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The Role of the Nigerian Judiciary in a Democracy: A Judge’s Dilemma
AdvisorMarsh, Shawn C
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Judging in Nigeria seems to be changing with the advancements in society. Like a circle, judges' decisions impact society, while social cultural changes and perceptions influence, or should influence, judicial decisions. The complexity of the Nigerian society makes it eminent that judicial roles catch up with society's changes to make the law more relevant to the Nigerian people in its present democratic dispensation. The reality of the present democratic dispensation in Nigeria, and many other countries worldwide, creates such scenarios that generate a gulf between society and the law. This gulf puts judges in dilemmas of protecting the competing interests of the society, law, and the government, as judges are accountable to the established law they uphold, and then to the justice system they represent. Also, judges are accountable to the government that appointed or elected them to the office, and then to the mutual and conflicting interests or welfare of the society they are obligated to serve, thereby creating a conflict between substantial justice and procedural justice. Thus, in attempts to determine the above interests (all deserving of intricate, yet unified implementation), judges get sandwiched between their imprecise, yet indispensable and required judicial roles, and the expectations of the law and society. Therefore, this dissertation argues that an inadequate understanding of judicial roles affects and influences judicial performance, social interests/welfare, and eventually democratic development, thereby creating a dilemma for judges. Whether social change impacts, or should impact, judicial roles to be more society-oriented is the essence of my proposed socio-judicial theory that attempts to address the quagmire judges encounter in performing their judicial roles. As revolutionary and controversial as this theory might be for Nigeria, I am optimistic it is the way forward for their judicial system. Thus, this dissertation outlines and defends my argument that revamping judicial thinking to embrace a more realistic socio-judicial perspective will make law and justice relevant to the Nigerian society, and avoid circumstances where the courts are unresponsive to societal context.