“You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself, that values itself, that understands itself.”
— Wangari Maathai
Why does “the system” appear not to be working in Nigeria? Why, in spite of the huge sums allocated to Ministries, Departments and Agencies every budget cycle, Nigerian public administration has not delivered the expected results? Access to essential services (such as electricity, potable water, sewage disposal, security and safety) remains highly restricted. The economy persistently fails to grow as fast as the population’s basic needs. Jobs are still scarce. The majority of the population remains trapped in poverty. Inequality continues to widen. And corruption is a beast that is yet to be tamed.
The answer to these questions lies in an enduring neo-feudal culture, one that has evolved over time and has impaired the capacity of individuals to function properly and to fulfill their obligations as members of statutory or civic bodies.
The story so far
We have thus far examined the foundation on which the apparatus of the Nigerian state was super-imposed when power changed hands at independence. The new set of rulers not only inherited the esoteric and intimidating technology of modern administration, but also came with the attitude of mind unique to their indigenous environments. The dual influences explain the contradictions which are ever noticeable in public administration doctrines and practices. On the one hand is the traditional structure, with its diverse, contextual, and emotion-laden interpretations of reality. On the other is the colonial super-structure with its universalistic, legal-rational, perfection-oriented ideals. Even though both have learnt to co-exist, the structure carried over from the traditional society eventually overpowered and captured the super-structure bequeathed by the colonial authorities. The hybrid that has evolved since the attainment of independence has unsurprisingly tilted the balance from “governing” as known in modern, politically competitive democracies, to “ruling” as understood in traditional, feudal, competition-killing, largely authoritarian societies.
Meanwhile, but unnoticed by the post-independence “rulers”, socioeconomic growth and demographic changes have shifted (and continued to shift) the center of gravity from the nebulous groups that worked well in traditional, precolonial societies, to the individual, who is indispensable to the effective functioning of modern political systems. As argued later, the failure to give the individual citizen adequate recognition in the contemporary setting has turned to be a mistake of the highest order.
For better or worse, it is the individual, not the group, whose choices impact directly on state construction or, as the case may be, disintegration, process. Where the individual is fully engaged and duly motivated, s/he can make positive contributions to inter-group understanding, the growth of the economy, the smooth functioning of government machinery, and the maintenance of public order. The converse is also the case where the individual feels alienated.
Unlike the group whose motivations are difficult to pin-point, the individual has fairly precise demands. Among these are demands for personal security, for food and shelter, for clean, hygienic, environment, for prompt and affordable access to services like health, education, gainful employment, electricity and water supply, paved highways, for dignity and equality, and for expeditious and fair dispensation of justice. These are the type of demands that can only be met by a “governing” rather than a “ruling” and regimentation mindset. They are the type of demands the satisfaction of which self-aware, politically active individuals hold their governments accountable for in modern societies. When such demands go unfulfilled, the individual is, as demonstrated by the experience of Uganda in the 1980s, likely to “switch off” government and submit to anarchic impulses (Brett, 1994).
The gap between “ruling” and “governing” continues to widen in Nigeria due largely to the contradictory interpretations of succeeding constitutions. The underlying aim of the constitutions is to secure citizen obedience to a central authority. Obedience, in this sense, serves as a metaphor for the acceptance of cosmopolitan ideals, such as those of universalism, open-mindedness, public spiritedness, justice, equity, constitutionalism, and multi-party competition. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the practice to-date has been to pursue the universal ideals by falling back, and harping, on primordial, group-centered, individual-disregarding, loyalties.
The 1999 Constitution attempts, though unsuccessfully, to resolve the tension between national and sectional, and between both and individual allegiance. In the preamble, it conveys the wrong impression that “we the People” came together to author, and sign off on, the nation’s fundamental law, the nearest equivalent of a social contract. In Chapter II, Section 14 (2), it avers that sovereignty belongs to, and resides with, the people. It then stipulates that the “security and welfare of the people (meaning, individual citizens) shall be the primary purpose of government”. It further provides, in Section 15 that “national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the ground of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association shall be prohibited”. The same Constitution contains elaborate provisions on citizenship. The Constitution [particularly, in Sections 14. (2), 17. (1) and (2), as well as 42. (1) (a) and (b)] fully acknowledges, and underscores, the individuality of the citizen.
