Desktop versionMobile version
OpenEdition Books

Informal Channels for Conflict Resolution in Ibadan, Nigeria

 | 
Isaac Olawale Albert
, 
Tinu Awe
, 
Georges Hérault
, 
et al.

5. Interaction between Formal and Informal Channels

Full text

1. Introduction to the formal System

  • 1 Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
  • 2 1980, 11 S.C., p.103.

1According to Mr. Justice Aniagolu1 in the case of Edun v Odan Community:2

The court oflast resort will indeed do justice by PROCEDURES laid down by the LAW and THE CONSTITUTION. The moment a court ceases to do justice according to LAW and PROCEDURE laid down for it, it becomes a kangaroo court. (author’s emphasis)

2The learned judge no doubt was referring to the activities of the court of last resort in Nigeria, the Supreme Court; but indeed his statements are true of all courts within the formal constructs of the administration of justice in Nigeria.

3However, it is this manner of administering justice according to law and procedure that has created so much hardship for poor urban people and has led them to look to alternative informal channels of conflict resolution.

4Law and procedure in administering justice, necessitate the following actions, which cost money:

  1. engaging the services of a lawyer
  2. payment of court fees for various processes
  3. appear personally in court, or through a lawyer, until judgement is given
  4. enforcement of judgements under the procedures laid down by The Sheriffs & Civil Processes Laws and The Judgement (Enforcement) Rules.

5It is not only the courts that are involved in the formal administration of justice and conflict resolution. This chapter examines the Nigeria Police Force, the Public Complaints Commission (Ombudsman), the Legal Aid Council, which specifically targets the financially disadvantaged, all created by statute and involved in formal conflict resolution. Once a conflict situation arises amongst financially disadvantaged urban dwellers that warrants legal action, a problem is created.

2. Administration of Justice through the Court System

6Nigeria operates a federal system of government via the currently suspended Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979. At present, Nigeria is under military rule and government is administered at the federal level by means of decrees issued by the Provisional Ruling Council and edicts issued by state administrators.

7As a result of the federal structure, there are different categories of courts with different jurisdictional competence to hear cases.

8The highest court is the Supreme Court; second is the Court of Appeal with seven divisions at Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Benin, Port Harcourt, Jos and Enugu; third are the high courts both state and federal. Fourth are the magistrate courts and fifth and last are the customary courts, which administer mainly customary law.

  • 3 A.O Obilade, The Nigerian legal System, Sweet & Maxwell, 1979. See Chapter 10.

9Courts may be broadly classified as superior or inferior, or as courts of record or courts other than courts of record.3 Superior courts are courts whose jurisdiction is not limited by the nature or cost value of the subject matter brought before them. Inferior courts, on the other hand, are courts which have such limitations. In dealing with the urban poor, most claims are handled by the inferior courts. Courts of record are courts which have the power to punish for contempt committed in or outside the court in a summary manner. Courts other than courts of record may only punish for contempt, where such contempt occurs in court or, if the contempt occurs out of the court, on a charge duly laid before the court.

2.1 Customary courts

  • 4 See Section 19, Customary Court Law, Western Region of Nigeria laws 1959, Cap.31.

10In Oyo State, the lowest courts are customary courts. These courts administer mainly customary laws4 and only some statute laws, such as bye-laws, which are within the area of jurisdiction of local governments. They are inferior courts and are graded; A, B, and C Customary Courts. Grade A and some Grade B Courts are presided over by lawyers, while other Grade B and Grade C Courts are presided over by lay men.

11During our research, we visited a number of customary courts in Ibadan and interviewed the parties to the actions being heard in some of the courts. All the litigants complained about the corruption of the court process. In particular, most said they had to bribe the customary court judges and that the highest bidder usually won. This allegation that justice was bought is a very grave one indeed, especially for the financially disadvantaged.

  • 5 1995, 7 NWLR Prt.150, p.168.

12The advantages of the customary courts to the urban poor can be garnered from the words of The Honorable Mr. Justice S.M. Belgore of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Oyah v Ikahile:5

The native courts or customary courts are by their nature cheap grassroots courts. They are easily accessible because they are not confined by cumbersome procedure, and if they have rules of procedure they are merely to be guided by them. The essence of those courts is to dispense justice quickly, effïciently and without miscarriage of justice. Once on the face of their records it is clear that justice has been done, failure of strictly adhering to the procedure will not vitiate the judgement...(author’s emphasis).

