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Ford Foundation reiterates need for championing social justice through the Judiciary

In commemoration of the World International Day for Social Justice, Dr ChiChi Aniagolu, Regional Director, Ford Foundation West Africa says the Day serves as a stark reminder that achieving fairness and equity is the bedrock of every society.

In a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, Dr Aniagolu said when social justice was compromised, the very fabric of society begins to unravel.

She said in Africa, the greater pressure was always on the Executive and the Legislature to ensure democracy, and good governance, and fight corruption.

She noted that however, equally important in upholding social justice was the role of a robust judicial system due to its interpretative, dispute resolution, and enforcement role.

‘Yet the Judiciary in West Africa is plagued with a myriad of problems – inadequate funding, poor infrastructure, political/governmental interference, bribery, and corruption,’ Dr Aniagolu stated.

‘Biased appointments of judges and unfair removal of sitting judges continue to happen.’

She reit
erated that sometimes the judicial system was manipulated to usurp constitutional rules, stifle dissenting groups, and gag freedom of expression with political opponents, the media, and civil society organisations (CSOs).

She said this was compounded by inadequate legal aid against a backdrop of high legal fees for a sub-region where over 30 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

She stated that rural populations and vulnerable groups in West Africa often face significant barriers to justice making it seem as though justice is on sale to the highest bidder!

Dr Aniagolu said although these challenges are daunting, they were not insurmountable; saying ‘What is required is to reform the judiciary, a strong governmental leadership and commitment to effect the reform, and a civil society courageous to hold the judiciary accountable.’

‘For instance, prioritizing the development of legal infrastructure by investing in new courthouses, especially in rural and slum communities, upgrading existing
facilities, establishing mobile legal clinics, and leveraging technology for virtual consultations, legal aid hotlines, and community-based legal assistance programs to bring legal services closer to rural populations, can effectively address the challenges faced by those in remote areas.’

Dr Aniagolu said CSOs, the media and citizens must continue to be vibrant and courageous and lead the fight against bribery and corruption in the judiciary because the Judiciary was not only vital to guaranteeing equitable justice but also in ensuring the rule of law and sustainable development.

She underscored that businesses would not thrive, and investors were unlikely to invest in societies where justice was compromised.

She said in an era of media pluralism, therefore, citizens must also be vocal and determined in holding the judiciary accountable through public support and applause when the judiciary does well and public naming and shaming, when they err.

Dr Aniagolu said this would energize and embolden the judic
iary to resist Executive and Legislative interference, deal with systemic corruption, and demand reforms to ensure fairness and equity in the judicial services to advance social justice.

Source: Ghana News Agency