take so long to arrive at a verdict and if I had won the case, someone who did not legitimately win the election would have been in office all that time.
“In 2019, I was no longer a petitioner. I had now become a respondent in the case of Atiku and Buhari and the whole process took barely six months; just over six months. What was the difference? The law had changed since my own in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
“You had now introduced time limits for election petitions. Everything must be done within a six to eight-month period.
“My question then is why can’t we have a time limit for criminal cases? Why can’t we have a rule that will say a criminal trial all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months? And why can’t we do the same for civil cases? Even if we say that civil cases must not go beyond between 12 and 15 months. I think that for me is stepping forward.”
Buhari also criticized the series of conflicting court orders given by judges, during the recent leadership crisis of the All Progressives Congress saying at least eight conflicting court orders were made by different judges within six weeks.