On these photos is pictured one of the courtrooms at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos State. Many high profile cases are argued and decided in this courtroom. The cramped room is typical of courtrooms in many parts of Nigeria.
Several lawyers said that, owning to their smallness and lack of basic facilities, most Nigerian courtrooms do not serve the ends of justice.
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“A cubicle-sized courtroom cannot always accommodate all the parties who are interested in a case,” a senior advocate of Nigeria said. “Often, persons who have businesses in court are compelled to stand outside during a court session. Also, the size of courtrooms and certain rules from the bench hamper the ability of reporters who wish to cover judicial cases.”
A reporter who covers the judiciary echoed the sentiment. She stated that some judges make arbitrary orders restricting journalists from making use of devices that could assist in capturing moments in the court, including cases that bear on public interest. She said that some of the judicial restrictions seem borne out of a hostility to openness and transparency.
The reporter stated that some highly-connected and wealthy fraud suspects often influence judges to bar press coverage of cases. She added that some high profile fraud suspects are not only hostile to journalists covering/reporting their cases but also pay cooperative reporters to ensure that the fraud cases are blacked out from media coverage.
A major Nigerian compared foreign courtrooms and Nigerian's, taking as an example the ongoing homicide trial of Oscar Pistorious, the South African Olympic athlete accused of killing his model-girlfriend. “The courtroom in South Africa has the capacity to accommodate a multitude of relatives of the victim as well as the defendant, spectators, and more than 200 journalists who are able to use a variety of recording and transmission gadgets,” the lawyer said.
He continued: “A typical courtroom in Nigeria will not conveniently take fifty persons in all, including counsel to litigants, let alone of taking up to ten journalists who would conveniently report from the room.”
In high profile cases, especially cases involving high profile fraud prospects, most Nigerian courtrooms suffer from a crisis of space.