Thursday, January 21, 2016

Persistent Rape Of Justice In Nigeria

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The universal symbol of justice is the statue of a very beautiful but blindfolded beauty queen wielding a sharp sword with which justice is dispensed to all irrespective of class, status or race.
There is also a universal unanimity that justice must be dispensed with timeliness since justice delayed is said to be justice denied.
In Nigeria however criminal and civil justice is slower than a typical snail because of a number of reasons ranging from prosecutorial bureaucratic bottlenecks created by professional incompetence of the police which coordinates much of the prosecution of criminal cases and several other extenuating factors including but certainly unlimited to outright corruption and compromise on the part of the presiding judges.
Judicial corruption is therefore a hydra-headed monster that has unleashed unwarranted delay in the dispensation of justice especially to the poor and disadvantaged litigants.
Miss Cynthia Osokogu and the four undergraduates of University of Port Harcourt (ALUU4) murdered by the villagers in Aluu ikwerre in Rivers State on trumped up charges of theft have come to symbolize the most abominable kind of delayed justice because these two cases have lingered for almost four years without the killers being punished for these gruesome acts of criminal depravity.
Miss Cynthia’s case is pathetic because she was lured into her untimely but primitive death by her would-be business associates whom she encountered via the social media of Facebook.
Nigeria has become a home made comfortable for gangsters who now constitute themselves into sinister membership of a thriving nest of killers because the justice system is near-moribund and logistically challenged due to incompetence and criminal compromise as elaborately aforementioned.
In Lagos and Port Harcourt the prosecution teams have through their acts of professional incompetence have had to delay these trials to an extent that  most of the suspected killers are roaming the streets on bails whilst the families of these persons  killed have yet to have closures of these unfortunate cases.
For instance the defense in the ongoing murder trial of Cynthia Osokogu, a postgraduate student of Nasarawa State University, who was murdered at Cosmilla Hotel, FESTAC Town, Lagos, on July 22, 2012 allegedly by her Facebook friends: Okwumo Nwabufo, Olisaeloka Ezike, Orji Osita, and Ezike Nonso, has only just closed their case yesterday (Monday January 18th 2016) before a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere after over three years of commencement. The reports of what transpired in court were narrated below and these are horrifying tales told by idiots.
The trial judge, Justice Olabisi Akinlade fixed April 11, for mention for filling of their written addresses on the case. The import of filing written addresses is nothing but another slogan for laborious and grueling court sessions meaning that give and take this matter may still linger for another year before judgment which would then have to go through the rigors of Appeal spanning the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria as of right contrary to what obtains in other criminal jurisdictions whereby litigants need special authorization from a higher judicial authority to only proceed on appeal based on the merit of the questions to be posed on appeal.
*Cynthia Osokogu
In Nigeria appealing a judgment is used as a decoy for further delay of dispensation of justice. To even think that typically an appeal filed by a junior lawyer before the Supreme Court of Nigeria can take as much as two decades to be heard, it is therefore heartrending that the rights of victims of crimes are so wantonly and sadistically violated to no end. If this isn’t impunity what then  is?
Specifically, in the matter involving the alleged killers of Cynthia the defendants are facing a six-count charge bordering on felony, conspiracy, robbery and murder, preferred against them by the state and in this matter the Lagos State government whereby the second most powerful office holder is a woman and the Chief Judge is also a woman.
The alleged offences contravened Sections 221, 249, 285 and 327 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.
At the resumption of the hearing of the matter before adjournment, the fourth defendant, Ezike Nonso, gave account of the role he played in the alleged murder of Osokogu.
He said that he was arrested by Festac Area E Police Command when he voluntarily went there to return the phone that he was alleged to have stolen.
Why does it take donkey years for simple but serious criminal cases to be resolved in Nigeria and why is  the administration of criminal justice such a cumbersome task for the Nigerian law enforcement authority?  Why has it remained a convention for cases to last many years before the process of adjudication is completed even when in 2015 Nigeria got a comprehensively written administration of criminal justice Act? What then is the essence of trial if the judicial system in Nigeria is twisted to perpetuate the abuse of the rights of victims of crime?
From those who know,   the word trial implies a judicial examination and determination of facts and legal issues arising between parties to a civil or criminal action.
In the free law dictionary we are told that in the United States, the trial is the principal method for resolving legal disputes that parties cannot settle by themselves or through less formal methods.
The chief purpose of a trial, according to the author is to secure fair and impartial administration of justice between the parties to the action. A trial seeks to ascertain the truth of the matters in issue between the parties and to apply the law to those matters. Also, a trial provides a final legal determination of the dispute between the parties. So argues the writer.
The two main types of trials are civil trials and criminal trials. Civil trials resolve civil actions, which are brought to enforce, redress, or protect private rights. In general, all types of actions other than criminal actions are civil actions. In a criminal trial, a person charged with a crime is found guilty or not guilty and sentenced. The government brings a criminal action on behalf of the citizens to punish an infraction of criminal laws.
The cornerstone of the legal system in the United States is the jury trial. Many of the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court, which set forth the law of the land, are based on the issues and disputes raised in jury trials. The jury trial method of resolving disputes is premised on the belief that justice is best achieved by pitting the parties against each other as adversaries, with each party advocating its own version of the truth. Under the Adversary System, the jury, a group of citizens from the community, decides which facts in dispute are true. A judge presides at the trial and determines and applies the law. At the end of the trial, the judge will enter a judgment that constitutes the decision of the court. The parties must adhere to the judgment of the court. These facts are contained in a well written piece captured in the website of www.legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com.
As an observer of legal issues from a broad range of criminal jurisdictions around the globe it is pertinent to state that speed and efficiency are the essential hallmark of trials. There is nowhere on this planet earth whereby criminal trial takes so long to be resolved as is the case in Nigeria whereby the judicial institution is in a big mess. It’s only in Nigeria that prosecutors abuse their powers and receive financial gratification to frustrate speedy and efficient dispensation of justice.
Unless and until litigants are assured of speedy trial the regime of impunity that pervades the horizons in Nigeria may worsen and persons who are aggrieved may resort to self help measures such as instigating physical violence to settle scores. God forbid that Nigerians are allowed to degenerate to this sorry state but as my Igbo usually say “a wise person goes for a black goat whilst it is still day break” so we must make hay whilst the sun shines.  Let’s stop degrading and devaluing human life because human life is sacrosanct.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.

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