Nigeria: Repairing a car with the engine running

Author: Sabine Hertveldt
Publication: Celebrating Reforms 2007
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Commercial cases in the Nigerian state of Lagos can now be resolved in about a year—in stark contrast to the situation during 16 years of military rule. In 1997 the average duration of commercial cases before the court was over 4 years. This case study tracks how Nigeria modernized court rules, dismissed corrupt judges, and introduced alternative dispute resolution to improve its legal system. Running with reform as soon as its new reform-minded government took office, Nigeria fought a fight on all fronts to provide a fair and efficient justice system, with access to justice for all.

Main Findings

  • Less than a year after a new attorney general was appointed in Lagos, 26 judges were appointed, specialized divisions set up, and judges’ salaries increased.
  • While some reforms were implemented immediately after the new government was elected, others are ongoing 7 years later.
  • For commercial cases in Nigeria, the average time to reach a decision after filing a case dropped by 38%, from 730 days to 457 days.
  • Nigeria moved from 105th to 66th po