This study was initiated to investigate the relationship between poverty and access to justice in Dutsin-ma local government. Specific objectives of the research are to: identify the spread and availability relative distance of court services; review the trial process and determine its ease and affordability to the citizens; make an assessment of poverty in relation to access to justice; and adopt the measures that will help to improve access to justice. The study adopted the survey research design and the stratified random sampling technique was used in selecting respondents. Questionnaires were used as instrument of data collection and a total of 150 respondents were used as the sample. Findings revealed that the spread and availability of relative distance of court services are beneficial to the rich and affluent in the society. Findings revealed that trial processes are very poor in Dutsin-ma, and that trial processes and accessibility is beneficial and affordable to only the rich. Also, Findings revealed the factors responsible for the denial of justice which included poverty, corruption, distance, inordinate court delays and lack of information. Findings further revealed that there should be rule of law, an institution/ organization that will help sanction corrupt practices among court’s officials, creation of job opportunities, public enlightenment, and establishment of more court. There is a significant relationship between poverty and access to justice. More so, it was revealed that there is a significant relationship between poverty and corruption.
1.0 Background to the Study
Justice has always been a myth, alongside truth, freedom and democracy. Yet nowadays the concept of ‘justice for all’ remains one of the most fundamental and widely articulated principles of contemporary societies (British Government, 2002). Justice is the true basis of society, there is no such thing as abstract justice for the simple reason that whatever pattern of justice exists in a particular society is tied to the attitude of its people and the effectiveness of the organs for the administration of justice. In this regard, the ordinary citizen is important. According to Aristotle, (quoted by Benjamin, 1899: 4). Man, it is said when perfected is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all. This means that Law and justice are indispensable commodities in any given society. In effect, access to justice suggests above all the possibility to access the infrastructures of justice: to have a judgment, rather than just be arrested (PRI Malawi, 2000). Laws are made for him/her and for the common good of the society in which he/she lives. It is therefore in relation to him him/her that the efficiency of laws should be tested in terms of:
i. How he/she perceives the law.
ii. The access that he /she enjoy or do not enjoy to the judicial process.
iii. His specific experiences as he/she encounters the justice system.
iv. His capacity to understand his own rights and means of those rights.
To ensure freedom, equality and justice, the citizen must be seen to be equal before the law, must be educated to understand their duties and rights, they must be protected, equal opportunity for growth and development must be ensured, and they must have equal access to political, social and economic resources for the realization of potentialities and their safety and security must be ensured. Justice must be made more accessible to the common man in particular and all sundry in general if the society is to be perceived as geared towards a human face society with abundance opportunity and an effective strategy for poverty reduction.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Judiciary is said to be the last resort of the common man. For that, it is the courts that interpret laws and apply in different circumstances. The protection of individual person; his rights and properties depend upon the judicial structures made available, accessible and affordable. It is commonly noted that in many cultures there is reluctance, particularly among the poor, to become entangled with the courts. This is sometimes attributed to the strong stigma attached to any encounter with the law, no matter how innocent’ (Anderson, 2003:16). To this extent therefore, access to court and its service remain a pre-condition for the protection of the fundamental human rights and economic development. This is because court system which is remote, unaffordable, delayed, or incomprehensible to ordinary people effectively denies them legal protection. The research was motivated by the fact that there are a number of positions in relation to judicial process. While there is a stand that court service are available for all, including the poor, others did not subscribe to this opinion, but that poverty is a great barrier to access justice. In essence, of all the social phenomena that have a significant impact on human rights, poverty probably ranks highest (Mubangizi, 2005). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports indicate that access to justice is crucial to human rights enforcement and is increasingly recognized as a component of poverty reduction programmes (UNDP, 2004). The research therefore looked into these issues with a view to provide a systematic explanation about the problem of poverty and access to justice.
1.2 Aims and Objectives
On the grounds that there is unequal access to justice among people in many societies characterized by an imbalance between the poor and rich, and to ensure equality in every society, one of the most prominent principles of the rule of law and democracy, access to justice should be improved for the poor. In concrete terms, development of access to justice for the poor is likely to help poverty reduction (DFID, 2000 and UNDP, 2004). The aim of this research is to provide an explanation about the relationship between poverty and access to justice in Dutsinma local government. The specific objectives of the research include:
1. Identify the spread and availability relative distance of court services.
2. Review the trial process and determine its ease and affordability to the citizens.
3. Make an assessment of poverty in relation to access to justice.
1.3 Significance of Study
This research is significant in a number of ways. First, issues related to court and its services will be brought to focus for public assessment and consumption. Secondly, it is significant for use by policy makers, government officials, social and political analysts, non-governmental organizations and students. The research will no doubt guide the students who want to undertake research on similar topic or area. Hence it will serve as reference for students and others interested in the area.
1.4 Scope and limitation of the study
It is important to note that the central focus in this research is to understand and explain the relationship between poverty and access to justice in dutsinma local government communities in Katsina state of Nigeria. The research limited itself on factors related to court trial and the accessibility of court services to people. Other areas such as the police activities will not be treated thus, it remains open for further researches. In addition the research limits itself to dutsinma local government area by use of sampling; all these were necessitated due to time and resource constraints. It is equally hoped that, accurate and reliable information will be obtained.
1.5 Hypothesis of the study
This research adopted the following hypothesis in order to guide the study.
H0: There is no significant relationship between poverty and access to justice.
H1: There is a significant relationship between poverty and access to justice.
H0: There is no significant relationship between poverty and corruption.
H1: There is a significant relationship between poverty and corruption.
1.6 Definition of Terms
Justice: Refers to the quality of being just and fair, the administration of law or the act of determining rights and assigning rewards and punishment; in other words, it may mean treating people justly and fairly.
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