US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
The government of the United States has stated that Nigerians reported that judicial officials in the country often request for bribes from them to obtain rulings or verdicts in their favour.
This was disclosed in a 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria, published on the US Department of States website.
“There was a widespread public perception that judges were easily bribed, and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments. Many citizens encountered long delays and reported receiving requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favorable rulings,” it stated.
The report also claimed that the Nigerian judiciary was not independent, because it “remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches.”
It listed understaffing, inefficiency, corruption, lack of capacity, insufficient judges and courtrooms, and growing caseloads as part of the factors that prevent the judiciary from functioning independently and ensuring fair trials.
It stated that the “Federal and state governments, however, often undermined the judiciary by withholding funding and manipulating appointments.”
“The constitution and the annual appropriation acts stipulate that the National Assembly and the judiciary be paid directly from the federation account as statutory transfers before other budgetary expenditures are made to maintain their autonomy and separation of powers.
“There were reports political leaders influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels,” the report stated.
Regarding fair trials, the report lamented undue delays in court proceedings, adding that “Authorities did not always respect” people’s right to “be present at their trial; communicate with an attorney of choice (or have one provided at public expense); have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence.”
“Authorities held defendants in prison awaiting trial for periods well beyond the terms allowed by law (see section 1.c. and section 1.d., Pretrial Detention),” the report stated.
The report however praised the Ministry of Justice for implementing “strict requirements for education and length of service for judges at the federal and state levels”, but claimed that “no requirements or monitoring bodies existed for judges at the local level.”