13Apart from the fact that, as the statement of the learned judge shows, the courts are cheap courts, litigants need not be represented by counsel. This means that lawyers’ fees, which form a large part of the costs incurred in litigation, are not payable. However, there are very few customary courts and this means that they are overcrowded and hearing is delayed. In addition, the poor working conditions and inadequate remuneration of the judges in these courts make 3them susceptible to bribery and corruption as well as other forms of improper behaviour.

14The next courts in the hierarchy are the magistrate courts. Magistrate courts are of six types depending on the level of the person presiding. These courts are presided over by legal practitioners and legal practitioners have a right of audience in them.

2.2 Magistrate courts

Limit of Value of Subject Matter

15Chief Magistrate Court N5 000

16Senior Magistrate Grade I N3 000

17Senior Magistrate Grade II N2 000

18Magistrate Grade I N1 000

19Magistrate Grade II N500

20Magistrate Grade III N200

  • 6 H.M. Ogunwumiju, Between legal and social justice, Nigerian Tribune, Friday 21 July, 1995, p. 12. (...)

21The limits of value to the jurisdiction of these courts means that a lot of poor people will attend them. The Ibadan Division of the Oyo State Magistrate Court has only ten courts.6 The magistrates are thus overworked and grossly underpaid and justice cannot be obtained speedily in these courts, particularly because under-staffing causes delay in the disposition of cases. In addition, filing fees, transport, costs to and from court and lawyers’ fees add to the burden of the financially disadvantaged who decide to pursue matters through the magistrate courts.

2.3 The High Court

22The next court in the hierarchy is the High Court. Litigants here are represented by counsel, filing fees are high for any of the court processes and so are lawyers’ fees. The Ibadan Division of the High Court is grossly understaffed, the conditions of work are very poor and this leads to increased expenses as well as delays in the administration of justice.

  • 7 Sobo Sowemimo (SAN), The Supreme Court and Abuja, Nigerian Tribune, Friday 7 July 1995, p.12.

23Appeals go from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, and finally to the Supreme Court. Costs increase as the litigant proceeds through the hierarchy of the court system.7

3. The Nigeria Police Force

  • 8 Cap.359, Laws of The Federation of Nigeria 1990; See the Constitution of the Federal Republic of N (...)
  • 9 See Section 4 of The Police Act

24The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is another of the formal channels of conflict resolution. The Nigeria Police Force is a federal force. According to the Police Act,8 the responsibilities9 of the police include the following:

  1. prevention and detection of crime
  2. apprehension of offenders
  3. the preservation of law and order
  4. protection of lives and property
  5. enforcement of laws and regulations made by the federal, state and local governments
  6. performance of military duties within and without Nigeria, as may be required by the Federal Government of Nigeria

25The two duties of the police which affect the financially disadvantaged and which are of consequence in this research are:

  1. the preservation of law and order
  2. protection of lives and property

26It is in the performance of these duties that the operations of the police can be judged in relation to the poor.

  • 10 This problem of low public image has been admitted by the highest echelons of the force. As report (...)

27What can be observed is that the police force is held in very low esteem by members of the public.10 The reasons for this are many and could be the topic of another research exercise. A brief discussion of the problem is given here. The Nigeria Police Force is supposed to offer highly subsidised services to the public, but this is, in actual fact, not the case.

28The police are starved of funds and as a result, in most police stations in Ibadan, a complainant has to buy stationery (such as pens and paper) needed to record his complaint and to provide a car and fuel if the police are required to accompany the complainant to any place. For a poor person, this is a big burden to bear. It is one of the deterrents to reporting matters to the police mentioned by several respondents during the survey.

  • 11 A very funny case in point occurred not in Ibadan but in Yola. It was reported by the Newbreed mag (...)
  • 12 Lord Halsbury in Shapt v Wakefteld 1891 AC 173 said that ‘Discretion means, when it is said that s (...)

