OBSERVATION: Judiciary And Nigeria’s Democratic Process

OBSERVATION: Judiciary And Nigeria’s Democratic Process
  • PublishedNovember 27, 2020

By Wale Adebisi

THE Judiciary is the formulation upon which democracy grows and develops. This is so because the Judiciary is the only organ that deals with the administration and dispensation of justice in any democratic nation. Because of its importance in human society, it behooves on those who are entrusted with the dispensation of justice to be guided by the principle of truth and morality. It is a major feature of democratic system of government; it interprets laws that are made by the legislative branch or those that are made on the authority of the legislature. The existence of a judiciary in a democratic government is justified by the principle of separation of powers which states that person who makes laws should be separated from those who implement those laws while those who implement the laws should be separated from those who interpret them. This principle of good governance is expected to prevent dictatorship and arbitrary rule. This is to enable checks and balances in all the tiers of government.

However, the Judiciary in Nigeria existed in non-democratic government like the military regime or an autocratic civilian regime. What distinguishes Judiciary in a democratic rule from that of non-democratic one is its independence to interpret the provisions of the laws which are made by legislative houses. The Judiciary in Nigeria evolved in the colonial through a gradual constitutional development at the time of independence in 1960. The judiciary was consolidated in its present form with a mixture of English Common Law, Sharia Law and Customary Law. 

A constitution based on the Parliamentary System was introduced in 1960, when Nigeria formally became an independent state. It was amended in 1963 when Nigeria attained the republican status. Democratic rule was aborted with the military intervention in 1966, which marked the beginning of and end to judicial independence. The military suspended the constitution but allowed the Judiciary and existing laws to continue to exist. Laws were made with decrees at the federal level and edicts at the state level. The independence of the Judiciary was not protected as litigations were decided according to the language of the military Junta’s decrees and edicts. This was confirmed in the midnight court injunction granted on the 1993 June 12 presidential election. Since the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the judiciary had been struggling to restore its image in order to justify their relevance and importance in the new democratic order. This was not as easy as other negative tendencies emerged.

It is a plain truth that, Nigeria’s courts of justice have varying operational difficulties, ranging from inadequate infrastructure, insufficient of judicial and non-judicial personnel, debilitating delay in deciding and determination of civil, criminal and electoral cases. The judiciary is also beset by serious ethical problems, including an increasingly nepotistic mode of appointments and promotions of judges. These factors have hindered the adequate functionality of the judiciary undoubtedly, the judiciary in Nigeria has manifested inability to contribute to the development in contemporary democratic dispensation through perpetrating electoral malpractices of corruption, making a lot of people to belong without genuinely following the due process of going to tribunal to pursue their electoral victory, false court declaration leading to violence which often kills democracy.

However, the image of the Judiciary in Nigeria today is that of a institution where any things goes, with cash and carry judgment. A lot of people have been denied justice openly especially civil and political cases. For instance, the 2003 elections under the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration witnessed the worst election rigging and manipulation of justices in the courts. The elections were allegedly rigged throughout the federation with do-or-die style of the then president of the country. The politicians kill democracy and the Judiciary buries it. Perversion of justice with huge money, miscarriages of justice to favour the government in power makes the electorates to lose total confidence in the temple of justice in Nigeria.

Despite, the countless of open perversions, corruption and judgment purchase, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola won his case at the Federal Court of Appeal in a long and protracted legal battle to become the second progressive  governor of the State of Osun, which put the state back to progressive governance with developmental ideology on November 27, 2010.

The eight-year rule of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola ushered in communal peace and harmony, prosperity, sustainable development in infrastructure, agriculture and food security, detailed security system, functional education, health services, youth empowerment, social security and investment in human capital development and finally changing the face of Osun from the lower level of ladder to greater heights in state ranking in Nigeria. 

The completion of the eight years’ dual tenure of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, which saw him legitimately hand over the baton of progressive governance of the state to Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola reinforced the hegemony of continuity of progressive government of development in the state. This is worthy of celebration because the dividends of democracy are put at the door steps of the electorates in the state.

This day, Nov 27th 2020, marks the 10th year of an interrupted progressive government, which needs to be sustained for purpose of development and growth. 

Within the shenanigan of Nigerian judiciary, the stolen and captured mandate of the party was recovered after, a vigorous and protracted political and legal battle at the Election Petitions Tribunal and Court of Appeal in Ibadan. 

Nevertheless, the role of the Judiciary in the dispensation of justice made it possible for Osun to be the state in Nigeria that both the Federal Government and some states are copying its programmes and developmental agenda.

Finally, the role of the judiciary as defined in the 1999 Constitution, and other governing acts and laws, is very critical to the survival of democracy and attainment of its purpose in Nigeria. How the Judiciary functions, as well as how the various stakeholders in a democratic empowerment appropriate their intervention and roles in the polity are equally key indicators of the whether they are health-givers or killers of democracy.


Comrade Wale Adebisi

Director, Comrade Ola Oni Centre for Social Research, State of Osun.

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