However, in trying to forge unity out of diversity, the Constitution’s interpreters frequently deny the individuality of citizens, preferring instead to focus on groups, thus effectively legitimizing inter-group bickering and antagonism. Denial of individuality takes at least three forms, notably, refusal to acknowledge the citizen’s unique personality, abrogation or confiscation of the citizen’s constitutional rights, and deprivation of opportunity to rise or fall based on one’s personal effort. To put it differently, the operators of the constitution routinely deny the average citizen’s humanity, his/her constitutional rights, as well as the opportunity to compete for the benefits of citizenship.
Instead of allowing and encouraging each citizen to be the best Nigerian s/he can possibly be, succeeding administrations constantly harp on his/her primary identities, thus effectively devaluing his/her citizenship of the Nigerian state and placing an embargo on his/her growth aspirations. Rather than allow each citizen to rise or fall based on his/her choices, the rulers have taken it upon themselves to lump individuals with groups, as a first step towards determining who, within each group, gets ahead and who is denied the opportunity of reaching his/her full, God-ordained, potential.
When it comes to deciding on who gets what, the country’s rulers have persistently denied the individuality of the citizen, preferring instead to give undue attention to their cronies in each ethnic or other politically weighty demographic group. The due consideration which the Constitution expects the government and its agents to give to Nigeria’s “federal character” has almost invariably been interpreted to mean favoring whomever the rulers choose, as long as the rulers’ favorite belongs to a federating unit recognized by law. The sense of belonging that the “federal character” provision of the Constitution seeks to foster is unfailingly negated by the crass favoritism that has become a regular feature of the public appointment and wider decision-making process.
Rather than acknowledge every eligible Nigerian’s fundamental right to be given full and fair consideration for political and civil service vacancies (based on personal merit), succeeding rulers have allocated job quotas to themselves and their proxies, while denying suitably qualified candidates the opportunity to serve their motherland. Favoritism also manifests in the conferment of national honors, award of oil blocks and licenses, and sale of privatized enterprises. It rears its head in the administration of justice, as reflected in instances of purchased or unduly influenced court verdicts, of politically connected law breakers enjoying immunity from arrest or prosecution, and of convicts with high-level connections receiving state pardon and letting the world know that they are untouchable.
It is of course in the recruitment of personnel that favoritism wreaks the greatest havoc and sparks off heated controversy. Proceeding on the easily falsifiable assumption that the amorphous group is synonymous with the discrete individual, or, more astonishing, that the group supersedes the individual, powerful state officials expend their appointment or nomination “quotas” on their favorites in various states or zones while denying better-qualified rivals from the same states or zones the opportunity to compete at all, much less, on a level playing field. Other privileged individuals and political godfathers sell their slots to the highest bidding job-seekers.
Regardless of how a candidate is selected, handpicked or made to pay (or grovel) for a position, a designated group is deemed “represented” once the appointing authorities are able to establish that the favored candidate is from a group recognized by law. Not surprisingly, youths, especially job seekers, who feel abandoned and short-changed by a patently unjust system look for escape in mind-bending drugs, or as a final option, suicide.
Even party positions are stacked with nominees of powerful individuals. It is standard practice for the party elders to meet, not at open forums affording rival candidates the opportunity to compete as equals, but in conclaves where each aspirant’s fate is determined.
In some cases, godfathers run public institutions from the privacy of their homes. Sitting majestically on thrones, they hold court while their subjects, mostly loyalists, grovel obsequiously. Claiming personal ownership of posts financed from the public treasury, the godfathers decree who runs for elective office, who triumphs at primaries and at elections, who gets appointed to what sinecure, and who benefits from the munificence of the state.