29Another factor is that due to poor working conditions and poor remuneration, police officers are highly susceptible to bribery and corruption.11 The level of corruption is so high that it is practically impossible to get even a police report of an incident without having to pay amounts up to 100 % in excess of the official rates. All these factors make it possible for monied persons to commandeer the whole process of police investigation and turn it to their own advantage. Many of the persons asked gave this particular reason for not wanting the police involved in any disputes which they were a party to. It is believed that many police officers in Nigeria today do not exercise discretion either judiciously or uniformly in the performance of their duties.12

30Another problem with the police force is illiteracy. This poses a great problem in a situation where the members of the public needing the help of the police are poor and/or illiterate. The minimum entry qualification into the Nigeria Police Force is the GCE ‘O’ Level Certificate. This minimum standard was introduced in 1989 with the enactment of The Police (Miscellaneous Provisions) Decree (No. 5) 1989 which amended the Police Act. However, there are some officers who still do not possess this minimum qualification and are unaware of the rights of the citizen. In these cases unless the complainant has some knowledge of his rights, it is not easy to get police help.

31The police in a civilised country such as Nigeria ought to be well informed and educated to cater to the needs of the people.

4. The Public Complaints Commission

  • 13 Cap.377, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

32Another formal channel of conflict resolution created by statute in Nigeria is the Public Complaints Commission (The Commission). This is the public ombudsman modelled after the Scandinavian Ombudsman. The Commission was created by the Public Complaints Commission Act.13 The Act is, according to its long title:

An act to establish the Public Complaints Commission with wide powers to inquire into complaints by members of the public conceming the administrative action of any public authority and companies or their officials, and other matters ancillary thereto against any public authority and companies or their officials and other matters ancillary thereto.

33The commission operates as a single body with headquarters in Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria, with area offices in each state. It is autonomous and it receives a budgetary allocation every fiscal year.

34The role of the Commission is purely advisory and it makes recommendations (which are not made public), based on its findings in any particular case, to the Government, under whose control the public authority is. However, before the Commission can act on any matter brought to its notice, the Commissioner has to be satisfied that all administrative and legal remedies have been exhausted. No fees are paid for the services apart from administrative costs. Although the Commission is mainly advisory and lacks the power to enforce its recommendations it does have some legal powers.

  1. It can require persons (natural and artificial) to appear before it in any particular case.
  2. It can require any person to furnish it with information. Failure to do this can incur a fine of N500 or imprisonment for 6 months or both.
  3. Perjury committed orally or in writing during its proceedings can incur a one year imprisonment term.

35The establishment of such a body which charges nothing for services rendered is definitely a step by Government to alleviate the suffering of members of the public, especially poor people. However, it must be noted that, as with most public authorities, the Commission is very poorly funded and a lot of delays are experienced by complainants before matters are finally settled. For example, of the 247 applications received in 1993 only 89 were resolved while 158 were carried over to 1994. Also on the issue of funding, the Commission possesses only four vehicles for the whole of Oyo State; of these four, three are grounded, while the fourth is the official car of the Commissioner and not a utility vehicle. This puts a great strain on the workers who need to go out on visits during an investigation. In addition, since its recommendations are purely advisory, if the public authority to which they are directed decides not to implement them, there is nothing that the complainant or the Commission can do. Thus, the finality associated with court decisions is lacking. Finally, the Commission is disempowered from investigating any matter relating to anything done or purported to be done by any member of the Nigeria Police

  • 14 The Commission is also disempowered from investigating matters relating to anything done or purpor (...)

36Force under the Police Act.14 It is not clear why this is so, considering that both are formal channels of conflict resolution whose work could be greatly enhanced by maintaining a working relationship.

37On the whole, the impact of the Public Complaints Commission is very limited, both in terms of the number of cases brought before it, as well as the number of cases it can resolve, when one considers the myriad problems of the poor in Ibadan. Its terms of reference, mainly complaints against public authorities, also limit its impact in no small measure, since there are many cases against individuals which it is officially unable to probe.

5. The Legal Aid Council

  • 15 Cap. 205, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

38The last formal channel of conflict resolution specifically provided for the financially disadvantaged is The Legal Aid Council. This council was created by the Legal Aid Decree No. 56 of 1976.15

  • 16 ‘Equal access to law for the rich and the poor alike is essential to the maintenance of the Rule o (...)

