Nigeria’s justice sector is beset by a myriad of challenges ranging from delay in administration of justice to heavy dockets that confront increasingly overworked judicial officers.

Other issues include lack of judicial autonomy and inadequate resources, poor investigation, overhang in the awaiting trial population and low level of adoption of technology and innovation, to name a few.

Against the backdrop of these longstanding challenges and the swearing-in of a new Attorney General and Minister of Justice, CITY LAWYER asked eminent Bar Leaders and justice sector stakeholders to plot a blueprint on the priorities to be tackled by the new Chief Law Officer.

MR. OLAWALE FAPOHUNDA SAN, a two-time Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Ekiti State, notes that justice sector reform must aim to build a justice system which is affordable, efficient, independent, transparent, professional and accountable to Nigerians


In setting an agenda for the Attorney-General of the Federation, it has to be emphasized that the state of the nation today including the less than enviable citizens perception of our justice sector makes the case for far reaching interventions in the justice sector. Every aspect of the infrastructure of our justice system requires fundamental rethinking.

Our approaches to policing, adjudication, bail, sentencing, imprisonment needs change in significant ways. The Attorney- General of the Federation cannot simply be the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Justice. He must in addition to overseeing state legal affairs, set the agenda for the justice sector.

For clarity, a justice sector reform agenda will include facilitating immediate to long term reform measures in the Judiciary, Police, Correctional Services and Access to justice institutions (Legal Aid Council, National Human Rights Commission.

The overall objective of justice sector reform is to build a justice system which is affordable, efficient, independent, transparent, professional and accountable to Nigerians, one that ensures the rule of law and the observance of human rights and contributes to reclaiming the trust of Nigerians in the Justice system.


Priority Interventions in the Judiciary should include a review of judicial salaries and allowances as well as supporting constitutional amendments that ensure that only matters of significance are heard in the Supreme Court. No less important are related matters of judicial appointments and affirming the sanctity of our courts and its decisions.


The Attorney-General must be interested in police reform. The absence of credible and reliable data on the human, equipment and other resources available to the police is a concern that retards crime prevention and obstructs criminal prosecution. There is also a need for a holistic response to citizen’s concerns about police handling of complaints of police abuse.

Correctional Services

The State of our Correctional Centers including incidents of frequent jailbreak, overcrowding and the conditions of service for correctional officers must be of concern to any Attorney- General. No less important is the need to interrogate the appropriateness of placing the Correctional Services in the Ministry of Interior and not in the Ministry of Justice.

Access to Justice Institutions

There is a need to take a closer look at our access to justice institutions (National Human Rights Commission, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria) and the Federal Ministry of Justice itself. The Attorney-General should find out whether the level of endowment of these institutions is such that individually and collectively, they can be said to be fulfilling their responsibilities to the people of Nigeria.

Law Reform

It is often said that the problem with our justice system is not the absence of laws but our inability to enforce existing laws. Weak law enforcement regime is certainly an important concern. However there are several laws that should have no place in the laws of the federation. The Attorney-General should provide leadership for a law reform intervention. The outcome of which should be an updated laws of the federation containing a body of laws that are current and relevant to Nigerias socio-economic and political aspirations.

Professionalize Federal Ministry of Justice

The ability of the Attorney- General to deliver on the mandate of the Ministry of Justice as well as his reform agenda largely depends on his ability to achieve a Ministry of Justice that is professional, service oriented and whose personnel understand and are sensitive to the myriad issues facing the administration of justice including the role of the Justice Ministry itself. Changing the perception of citizens that the justice ministry solely exists to defend government is an important goal.

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