The Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt, His Excellency, Nura Abba Rimi has called for total reforms in the judicial system in Nigeria, which he said will provide the much-needed reassurance to investors that are ready and willing to come to Nigeria.
The ambassador made the call at the opening ceremony of the 2021 Federal High Court foreign training in Cairo Egypt. The ceremony was also attended by the managements of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) led by Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru; that of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) also led by its Vice Chairman/CEO, Mr Babatunde Irukera as well as the Director General-Legal Academy, Dr. Fatihu A. Abba among others.
The ambassador is surprised that agencies of the federal government of Nigeria have court cases that are dragging for years and posited that lack of a functional judicial system in Nigeria is hurting the economy. He said while it is almost impossible to avoid dispute in commercial ventures, an investor is concerned about the mechanism in place for resolving any disputes that may arise in the course of his business. According to him, in as much as the popular phrase “time is money” cannot be over-emphasised, no investor is willing to tie down money, capital, or investment for an unascertainable period of time due to commercial disputes.
He said, “The fear is usually that the investment and/or capital would have lost its value at the time the dispute is eventually resolved. Thus, investors would be averse to investing funds in any country where dispute resolution is not reliable, effective and/or efficient. This is the case of the Nigerian judicial system. But this can be remedied or mitigated by judicial reforms through sustained dynamic training of the judiciary as demonstrated by the Hon. Chief Judge of the Federal High Court-Hon. Justice J.T. Tsoho.
“Many investors and investment have been lost over the years as a result of the failure to to pursue efficient and/or effective judicial reforms. Indeed, timely disposal of cases in the OECD countries has sustained investor confidence in the economies of these countries. It demonstrates the remarkable efficiency of the judicial system in those countries. Accordingly, investors would be convinced that any dispute relating to their investments would be determined expeditiously by the Courts in these countries.”
Rimi further explained that Court related litigations in Nigeria is majorly characterised by three (sometimes four) stages, commencing from the trial Courts, then the appellate court and then the Supreme Court. The journey to the Supreme Court in a commercial dispute could last for as long as eight to 20 years, which he said is very sad.
Again, he said, “For instance, in Bilante Intl Ltd v. N.D.I.C (2011) LPELR-781 (SC), the suit was commenced in 1992 and it continued till June 2011, when the Supreme Court delivered its judgment. Also, in Edilcon (Nig) Ltd v. UBA PLC (2017) LPELR-42342 (SC), the decision of the trial Court was delivered in December 1997, whilst the decision of the Supreme Court was delivered in May 2017 – about 20 years after. Accordingly, it is recommended that the heads of Courts in Nigeria should consider prescribing measures geared towards decongesting the dockets of the Courts and restoring investor confidence in the Nigerian judicial system.”
The Judiciary especially the Federal High Court plays an effective role in boosting economic growth. Therefore, it is necessary for My Lord the Hon. Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to immediately embark on the desired, relevant, and critical steps to reform his Court to mirror and address judicial expediencies of the present times, which is needed to expeditiously deal with the thousands of pending cases in courts.
“It is crystal clear that a working and functional judicial system plays a major role in the society in maintaining not just law and order but boosting the economy. The Government must as a matter of great importance take active steps towards reforming the judiciary with a view to ensuring the expeditious and fair administration of justice. No serious nation prioritizes matters relating to the elections over the economy. An efficient judicial system provides the framework for stability and economic development,” Ambassador Rimi noted.
Kuru in his remarks while appreciating the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for the opportunity at the conference said the Corporation cannot over flog the important role the judiciary play in national development as earlier highlighted by Ambassador Rimi, and as such judges remain vital to the success of the Country.
He added that “Quick, efficient and fair dispensation of justice is not only necessary but Godly.
“With specific reference to AMCON He said, “We have repeatedly made the point at every opportunity that all stakeholders must view the AMCON mandate as one of serious national importance. If at sunset AMCON is unable to recover the huge debt of over N5trillion, it becomes the debt of the Federal Government of Nigeria for which taxpayers’ monies will be used to settle. The implication is that the public will be made to pay for the recklessness of only a few individuals who continue to take advantage of the loopholes in our laws to escape their moral and legal obligations to repay their debts. We should not allow a few individuals to escape with our commonwealth. And we want to do it within the confines of the law. “We must encourage a society where people must be made to honour their obligation and should not find solace under any guise in any institution of government”.
On his part, Hon. Justice J.T. Tsoho, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court who described the gathering as ‘very historic’ as it constitutes their first outing on an international training since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 stated that the judiciary in Nigeria will continue to seek knowledge on how to better the economy and the country at large through trainings and knowledge sharing with their peers around the globe.
He said it was on that note that, “Today’s digital age and digital economy necessitated the need for our Court to be conversant with the technicalities of these regimes if we are to effectively adjudicate on matters relating to the concepts underpinning this Seminar. Indeed, it is these underpinnings that educated my decision to theme the programme “The place of the federal high court in the digital age, for economic development and the stability of the financial system.”