NIGERIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM PERCEPTION POLL RESULT

New Poll; 88 Percent of Nigerians Say Corruption Is Prevalent In the Judicial System

Abuja, Nigeria. August 25th, 2020 – A new public opinion poll conducted by NOIPolls reveals that most Nigerians (88 percent) consider corruption to be prevalent in the Nigerian Judicial system, with only 33 percent (i.e. 4 percent ‘very confident’ + 29 percent ‘confident’) disclosing they repose any level of confidence in the Nigerian Judicial system at all. This is coming after some action has been seen to be taken in sanitizing the judiciary such as; the suspension of the previous Chief Justice of Nigeria[1] on allegations of corruption, and the arrest of two Supreme Court judges over allegations of corruption[2]. In both examples, the actors voluntarily stepped aside from their roles.

The poll further revealed that only a sliver of the population (18 percent) had had direct experience or knew someone who had experience with the judicial system in the past one year. However, about two-thirds (63 percent) of this population described their experience with the judicial system as being negative, citing reasons such as ‘bribe was demanded’, ‘bias in judgment’, ‘justice was sold for money’ and ‘delay proceedings and regular adjournment’ as some of the top factors why their experience was negative.

On the whole, Nigerians were asked to rate the judicial system on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is very poor and 10 is excellent. A subpar nationwide score of 4.25 was ascribed to the Nigerian Judicial system. Nigerians were also asked their expectations of the judicial system and some of the top responses were; ‘Fear of God and sincerity to the oath of office’ (32 percent), ‘Stop giving pardons to corrupt politicians’ (20 percent), ‘Fair judgement for all citizens’ and ‘Overhaul and grant autonomy to the Nigerian Judicial system’ (at 15 percent each), a ‘corrupt-free judicial system’ (13 percent) among others. Therefore, addressing these pervasive concerns will garner public support and restore the eroding confidence in the judicial system. These are some of the key highlights from the Nigerian Judicial System  poll conducted in the week commencing August, 10th 2020.

Survey Background

As the fight against corruption in the country rages on, there are allegations purported that the Judiciary, which is a microcosm of the larger society, is replete with corruption. The Judiciary, one of the three arms of government, is tasked with providing an interpretation of the law, determining the constitutionality of the law, and applying it to individual cases. As a critical ally in the fight against corruption, the judicial system is supposed to try cases of corruption and if found guilty, convict them. But some would argue, how are these convictions to be secured if the appointed judges to secure these convictions are not the very best the country can offer? Part of the challenge stems from the fact that all superior court judges in Nigeria are appointed following the recommendation of the National Judicial Council. In a petition earlier this year, some Nigerian lawyers asked President Buhari to reject 33 candidates recommended to him by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appointment as High Court judges of the Federal Capital Territory

on the grounds that they were not only “unqualified”, but were “cronies and affiliates” of top officials in the judiciary[3].

Furthermore, there are those who would argue that in the fight against corruption particularly within the judicial system, the authorities have lacked genuine desire to address the problem. They claim that on occasional cases where judges were penalized by the NJC, the penalties imposed on them were considered inadequate in most cases[4]. Other tactics employed in some public, high profile cases include unreasonable delay tactics accommodated by the courts that last in some cases as long as 14 years. In the interim of over a decade, so many things could have happened such as: the deaths of star witnesses, promotion of the judges, etc. The consequence is a systematic withdrawal of the cases, or in the best case (where the judge is promoted) starting the case de novo[5]. These and other factors contribute to negatively to the perception that the fight against corruption is not fair, as some are perceived to be possess the resources to avoid stiff penalties. Against this background, NOIPolls conducted this poll to measure Nigerians’ awareness of the function of the judicial system, as well as their perception of the judiciary.

SURVEY RESULTS

Awareness

About two-thirds (63 percent) of Nigerians acknowledged being aware of the functions of the judicial system in Nigeria. Interestingly, on a gender analysis, we find 71 percent of males and 55 percent of females claimed to be aware of the functions of the judicial system in Nigeria. This reveals a knowledge gap in our society as almost 1 in 2 (45 percent) females, and over a third (37 percent) of Nigerians in general are unaware of the functions of one of the three arms of government as vested in the Nigerian Constitution. The North-East region had the highest proportion of residents (52 percent) who were unaware of the functions of the Nigerian Judicial system, whereas the North-West had the least (25 percent). Analysis by age demographic revealed that older adult Nigerians tend to be increasingly aware of the functions of the judicial system, than younger adult Nigerians, revealing a gap in orientation.

Perception

As the country battles with embedded corruption, and the government wages an anti-corruption war, the judicial system was not considered immune to the widespread corruption in the country. The perceived level of corruption in the judicial system is high as 88 percent of Nigerians considered corruption in the judicial system to be prevalent (i.e. 42 percent prevalent + 48 percent very prevalent). These proportions were largely consistent across gender, geo-political zones, and age-groups.

Confidence in the Judicial System

Only about a third (33 percent) of Nigerians reposed any confidence at all in the Nigerian Judicial system, with only a sliver (4 percent) indicating a high level of confidence. The majority (67 percent) expressed that they were not confident in the Nigerian Judicial system (i.e. 36 percent ‘Not confident’ + 31 percent ‘Not at all confident’). This lack of confidence in the system may not be unconnected with the perceived level of corruption within the system, and based on previous rulings of publicly known cases.

