President, Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, suggested a 12-month time limit for criminal cases as he condemned the “terribly slow pace” of justice administration in the Nigerian courts.
Buhari, who narrated the ugly experience he had from the courts on his petition challenging the outcome of his losses in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential polls, stated that the Nigerian justice system needed an urgent reform.
He suggested that the judiciary should put 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.
Buhari spoke at the 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, with the theme, “Stepping Forward.”
His speech was read at the virtual conference by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).
Speaking about his experience, Buhari said, “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 the office all that time.
In 2019, I was no longer 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.”
The president correspondingly criticized the conflicting court orders by judges, noting that in the recent leadership crisis that rocked the ruling All Progressives Congress, no fewer than eight conflicting court orders were made by different judges in a space of six weeks.