39The provision of legal aid was instituted to ensure that financial assistance is provided to people who otherwise would be unable to enforce or defend their legal rights because they cannot afford to obtain legal services on their own.16 Under the Legal Aid Scheme there is a branch office of the council in each state.

  • 17 Section 7 of The Legal Aid Act. Other contributions to the scheme are made by philanthropic organi (...)
  • 18 See Legal Aid Magazine 1989, 4th Edition. Also an interview with the Council officials in Ibadan.

40The Federal Government of Nigeria is the main source of funds to the council.17 The states are not bound to contribute to the funding of legal aid although there is a provision in the Decree which makes it optional on the part of the state to contribute. Oyo State has donated office and residential accommodation18 to the branch office in Ibadan. Additionally, Oyo State donated a hundred thousand naira to legal aid in each of the years 1991, 1994 and 1995. These sums are not substantial enough to make a significant impact on the work of the branch office which has to depend mainly on what is available through the federal grant. This has led to an acute funding problem in the Oyo State office; the office is not well equipped, the buildings actually house two offices; the zonal office (Oyo, Osun, Kwara and Ondo) and state office and the council possesses no official motor vehicle despite the need to move around between courts, police stations, the houses of the recipient of legal aid and witnesses and the branch office.

41The Legal Aid Scheme is limited to the following:

  1. Legal aid is available only in criminal cases; murder of any degree, manslaughter, maliciously or wilfully wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. However, The Legal Aid (Amendment) Decree (No. 10) of 1986 enlarges the scheme to cover civil matters in respect of accidents. Also, The Legal Aid (Amendment) Decree No. 22, 1994 enlarges the scheme to cover common assault, affray, stealing and rape.
  2. Legal aid is available only to persons earning below N5 000 per annum.19 This sum has only just been increased with the amendment of 1994. Before the amendment it was N1 500, which in the economic circumstances of Nigeria was unreasonable. As is the case in England,20 the scheme makes provision for contributions to be made by persons earning above N5 000.
  • 21 See Section 33(6)(c) of The Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 which states: ‘Ev (...)

42It is unclear why legal aid is not available in the generality of civil cases. There seems to be no reason why this is so, other than the fact that the constitutional guarantee of right to counsel21 only applies in criminal matters.

  • 22 Yemi Akinseye-George, The dilemma of legal aid in the protection of human rights in Nigeria, Journ (...)

43For the poor urban person, this seems to be a case of creating a distinction where there is no difference. A poor person, who is charged with a crime and therefore liable to lose his liberty, is not in a much worse position than one whose means of livelihood and survival is threatened by a dispute which causes him to require urgent legal services he can ill afford.22

44The Legal Aid Regulations (see Regulation 1) made under the Legal Aid Act, provide that legal advice other than legal representation may be given free of charge by legal practitioners appointed by or in the services of the Legal Aid Council in civil or criminal matters at any police station, court, offices of the council or prison.

45In this way, qualified persons may obtain legal advice but not representation in civil cases. Investigations at the council offices in Ibadan revealed that the council receives many applications from persons whose matters the council has no jurisdiction over. However, under the provisions of this regulation, advice can be given which the recipient might be able to act upon if he/she can find a sympathetic lawyer. The council officials were of the opinion that it was necessary to broaden legal aid to include every legal matter. In particular, the Zonal Officer, Mr. W.O. Akanbi, was of the opinion that landlord and tenant matters as well as land disputes and matrimonial causes should be covered by legal aid.

6. Informality Within the formal Channels

6.1 Lawyers and out-of-court interventions

46Lawyers are expected to be honorable and learned persons. They are officers of the court, which is one of the formal channels for conflict resolution. They are thus key actors within the formal channel.

47We interviewed a number of lawyers about their conflict resolution activities. all the lawyers interviewed claimed that a lot of poor people do come into their chambers or offices requiring legal advice and/or representation in conflict situations. They drew a distinction between matters which have legal solutions and others which do not have legal solutions or implications. The Latin maxim ubi jus ibi remedium (where there is a right there is a remedy) is always operative. It is only where there is a legal right that a remedy through the formal judicial system can be obtained.

