What would you do if you can only get justice after 5 years? Justice delayed, they say, is justice denied. Nigerian justice sector has generally been characterized with slow justice delivery system and a high percentage of awaiting trial persons; a figure the Minister of Interior put at 70 percent. However, a new tech organization called “Gavel” believes it can increase the pace of justice delivery with tech and reduce the number of awaiting trial persons.
Gavel is a civic tech organization aimed at improving the pace of justice delivery through tech; tracking of court cases and by providing pro bono legal services to the less-privileged.
Gavel, a start-up being incubated in Civic Hive in the recent past has made giant strides. Through its “justice clock” tech tool, the organization was able to discover several inmates who have spent over four years awaiting trial. The reason, when Gavel team investigated, was due to delay in the issuance of legal advice from the Department of Public Prosecution. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act provides for fourteen (14) days for issuance of legal advice in Section 296 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act. However, this mostly is not adhered to. Hence, the team began tracking thirty-five court cases and also representing some.
What does this mean in the real world? It means that the pace of justice delivery will sufficiently increase and people can get justice faster. One of the inmates Gavel is currently tracking, Segun Babalola, has been in detention for over 7 years awaiting trial and our team is engaging with the relevant agencies to ensure a speedy trial.
Sesan Adebayo, another inmate remanded in Agodi Prisons has benefitted from Gavel’s solution. Through the provision of pro bono legal representation in Court and mediation arranged among the parties by their team, Sesan was released after spending 34 days in prison custody.
The organization has also commenced sensitization of citizens on the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act through digital platforms.
“We believe by tracking the time spent by awaiting trial persons, we will be able to effectively engage with relevant authorities to comply with 180 days provided for court trials as provided for in Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and 14 days for remand orders as provided for in Section 296,” the organization’s lead partner, Nelson Olanipekun Esq. affirms.
Since June 2017, it has provided access to the schedule of court cases (courts cause list) in over thirty (30) courtrooms online and has since then published over 1,000 cause lists. The schedule of court cases provides brief information on the status of each case in court and it is published ahead. This helps litigants, lawyers and other stakeholders to know when cases are to come up and how to prepare.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen has admonished and directed courts in several forums to increase the pace of justice delivery and Gavel believes he has the relevant tech tools to help track and aid the implementation of this policy.
In Nigeria, there are several good laws. However, implementation has always been challenging. The provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act passed in 2015 should naturally help to increase the pace of justice delivery in criminal matters but two years after its passage, little impact has been seen due to lack of implementation and monitoring. This is a huge gap the Lead Partner said they are going to fill.