The rulers’ unwillingness to acknowledge the individual citizen’s anxieties and aspirations accords perfectly with the client-patron arrangements that have evolved over the years. Believing that amorphous groups are easier to control or manipulate than discrete, thinking, calculating, unpredictable, opinionated, assertive, and possibly, self-seeking individuals, current and aspiring rulers ignore their subjects’ unique energies and motivations, and, with an eye on the likely electoral return, devote a disproportionate amount of time to appeasing or cultivating the groups with which the subjects might (or might not) identify. In other words, the rulers ascribe shifting identities to otherwise autonomous individuals, almost invariably corralling these individuals within ethnic Bantustans, linguistic groups, sectarian orders, and religious communities. Individuals are also routinely profiled and branded, based on their places of birth, states of origin, “geo-political zones”, and, in recent years, their gender as well as the age brackets within which they fall. The individuals, for their part, have been conditioned to self-erase, that is, to obliterate the core of their personalities, and to look up to their own godfathers for protection against “greedy” and “hostile” rivals.
Non-government organizations play a crucial role in this routine, mostly unilateral ascription of identity, this steady nurturing of the average Nigerian’s dependency mentality. The civil society agents of ethnic profiling and indoctrination include socio-cultural organizations such as the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Afenifere, the Odua People’s Congress, the Ijaw National Congress, and the community of ethnic separatists who see the world solely from narrow angles. The groups serve as platforms for the advancement of the leaders’ personal agendas and for the propagation of emotive, hot-button causes, the type of causes that are likely to inflame ethnic passions and, by so doing, enable the group to arrogate to itself the authority to think and speak for each member.
As to be expected, the groups are not structured to handle individual members’ situation-specific grievances. The groups are not equipped to perform functions that a constituent typically expects of his MP or Congressman. They have no facility to sample their members’ positions on burning issues. They have no call-centers that receive and process individual citizens’ complaints.
These limitations have curiously not prevented the leaders from constantly projecting themselves as their groups’ spokespersons, and falsely, as the defenders of individual members’ interests. Aided by an unsuspecting (or most probably complicit) press, the ethnic solidarity groups persistently brainwash their members into believing that they are under “outside attack”, and that staying safe requires placing their destiny in the hands of the self-appointed custodians of the groups’ conscience. The primary groups persistently coax their members into surrendering the rights to the basic freedoms, especially, the rights to freedom of thought, belief and expression.
The religious organizations have since got into the act. The Christian Association of Nigeria, in particular, has made it a habit to view government recruitment and allied policies from narrow, sectarian lens. It, at the slightest opportunity, disparages policies or decisions deemed unfavorable to its community, thereby forcing rival religious organizations to retire to the trenches and respond in kind. Alas, and very much like their ethno-cultural counterparts, the religious organizations can only defend their members’ interests in abstract, rather than practical, terms. The only individual cases that religious bodies, especially, spiritualists, “handle” are those of citizens looking for instant miracles and heavenly solutions to earthly worries.
Other clients that the rulers rely upon as agents of political control are traditional rulers and political godfathers. The godfathers, in particular, welcome the opportunity not only to consolidate their hold on local institutions but also to enjoy the patronage and protection of the center. It is thus not unusual for them to invest time and energy on the seizure and control of party machinery, the manipulation of election primaries, the imposition of candidates for elective and appointive offices, the alteration or falsification of election results, and the recruitment of thugs duly instructed to spook opponents and thwart moves deemed hostile.
The gradual reduction of the individual to a group-controlled robot has profound governance and public administration implications. The insensitive display of power which favoritism (towards specific individuals within groups) represents has a negative impact on the image of government. At best, it breeds widespread discontent and amplifies the “marginalization” claims which cultural and religious organizations milk for political gain. At worst, it turns the state into a caste system, a system that tacitly approves of selection by ethnic origin, religious identity, political connections and/or social status. Other consequences of individuality’s negation are examined in the succeeding paragraphs.
Growing citizen disaffection with the state
A neo-feudal system is neither fit for purpose nor for the pursuit of excellence. By eroding the value of citizenship, such a system places a cap on individual aspirations, denies the citizen the God-given right to apply his/her endowments towards fulfilling his/her destiny, and restricts the potential for individual advancement. While additional empirical studies are necessary to track the link between the acknowledgement of a citizen’s individuality and public spiritedness, available anecdotal evidence suggests a connection of sorts. At least, it is possible to argue the proposition that the system’s constant negation of individuality is likely to produce a citizen ideal-type with a neurotic, maladjusted personality, and an uncivil deportment.