48In cases where the poor bring matters which do not have any legal remedy or implication, some lawyers advise them of this and such a matter may be settled privately with the lawyer acting in a mediative capacity. Some lawyers still approach such matters in a legal manner, such as by writing a letter to the person(s) with whom the client has the dispute in the hope that the addressee will deal with the matter on his\her own without obtaining advice from another lawyer who would know that no legal issues are involved. This has helped to settle the matter in some cases. No uniform way of treating cases such as these could be discerned from our interviews with the lawyers. The two approaches cited above are thus non exhaustive.

49In cases which show that there is a legal remedy, the approaches adopted are also quite different from one lawyer to another. However, all the lawyers we interviewed take the following factors into account:

  1. the area of the law relating to the matter and the interest of the lawyer in that area
  2. the ability of the client to pay the expenses likely to be incurred in the conduct of a court case
  3. the ability of the client to pay the professional fees to be charged by the lawyer

50Most of the lawyers interviewed said that they would only pursue a case in which the client could not pay the court expenses in exceptional circumstances as a service to the profession. Once they had an interest in that area of the law, the professional fees would be foregone in the case of a client who could not afford to pay all expenses.

51Most of the lawyers spoken to were involved in out of court mediation in some way or the other, both in cases which involved legal issues and cases which did not. However, none of the lawyers adopted such activities simply because the client was too poor to afford the court route. Such measures were adopted in cases where a court action would bring shame, embarrassment or delay to either or both parties such as disputed paternity cases, debt recovery and divorce. This would still cost some money but it is usually not as expensive for the client as a court case.

52It is noteworthy that all the lawyers spoken to claimed to do some pro bono cases for poor people. However, none of the lawyers we spoke to could recollect more than five of such cases that they had been involved in.

  • 23 Lawyers jargon for a situation in which the professional fees have not been paid.

53When asked about what occurs when a matter is already being handled by the lawyer and heard by the court and the lawyers brief is not perfected23 most lawyers said they would continue as long as expenses were paid or they had no other matters for which they were paid at the same time. If matters for which they had been paid came up most of the lawyers said they would not deal with unpaid cases. Such cases are usually struck out by the court for want of diligent prosecution if their client is the plaintiff, or judgement may be given in absentia in favour of the other party.

54The conclusion drawn from the above is that lawyers are not very involved outside the formal judicial process. To a very limited extent, they advise on matters informally, but the little unpaid work they do is within the formal system.

6.2 The police and their mediative capacity

55Most of the work done by the police in Ibadan for poor people would seem to fall directly or indirectly within the duties of members of the police force as stated in S. 4 of the Police Act. In our opinion, the duty of ‘The Preservation of Law and Order’ contained in Section 4(d) of the Police Act is probably the widest of these duties and encompasses almost anything that a police officer can do.

56Thus in Ibadan, police officers settle disputes among market women, motor-park touts, etc., without making any formal reports of such activities. Yet, it is difficult to classify this as informal as a result of the wideness of their scope of duty. At Sango Police Station, very near the medium-sized Sango market in Ibadan, some officers spoken to revealed that in some matters (mainly family matters) they advise the complainant to settle the matter in the family, thus they do not deal formally with matters classified as ‘domestic matters’. Such matters may range from violence between spouses to child abuse. In such situations, some officers claimed they might intervene in the family set-up to settle the dispute but not in an official capacity. We were informed that most of the matters which constitute such domestic issues, however, cut across social and financial strata but that the majority of the cases with which they are acquainted are from poor people because the other social classes usually settle/hide such matters to avoid embarrassment.

57In conclusion therefore, it would seem that other than their involvement in ‘domestic matters policemen restrict themselves to their formal duties.

6.3 The Public Complaints Commission

58As we discussed above, the Commissions’ mandate is related only to public authorities. However in reality this is not the case. The Commission entertains complaints against individuals and the officials have succeeded in settling disputes between individuals in a number of cases. Thus, the Commission in handling disputes between individuals acts in an informal capacity.