Personal Experience

Less than 1 in 5 (18 percent) Nigerians have had any direct experience with the judicial system in the past one year. A larger proportion of males (23 percent) to females (13 percent) disclosed that they or someone they know has had an experience with the Nigerian Judicial system. Although this appears to be a small proportion at first glance, the time frame of the past one year only may account for small proportion.

Was it Positive or Negative?

Of the 18 percent who have had or know someone who has experienced the judicial system in the past year, 37 percent considered their experience to have been positive, whereas 63 percent considered their experience to have been negative. As most considered their experience to be negative, it goes to show why a majority of Nigerians do not repose much confidence in the judicial system.

Reasons

Respondents who disclosed they or someone they know had some experience with the judicial system, were further asked reasons why their experience was positive or negative. A considerable proportion of those who indicated their experience was negative disclosed it was because ‘bribe was demanded’ (30 percent), ‘bias in judgement’ (25 percent), ‘justice was sold for money’ (18 percent), ‘justice was denied’ (13 percent), and ‘delay in proceeding and regular adjournment’ (12 percent).

Of those who considered their experience positive, reasons include: ‘justice was achieved’ (53 percent), ‘fair hearing’ (21 percent), ‘verdict was well discharged’ (11 percent), ‘my case was addressed with transparency’ (9 percent), and ‘satisfied hearing and proceedings’ (6 percent).

Rating

All respondents were asked to rate the Nigerian Judicial system on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is very poor and 10 is excellent. The Nigerian Judicial system was rated a 4.25 which is below par. Females (4.33) rated the judicial system slightly higher than males (4.19), and the North-East residents rated the judicial system highest (5.01) amongst all geo-political zones, while the South-West rated it the least (3.48).

Expectations

Among the many expectations Nigerians have of the judicial system, some of the most prevalent were: ‘Fear of God and sincerity to the oath of office’ (32 percent), ‘Stop giving pardons to corrupt politicians’ (20 percent), ‘Fair judgement for all citizens’ and ‘Overhauling the Nigerian Judicial system and restoring its autonomy’ at 15 percent each among others. Other relevant expectations include; a ‘corrupt-free judicial system’ (13 percent), conducting ‘proper investigations’ (11 percent), ‘good remuneration’ (11 percent), ‘quick judicial proceeding’ (6 percent), ‘transparency’ (4 percent), ‘good interpretation of the law’ (3 percent), and integrity (3 percent).

In conclusion, two-thirds (67 percent) of Nigerians expressed a lack of confidence in the Nigerian Judicial system, and an even larger proportion (88 percent) considered corruption to be rife in the judicial system. When asked reasons for the negative experience they had, many respondents cited ‘bribe was demanded’, there was ‘bias in judgement’, ‘justice was sold’ and ‘delay in proceedings and regular adjournment’ among others. These negative experiences of some may possibly have influenced the general negative perceptions held by the majority of Nigerians about the judicial system. Therefore, more work needs to be done in restoring the faith of the general public in the judicial system.

Furthermore, about two-thirds (63 percent) of Nigerians disclosed that they were unaware of the function of the judicial system, revealing a huge awareness gap that can easily be filled with misinformation and rumours. The judicial system is a critically vital component in the fight against corruption, and must be considered credible enough if the fight against corruption is to be won.

Survey Methods

The poll was conducted in the week commencing August 10th, 2020. It involved telephone interviews of a proportionate nationwide sample of 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geo-political regions and 36 states and the FCT of the country. Interviews were conducted in 5 languages – Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Pidgin English, and English. With this sample size and selection, we are 95 percent confident that the results obtained are statistically precise within a margin of error of plus or minus 4.65 percent.

We recognize that the exclusive use of telephone polling has its limitation of excluding non-phone-owning Nigerians. Nonetheless, with the country’s tele density put over 100 percent by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), we consider our telephone polling approach appropriate. Also, given the rigorous scientific process of randomization and stratification applied, we are confident of the validity of our methodology and approach. NOIPolls Limited, No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com.

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited, or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions, or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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[1] Okakwu, E. 2019. Embatteled CJN Onnoghen ‘resigns’ Premium Times https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/324122-embattled-cjn-onnoghen-resigns.html

[2] Okakwu, E. 2016. It is official: Nigeria Supreme Court Judges accused of corruption step down Premium TImes https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/214130-official-nigeria-supreme-court-judges-accused-corruption-step.html

[3] Yahaya, H. 2020. Controvesy as NJC recommends relatives of Supreme Court judges, others to Buhari for appointments. BusinessDay https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/391898-controversy-as-njc-recommends-relatives-of-supreme-court-judges-others-to-buhari-for-appointments.html

[4] Ogundipe, B.O. 2018. Is enough being done to tackle judicial corruption? International Law Office https://www.internationallawoffice.com/Newsletters/White-Collar-Crime/Nigeria/Sofunde-Osakwe-Ogundipe-Belgore/Is-enough-being-done-to-tackle-judicial-corruption

[5] Folarin, S. 2019. Falana laments corruption in the judiciary, seeks reform. https://punchng.com/falana-laments-corruption-in-judiciary-seeks-reform/