Without any doubt, dysfunctional, individuality-denying governance and public administration practices are capable of driving normal human beings nuts. But can such practices trigger pure insanity? Answering this question warrants embarking on multi-disciplinary studies with a view to exploring the mental health angle of the prevailing governance arrangements. Proceeding from the assumption, no matter how tenuous, of a linkage between extant governance practices and the average citizen’s susceptibility (or, as the case may be, immunity) to wide-ranging mental afflictions, the teams should ask whether there is any link between the suppression of a citizen’s individuality and the citizen’s predisposition to mental health disorders–like paranoia, childlike tantrum-throwing, misplaced aggression, schizophrenia, hysteria, depression, drug addiction, lack of self-confidence or self-esteem, psychosis, mood swings, and suicide–cases the number of which appears to be on the increase in Nigeria.
Regardless of what the multi-disciplinary inquiry reveals, we may proceed tentatively on the assumption that constant negation or devaluation of the citizen’s individuality spoils whatever chance the state has of “civilizing” the self-seeking, unruly, individual. Already, Nigeria of today is looking very much like, if not more dangerous to inhabit than, the Uganda of the early 1980s. As was the case with the Uganda of the early 1980s, life in contemporary Nigeria is liable to be “nasty, short, and brutish”. Everybody is to himself, believing that God, but certainly not the state, is looking out for all.
At any rate, by focusing on the group rather than the individual, the state has basically released the citizen from the obligation to be civil and public-spirited, hoping against hope that the amorphous group will clean any residual mess that anarchy-inclined individuals might leave behind. The mayhem on Nigeria’s highways is not the only indicator of inclination towards lawlessness. Kidnappers operate freely on public highways and unchallenged in forests. Armed robbers routinely raid banks and notify rich neighborhoods of intentions to strike. Ritualists and miracle vendors gladly offer their services on Facebook and WhatsApp forums.
At any rate, a backlash cannot be ruled out where the state ignores real but uniquely different persons, and instead panders to the divisive inclinations of nebulous “groups”, and of the groups’ self-appointed but legally unaccountable spokespersons. The backlash, which is the upshot of appropriated responsibility, may take the form of rebellion against despotic tendencies in political parties and allied institutions, acts of indiscipline or outright insubordination in the career civil service, minor or major infractions on public highways, engagement in acts of vandalism, frequent renunciation of legal and moral obligations, a lack of empathy for compatriots deemed to be “strangers” on one’s land, the refusal to extend to “fellow” citizens the courtesy or regard to which human beings are ordinarily entitled, the progressive impairment of capacity to think rationally and independently, the tendency to spot faults in others but not in oneself or in one’s “tribe”, the persistent urge to regard the truth and falsehood as interchangeable (or as a function of who utters it), the inclination to attribute unfavorable developments to “enemy plots” or to the wrath of ancestral gods, the declining feeling of self-worth, the belief that the ordinary man’s voice does not count, and most serious of all, the waning allegiance to the sovereign commonwealth.
Needless to add that the detrimental effects of individuality’s denial cannot be reversed by “citizenship training” (or by what is sometimes termed, “civic education”). The solution lies, not in tutoring, neither in appeals for “sacrifices”, nor in sermonizing. The only viable option is the categorical acknowledgement of the citizen’s individuality, and particularly, the individual rights and obligations which are routinely but arbitrarily auctioned to the lowest bidder. By the lowest bidder is meant the faceless “group” that acts purportedly on the individual’s behalf but without the individual’s explicit consent.
Institutional normlessness in a season of anomie
Institutions are unlikely to operate as statutorily mandated where holders of key offices (e.g., Attorney-General, Police Commissioner, circuit Court Judge) are not viewed as autonomous and morally responsible individuals but as appendages or replaceable parts of primordial groups. The prevailing doctrine of excusable disavowal discharges the shackled individual from any obligation to answer for his actions. Anyway, since s/he most probably got his/her job, not on personal merit, but at the pleasure of the rulers and on the recommendation of a powerful intercessor, the literally “erased” individual will sooner act on “instructions from above” than apply rational-synoptic (or at least, incrementally rational, win-win) decision techniques in performing his statutory functions. As a beneficiary of favoritism, an individual now beholden to others will create those beholden to him/her, and, as to be expected, the special attention that s/he gives to his own circle of favorites will constantly endanger the esprit de corps of the organization. Finding innovative and results-oriented solutions to the socio-economic challenges flagged in the second article is unlikely to be on the mind of a public functionary that, to all intents and purposes, does not exist, much less be held accountable for his/her choices.