6.4 The Legal Aid Council

59The Legal Aid Council has been discussed in some detail above. Sometimes, when an applicant has a matter over which the Council has no jurisdiction, the officials of the Council may get involved in a mediative capacity to help to settle the dispute. This usually occurs in family matters such as divorce or violence between spouses.

7. Conclusion

60From the foregoing, it is obvious that the poor in Ibadan, perhaps as elsewhere in Nigeria, have more faith in the informal channels of conflict resolution. In the absence of an efficient, corruption free and less expensive formal judicial setting, their only means of regulating conflict, which is inevitable in human life, is the informal apparatus. In this regard, religious institutions, professional bodies and neighbourhood associations with their various modes of regulating conflict have become popular. This popularity has resulted in a drop in the number of cases reaching official channels, especially the courts.

61Important as these channels are, some aspects still pose problems for the peace of the society. The activities of the vigilante groups deserve some mention in this regard. While it is true that they prevent armed robbers from operating in the neighbourhoods, it is also on record that many innocent people have lost their lives through the instant justice usually handed down to suspected criminals. The supporting role, which they are meant to play to the police, no matter how corrupt the latter institution may be, should be adhered to. Efforts should however be made to transform the police force fundamentally to a corruption free force supplied with adequate facilities to function.

62In a similar vein, the activities of the landlord and residents associations, especially the former, should be commended; in particular, their efforts at bringing modern facilities to their neighbourhood. The Agbowo community landlord association, initiated the move to bring electricity and pipeborne water to the neighbourhood before they were supported by government. Similarly they initiated measures to protect residents at night through group action before the Edict guiding vigilante activities was issued in 1987. However, their activities require some regulation to limit the power of eviction, which they often exercise. Even though, in law, they do not possess such powers, once they evict a defaulting tenant, they often get tacit support of the association. This deserves serious attention from the government to protect the rights of the poor.

63The religious institutions have been performing creditably in regulating the conflicts that would have turned the city (in the near future) upside down, due to possible increases in the number of delinquent children roaming the streets as a result of broken homes. Many families have been saved from disintegrating due to the intervention of religious leaders. These leaders need to be further encouraged in this task.

64Government should endeavour to appoint more religious leaders as Justices of the Peace (JPs), with wider powers than they have informally now.

65In appointing JPs, government should scrutinise candidates carefully to ensure that those to be appointed are truly men of God and not businessmen masquerading as men of God. If the instrument of office of JP falls into wrong hands, it could be wrongly used, particularly in view of the wide-ranging powers they can exercise. In the course of preparing this work, we came across three Justices of the Peace and we were disappointed by the conduct of all three of them. One got an ordinary passer-by detained for more than five hours at the Bodija Police Station. His offence? He passed in front of the JP’s house at 6.30 P.M. without identifying himself. In actual fact, the passer-by was punished because he had demanded that the JP should identify himself first as a genuine JP, as stated in the JP manual (p. 14).

66On another occasion a JP demanded money openly from a member of the public who requested for a piece of information from him. He put it rather jokingly to the man requesting the information ‘nothing goes for nothing in Nigeria’. He did not give the requested information until the member of the public had given the requested sum of N200.

67Lastly, a JP has been seen to publicly solicit for quarrelling parties to come to his court (house) for settlement. Since he has the instruments to dispense justice at a... reduced price to disputants than the police or the courts. Of course, it is quite obvious that he collected money to dispense justice. A lot of people interviewed attested to this.

68Thus men of integrity, like religious leaders of good character, should be appointed to that office. In addition people should not be encouraged to apply to become justices of the peace.

7.1 Citizens Advice Bureau

69It is suggested that a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) be set up in Ibadan staffed by lawyers and other professionals. The focus of such a bureau would be to advise citizens in a conflict situation to find a method of resolution outside the courts. For example, in a landlord/tenant conflict situation, the focus of CAB advice would be how to secure alternative accommodation for the tenant rather than on how to assist him in enforcing his legal rights in court. In this way, work being done individually by lawyers as they meet their poor clients’ needs may be better coordinated by a central body which might have a wider reach with publicity.

Notes

1 Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

2 1980, 11 S.C., p.103.

