Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says as a matter of urgency, the judiciary must address the issue of delay in the judicial process.

This is as he referred to the delays as the elephant in the room, wondering what would happen to the legal profession in another 50 years given the gridlock in processing cases through the courts and the question of the integrity of the legal process.

Osinbajo said these in Lagos on Friday when he chaired the second edition of the Wole Olanipekun & Co., Justice Summit on Justice Sector Reforms in celebration of the 70th birthday of Olanipekun, a senior advocate of Nigeria.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, quoted Osinbajo in a statement on Saturday titled, ‘Why we must address slow judicial process, by Osinbajo’.

The Vice-President recalled how the United Kingdom Court of Appeal had to comment in the case of (IPCO v. NNPC [2015] EWCA Civ 1144) where a challenge to the enforcement of a Nigerian seated arbitration tribunal award came before the English Court of Appeal.

Osinbajo said, “The court referred to the delay in the parallel proceedings before a Nigerian Court as catastrophic and that it could take a further 30 years to resolve.

“Incidentally, the expert witness who testified on delays in the Nigerian courts, was a former Justice of the Supreme Court, who testified that a case could take 20 to 30 years to resolve in a Nigerian court.”

Osinbajo called for further engagements by stakeholders on the integrity of the legal process and its key actors, particularly judges and lawyers towards proffering solutions to the delay in court processes.

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He also suggested that the panel should focus on practical and implementable ideas, not a rehash of the problems, saying “We are all experts at knowing the problem.”

The Vice-President described the celebrant, Olanipekun, as one of the most consequential and influential lawyers in the commonwealth, adding that beyond his accolades and achievements, he had impacted many lives through his kindness, philanthropy and faith.

While thanking God for giving the legal luminary an ever-youthful physique and disposition, Osinbajo said, “Chief Olanipekun’s great intellect, mastery of the law, its substance and its technicalities, his incredible ability to get to the heart of the matter and to let whole panels of judges see his sometimes daring points; his disarming wit and humour, his sometimes lyrical and poetic submissions, quoting from the classics and the scriptures, make him easily one of the most outstanding minds in the legal profession in this or any other generation.”

While appreciating the beautiful things people had to say about him, Olanipekun said the Justice Summit organised by his law firm was among his modest contributions to the advancement of the justice delivery system, noting that the thorny issue of integrity and the urgent need for reforms in the sector remained worrisome.

Panelists at the event included the immediate past Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University, Prof Olarenwaju Fagbohun, who delivered the keynote address on the theme ‘Implementing Justice Sector Reforms’, the Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah and a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Paul Galumje.

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Others were Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, who spoke on ‘Political Influence on Judicial Appointments’; former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmud, SAN, who spoke on “How to balance diversity, gender, inclusion and merit in judicial appointments”, and Ms Funke Adekoya, SAN, who spoke about ‘Essential collaborations for successful implementation of justice sector reforms.’

A former Chairperson of First Bank of Nigeria, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, spoke on the ‘Implications of judicial reforms on public trust.’

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