Everyone deserves the best defence possible. Even the corrupt. That is the basis of our entire legal system. Entitled to a legal defence to all accusations. A defence lawyer would not be ethical to do otherwise. And that includes using legal delay tactics.
The judiciary nevertheless has very wide discretionary powers.
However I put the blame squarely on the prosecution, and they are supposed to be the presidents men. A good prosecutor should anticipate and compensate for these delay tactics but frequently deploy their own. It should also hold the judiciary accountable and appeal any decisions that they feel are improperly given.
Our prosecutors lack the modern efficient prosecutorial skills.
An example from my family law practice.
Our client was sued for a divorce. We saw a defect in the form of the petition and asked for the case to be dismissed via a motion. It took 5 adjournments and more than 6 months to get the judgment. The case was dismissed and the petitioner quickly filed a new case in the same court before we could.
On the day we file our response, the petitioner purports to withdraw the case file and file a new one with a motion for substituted service (which we had previously decided to ignore to proceed speedily with the case.) This took another 3 months to sort out. Then we find out he didn’t properly withdraw the first suit, so there are two suits outstanding. Its taking another 3 months.
I see the same kind of unpreparedness in criminal prosecutors. Me and my client just want to get on with it. Its been almost a year. We have not had a hearing on the substantive issue.
I always win my cases because I am over prepared. Never lost a case in Nigeria. When I filed a suit against Shell BP in 2001 the Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN that came to defend them in the Federal High Court in Umuahia entered appearance without protest. The court workers hail me no be small. They said it had never before happened. Hopefully not so much now.
My rather unscientific assessment is many lawyers are too quick to file a suit without proper research and investigation, do not do enough pre-trial strategy development, and rely too much on rhetoric and connections in the judiciary. After all, they all get paid per appearance. And the overstretched judiciary plays along.
(In 2016 Nigerian judges still record entire trial proceedings in long hand.)
- Training and capacity building. For the prosecutors and the judges. I wonder what they would say if we asked them the last time they went for training and how/if they apply those skills now.
- Upgrade and investment in judiciary infrastructure. This may also require legislation.