3 A.O Obilade, The Nigerian legal System, Sweet & Maxwell, 1979. See Chapter 10.

4 See Section 19, Customary Court Law, Western Region of Nigeria laws 1959, Cap.31.

5 1995, 7 NWLR Prt.150, p.168.

6 H.M. Ogunwumiju, Between legal and social justice, Nigerian Tribune, Friday 21 July, 1995, p. 12. Note that Justice Ogunwumiju is the chairman, Oyo State Branch of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria.

7 Sobo Sowemimo (SAN), The Supreme Court and Abuja, Nigerian Tribune, Friday 7 July 1995, p.12.

8 Cap.359, Laws of The Federation of Nigeria 1990; See the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979, Exclusive Legislative list No. 44. The Exclusive Legislative list contains matters which only the Federal Government can legislate upon. See also sections 194 and 196 of the said constitution.

9 See Section 4 of The Police Act

10 This problem of low public image has been admitted by the highest echelons of the force. As reported in The Guardian, Saturday 27 January 1991, p.l, the retiring Inspector General of Police, Muhammadu Gambo, opined that the greatest problem facing the police in Nigeria was the image problem and that it needed correction. There is no reason to suggest that his comments made four years ago need correction in the light of present developments.

11 A very funny case in point occurred not in Ibadan but in Yola. It was reported by the Newbreed magazine, 7 May 1989 p. 20. Two police officers arrested the newly posted Assistant Inspector General of Police in Yola for the offence of wandering, without knowing who he was. They demanded a bribe to induce them to release him. On being caught out, they were dismissed from the police force after an orderly room trial. But note that for every case like this which affects a person who has the status or the means to do something about it, there are many others who have to cough up bribes for their release.
Note also the laughable penalty contained in section 41 of the Police Act ‘Every person who knowingly harbors or entertains or either directly or indirectly, sells or gives any intoxicating liquor to any constable when on duty, or permits any such constable to abide or remain in his house (except in case of extrême urgency), and any person who, by threats or by offer of money or gift, spirituous liquors or any other things, induces or endeavors to induce any constable to commit a breach of his duty as constable or to omit any part of such duty shall be guilty of an offence and on summary conviction, thereof before a magistrate shall be liable to a penalty of ten naira or to be imprisoned for a term of one month’.

12 Lord Halsbury in Shapt v Wakefteld 1891 AC 173 said that ‘Discretion means, when it is said that something is to be done within the discretion of authorities, that something is to be donc within the rules of reason and justice and not according to private opinion; according lo law and not humour. It is not to be arbitrary, vague and fanciful but legal and regular’.

13 Cap.377, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

14 The Commission is also disempowered from investigating matters relating to anything done or purported to be done in respect of any member of:
a. The Nigerian Army — under The Nigerian Army Act
b. The Nigerian Air Force — under The Air Force Act
c. The Nigerian Navy — under The Navy Act

15 Cap. 205, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

16 ‘Equal access to law for the rich and the poor alike is essential to the maintenance of the Rule of Law. It is therefore, essential to provide adequate legal advice and representation to all those threatened as to their life, liberty, property or reputation who are not able to pay for it’. Final Committee Report, 1985 New Delhi Conference of the International Commission of Jurists.

17 Section 7 of The Legal Aid Act. Other contributions to the scheme are made by philanthropic organisations and persons.

18 See Legal Aid Magazine 1989, 4th Edition. Also an interview with the Council officials in Ibadan.

19 See section 9 (1) of The Legal Aid Act and Section 2 of the November 1994 Amendment.

20 P. Harris, Introduction to Law, 1980, pp. 112-122.

21 See Section 33(6)(c) of The Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 which states: ‘Every person charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to defend himself in person or by a legal practitioner of his own choice’.

22 Yemi Akinseye-George, The dilemma of legal aid in the protection of human rights in Nigeria, Journal of Human Rights Law and Practice (CLO) 3(1, 2 & 3) Dec. 1993. (Composite edition) p.101; Bowen Olufunke, An operational assessment of the Nigerian Legal Aid Scheme. In: Law and Development,
Omotola and Adeogun, ed., University of Lagos Press, 1980, p. 259.

23 Lawyers jargon for a situation in which the professional fees have not been paid.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1995

Terms of use: http://www.openedition.org/6540