After all, the non-existent individual’s disaffection with civil society is not confined to the civic arena, but follows him/her to the work place. Thus estranged from organized society, the unacknowledged individual serving in government is apt to violate his oath of office, convert public office into private gain, sell official secrets to the highest bidder, carry himself as the public’s master rather than its servant, constantly evade responsibility for his actions or attribute own failures to rival tribes’ machinations, refuse to provide prompt, courteous, and least costly access to essential services, look for refuge in primordial associations when held accountable for public misdeeds, and at the slightest sign of trouble, invoke immunity from “persecution” by imaginary enemies.
What is most puzzling is that these alienated individuals are precisely those on whom the state relies to enforce its writs and fulfil its wide-ranging promises, including the promise to secure life and property, manage the economy properly, create jobs, provide essential services, and improve the people’s living conditions! How the state would accomplish these objectives with ill-motivated and unevenly inspired individuals is a miracle yet to be witnessed.
Restricted access to essential services
Meanwhile, a combination of population growth and resource scarcity has stretched the service delivery capacity of state agencies to breaking point. The agencies are increasingly obliged to accomplish more with less, and while at it, to serve the citizen promptly, courteously, and without discrimination. Unfortunately, public administration deficits continue to widen as bad practices multiply and the ungoverned space expands. By “ungoverned space” is meant the territory and the population over which the state claims nominal jurisdiction but which, thanks to institutional defects and bad behavior, the state cannot properly manage or control.
It is worth noting that as a result of the steady erosion of the average public official’s individuality and of the corresponding accountability mechanisms, government agencies at central and local levels have earned the dubious accolade for sub-optimal, nay, shoddy, delivery of essential services. The practice over the years has been to view access to quality service in much the same way as another form of power display, that is, as a favor to be extended to acquaintances or well-connected citizens, rather than a basic constitutional right.
Since access is a favor, it is customary for public officials to erect barricades around themselves and to ensure that none gets past except allies and acquaintances. This is how the patron-client arrangement effectively shuts the ordinary citizen out. As a consequence of the allergic reaction to actual or imagined favor-seeking, the clientelist arrangement also blocks the inflow of otherwise innovative and helpful ideas. Either way, quality service is the ultimate loser.
In his day-to-day interactions with the MDA or its field agents, the citizen who manages to find his way through the bureaucratic labyrinth is unlikely to scale the obstacle courses awaiting him/her at every turn. Unless s/he knows who is in charge and meets the decision-maker in the right mood, s/he should brace for surprises and frustrations. If s/he is looking for information (like a guide on eligibility for a particular service, the procedure to follow to access the service, the number of forms to fill, and the sequence in which to follow up cases with multiple layers of authority), the citizen must make time to attend to business himself or ‘outsource’ the task to ‘expediters’ working on retainer, only-pay-only-served, basis (Balogun, 2013).
Since the average MDA is unlikely to be on the information highway, the citizen can neither contact it by e-mail nor leave a message on Facebook. The only exception is when applying for e-passports outside Nigeria. Even then, the applicant cannot be sure that s/he will easily find the appropriate link or complete the transaction smoothly and on time.
If the citizen decides to send a letter the conventional way, he should not count on his mail being delivered by the postal staff, or if delivered, to be read and acknowledged, as in days gone by, by one of the “obedient servants”.
The citizen should get used to the idea that the MDA would unilaterally decide what services to provide, when, how, and at what cost. The supplier of the services, “big men” (and women) in their own rights, will not consult the citizen-consumer when formulating performance indicators. The service providers will unilaterally set performance standards (including time, cost, and quality standards). In the unlikely event that the MDA decides to promulgate Customer Service Pledges and Charters, it will not seek the beneficiary’s opinion on product quantity, unit cost, and delivery deadlines. Since the citizen’s opinion (on the timeliness, cost-effectiveness, quality and reliability of services, as well as courtesy of delivery agents) does not count, he should not expect to participate in beneficiary feedback surveys any time soon.
