Founded in 1999, Access to Justice (“A2Justice”) is a justice advocacy group working to defend rights of equal and non-discriminatory access to courts of law, expand access of vulnerable people to equal and impartial justice, attack corruption in justice administration, support legal struggles for human dignity and disseminate legal resources that help achieve these purposes. A2Justice work has helped to reform important rules governing citizen’s rights to petition redress for civil rights violations from law courts as well as laws to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the investigation of summary or extrajudicial killings by law enforcement officials. A2Justice is implementing a number of other programmes that seek to ease difficulties and obstacles that Nigerians face when they have justice needs or make recourse to institutions of law and justice. In 2010, A2Justice was awarded the first-ever Nigerian Bar Association Gani Fawehinmi Prize for Human Rights and Social Justice,being one of other awards it has received. Access to Justice has offices in Lagos, and Nigeria’s commercial capital and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
A2Justice is incorporated in Nigeria and has Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Its Trustees are KunleFadipe, lawyer and former member of the National Human Rights Commission , Jacqueline Yemi Odiadi, lawyer and Founder of Development Initiatives, Joseph Otteh, AJ’s Executive Director, Chris Ohurogu, Asso. Prof. of Law, and Alex Molokwu, Secretary to the Board. Access to Justice is served by an International Advisory Board.
Easy access to remodeled and revitalized legal and judicial systems that are modern, strong, upright and dependable.
To work towards rebuilding the institutional credibility of the Nigerian legal and justice system, restoring public faith in its institutions, and ensuring that everyone, without discrimination on the basis of social standing, sex, religion, handicap, economic or other status has equal access to the justice system.
Everything we have
Access to Justice is an impartial non-partisan, non-religious and independent group. It does not take any position on issues that lie outside of its mandate, and takes no sides in any political conflicts. Access to Justice is concerned solely with the protection of human rights by ensuring easy and non-discriminatory access to courts of law, the transparency of judicial functionaries and the promotion of a worldwide jurisprudence on human rights.
Since its founding, A2Justice has had the privilege of working with a broad variety of institutions and people who have made tremendous contributions to its work. These include private individuals, foundations and governments, excluding Nigeria’s government. From private philanthropies, A2Justice received ten consecutive yearly grants from theFord Foundation, three consecutive grants over a nine-year period from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,two consecutive grants from the European Union, and othergrants from the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Open Society Institute for West Africa (OSIWA).
The Context of AJ’s work
Nigeria has a population of about one hundred and sixty six million people, is Africa’s most populous countryand spread across 250 different ethnic groups.It has world class wealth, yet through all the contradiction, diversity and linguistic confusion, there has been one constant in Nigerian life: military interference in politics.
Several explanations of military intervention have been added to those given by the coup plotters themselves. Whereas the latter have cited economic mismanagement and corruption, other explanations have ranged from the continuation of ethno regional politics by military means to the personal ambitions of officers. The second period of military rule between 1984 and 1999 crafted modern Nigerian society, and effected cataclysmic changes in Nigeria’s political, economic and religious character that nearly tore the country apart on several occasions.
Nigeria transited to a constitutional form of government on May 29, 1999 after fifteen years of military government. At the time of this transition, the judiciary which was the only branch that was not “taken over” by military personnel was itself in dire straits and was probably on “life support”.
The judiciary is crucial to enforcing limitation of powers upon a constitutional government and safeguarding the rule of law and civil liberties of the people of a nation. To play this role, a Judiciary in a democracy must be free, independent, competent and accountable. In 1999 when A2Justice came on the scene, Nigeria’s judiciary came up short on each of these indices by a wide margin; military rule over a nearly unbroken fifteen year period had taken a harsh toll on the independence and integrity of justice institutions, and the signs of malfunction, distress and disrepair in the judiciary were writ large over the landscape.The ruling government’s disregard for judicial autonomy, inattention to and inertness over mounting problems of judicial administration considerably weakened the judicial system, and substantially affected its capacity to meet the urgent needs of many who, of necessity, had to rely on it for redress and justice. The judicial system, at that time could not also, meaningfully meet the justice needs of international investment or commerce in the country and often disappointed those who relied on it for resolving important national problems, including questions related to human rights. Chronic and systematized delays, for example, reflected a major symptom of these weaknesses. Long trial periods often wore out users of the court system, substantially increased access-to-justice costs, time and inconvenience beyond reasonable limits and clearly violated domestic and international standards of fair trial. While access to justice costs were spiraling above the means of ordinary people, poverty was growing, and incomes were declining and alienating more and more people from the justice system
There was clear evidence, therefore, that the Nigerian judicial system’s capacity to function efficiently, accountably and independently required to be re-built and revitalized in order to preserve and defend the core values of democratic governance and to credibly guarantee the rights enshrined in Nigeria’s domestic Constitution as well as in other international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a party. This was the situation when A2Justice came on the scene in 1999.
Nigeria’s major governance challenges include fighting deep-seated corruption, stimulating employment to tackle widening and growing poverty and fighting crime and terrorism. These challenges are mostly the by-products of flawed governance systems and policies and to overcome them, Nigeria would need to considerably improve governance. The absence of good governance is taking a toll on the delivery of social goods and services for the welfare of the people. As former UN Secretary General said in a report “Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development”. (Partnerships for Global Community: Annual Report on the work of the Organization. UN 1998).
Improving governance by ensuring that the Judiciary is able to advance and enforce, within its constitutional powers, the realization of good governance outcomes is a desired goal of A2Justice.