The police provides a good illustration of the precipitate decline in service delivery standards. Victim perception surveys and eye-witness accounts reveal that Nigerians are likely to be more dissatisfied than nationals of other countries with the quality and timeliness of police response to crime alerts. In contrast to the 45 percent dissatisfaction rate reported for other African countries, 51 percent of the Nigerians surveyed in 2008 had no confidence in the ability of the police to come to their rescue when victimized (van der Spuy and Rontsch, 2008). Another survey carried out in 2014 indicates that 42.0 percent of the respondents disagreed with the view that the Police always treat all ethnic groups fairly, while 46.5 percent maintained that the Police lacks crime prevention capacity. Still, these figures are not as troubling as the 53.9 percent who felt that the Police could not be relied on to respond to crime alerts, the 72.9 percent who maintained that the Nigeria Police applies excessive force; or the 71.7 percent that accuse the police of arresting innocent, law-abiding citizens (Osude, et al, 2014).
Corrupt police constables routinely mount roadblocks on the highways to remind the road users that “your boys are here”, and if the road users still do not get the message, to apply innovative, sometimes, violent, bribe-extorting methods. Crooked cops have been known to supply arms and munitions to armed robbers, to provide criminals safe passage or to finger informants.
Inadequate investment in equipment and supplies is, apart from corruption, a plausible explanation for the growing security lapses and policing failures. Police units are chronically short of detective, investigative, information and communication, and inter-agency intelligence sharing capacities. The force is short of experts in community policing, intelligence gathering and analysis, finger printing and forensic analysis, cyber crime investigation, and criminal profiling. Even paying for stationery is a headache at police stations, a headache that the police gladly pass on to their “customers”, mostly complainants. Where criminals roam the streets brandishing sophisticated weapons and terrorizing citizens, the police lacks the wherewithal to respond fire for fire.
The judiciary is another arm of the justice administration system that has performed poorly. According to an insider (Omole, 2019), favorable verdicts can be purchased by a party whose claim cannot be upheld by facts or based on the provisions of the applicable law. All the party needs to do is look for a back channel of communication with unscrupulous court registry staff and crooked judges. It is also estimated that roughly 60 percent of judges belong to secret cults and are therefore likely to give judgement in favor of their fellow members. Among the methods frequently applied to obstruct justice are routine abuse of judicial discretion, especially, the discretion to admit or toss out a piece of evidence deemed material to a case, endless adjournments of proceedings, and wilful misinterpretation of the law. Omole might as well add opportunistic invocation of obiter dictum to the list of tactics applied to prop up outlandish decisions and judicial favoritism. Undoubtedly, there are a few judges that refuse to be unduly influenced or “bought”. However, as Omole observes, this minority of upright judges risks falling prey to occult practices set in motion by desperate litigants and by accused persons awaiting trial (Omole, 2019).
Available data further underscores the alarming state of Nigeria’s judiciary. Between January and December 2016, courts operating at federal and state levels handled a total of 13,438 cases. Less than 50 percent of the caseload (6,417) had been disposed off as at the end of the reporting cycle, leaving 7,023 pending (Table 5). The number of civil cases appearing on the court calendar in 2016 was 4,105. Out of this number, 2,488 were completed, while 1,617 were still pending (Table 6).
The figures in Tables 5 and 6 do not tell the whole story. They certainly do not show that among the cases mentioned were those which might have been instituted decades earlier. Surprisingly, those controlling Nigeria’s justice administration system have never asked themselves one serious question: if a case takes ten to fifteen years to decide, when do the parties have time for worthwhile pursuits, as in, time to fulfill their pre-ordained missions on earth? The Ministries of Justice, in particular, have yet to act proactively by commissioning diagnostic studies into the root causes of the delays, exploring process simplification and acceleration opportunities, and developing templates to weed out frivolous cases that clog the justice administration system.
The egregious delays in rendering court judgements in Nigeria compare unfavorably with the expeditious manner in which such cases are handled elsewhere. The total number of cases brought before the entire Nigerian judiciary in 2014 (13,440) is negligible compared to the 328,028 cases that were completed in Canada’s adult criminal courts alone in 2014-2015 (Maxwell, 2014). As it so happens, access to expeditious and fair dispensation of justice is one of the statutory rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As understood in R. v Askov (1990) and R. Morin (1992), trial in a “timely manner” means completion of proceedings and rendition of judgement within ten months. Of course, complex cases, like homicide, usually take longer to dispose of (Maxwell, 2014).
Civil cases are also likely to be completed in Canadian courts within one to two years, a relatively short time. For instance, between October 2017 and September 2018, Family Courts in Ontario Province received a total 17,554 case, disposed of 17,125, and listed 8,189 as pending (Ontario Court of Justice, www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/files/stats/fam/2018/2018-Family-RDP.pdf)
Table 5: Total Number of Cases handled by Nigerian Courts, as at December 2016
Total No. of applications received 13,440
Total No. of applications granted 13,438
Total No. of applications rejected 2
Total No. of cases completed 6,417
Total No. of cases pending 7,023
Source: Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, 2016
Table 6: Nigeria’s Civil Case Statistics (as at December 2016)
No. of applications received 4,105
No. of applications granted 4,105
No. of applications rejected 0
No. of cases completed 2,488
No. of cases pending 1,617
Source: Legal Aid Council of Nigeria.
As to be expected, public perception of the Nigerian judiciary is far from favorable. More than half of the respondents surveyed by Osude et al in 2014 (52.1 percent) railed against the delays in the delivery of court judgements. 42.3 percent of the respondents held the application of outmoded technology responsible for the excruciating delays. Another 42.3 percent found court processes too arcane and cumbersome for the average citizen to understand.
Unfortunately, when law enforcement and adjudication institutions are too incapacitated to assure the citizen unimpaired access to their services, self-help and vigilante justice take over. The citizen is likely to distrust the law where he is constantly betrayed by those expected to uphold it, notably, the police and the judiciary. Ineffective law enforcement and adjudication arrangements send wrong signals to rights violators and law breakers. Such practices convey the impression that lawlessness faces no consequence or attracts no penalty. This spells danger for citizen trust in government, for quality of life, for internal security, and for Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Of equal significance is the link between public order, on the one hand, and “ease of doing business”, economic growth, and job creation, on the other. There is no disincentive to domestic and foreign investment greater than a combination of rampant insecurity, endemic policing failures, and a capricious dispute adjudication regime. This is why any government should spare no effort to record noticeable changes in the efficient delivery of intelligence gathering, crime control, and justice administration services.
Citizen access to quality service is further likely to be impeded by corruption. As earlier noted, corruption is at the root of the sub-optimal performance of the police, as well as the security challenge facing Nigeria. Corruption has also impacted negatively on the prompt delivery of other types of service. Registering a business, obtaining a permit, or making simple payments into government treasuries are among the tasks rendered almost impossible by cumbersome procedures deliberately created by individually non-existent, obligation-exempt, responsibility-evading, citizen-contemptuous, yet bribe-taking, officials.
The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is not an accurate measurement of the scale and depth of corruption at any time or place. For what it is worth, the Index places Nigeria squarely in the top ranks of the world’s corrupt nations. Based on the Index, Nigeria was ranked 121st least corrupt country among the 175 surveyed in 2008. The low ranking continued till 2011 (when Nigeria became the 143rd least corrupt among 180 countries). The CPI improved slightly in 2012 (presenting Nigeria as the 139th least corrupt among 180 countries), only to resume the nosedive in 2013 (144th). As at 2017, Nigeria’s CPI ranking fell to 148th among 180 countries (Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index, various years).
Unending Agitation for change
The depressing picture earlier painted is what stares the average Nigerian in the face every day of his/her life. The gloom follows him/her anywhere s/he goes—everywhere, including the privacy of the home, the public highway, the airports, market places, hospitals and recuperation facilities, the children’s schools, gasoline retail stations, and government offices. Some disaffected citizens find release in criminality, while a few others, especially, the youths, embark on the long and hazardous trek to Europe, only to suffer a fate worse than death, either en-route or on arrival at their destinations. As argued in the next in the series of articles on change, nothing short of systemic reform will suffice in meeting these and other challenges.
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