A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Akinseye George, has urged the National Judicial Council, NJC, to be proactive in dealing with corruption affecting not only the judiciary but the entire country.
Professor George made the plea on Wednesday in Lagos while speaking at a media roundtable organized by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, in collaboration with TrustAfrica.
The Senior Advocate, who was the guest speaker on the occasion, said: “The court prosecutes so that justice can be achieved but there are so many cases in court today stocked up without prosecution”.
He cited different examples, one of which is the case commenced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, between 2007and 2011, a case of N5.3billion fraud committed by the former Governor of Enugu State, Chief Nnamani, saying: “The case remains unresolved till date”.
“He suggested that SERAP can assist the government in the fight against corruption by building a strong data base of cases resolved and unresolved “as we cannot conquer a meaningfully in the fight against corruption when we begin to speculate”
The theme of the media roundtable was: “Strategies and Approaches for the Successful Completion and Effective Prosecution of Abandoned and Unresolved High Profile Cases of Corruption in Nigeria. Combating Grand Corruption and Impunity in Nigeria,”
Reputable lawyers, journalists and Nigerians suggested solutions on how to resolve high profile corruption in the country.
Chairman Presidential Advisory committee against corruption, PACAC, Professor Itself Sagay suggested methods of punishment for lawyers especially senior advocates who hinder high profile cases of corruption in court.
Sagay who sent his suggestions to the conference said the prosecuting agencies should pick their gauntlet and revisit all high profile cases that had suffered neglect in court.
According to him, the prosecuting bodies should “apply to reinstate any case struck out for want of prosecution. In cases requiring appeal, the authorities must apply for leave to appeal out of time, and prepare evidence and legal arguments thoroughly, including by inviting consultants to advise.”
Sagay said prosecuting authorities must “Insist on full application of Sections 306 and 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, namely: No stay of proceedings under any circumstances – S. 306.Any preliminary objection must be taken together with the substantive issue – S. 396(2), and hearings shall be on a daily basis, but in exceptional cases, adjournments not to be in excess of 14 working day, may be granted. Such adjournments not to exceed 5 in any proceedings – S. 396 (3) and (4).”
Sagay also recommended that, “A High Court Judge who is elevated whilst presiding over a criminal case, should be allowed to conclude the case without any effect on his new status. The Head of various Courts, namely Chief Justice of Nigeria; President, Court of Appeal; Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; and Chief Judges of State High Courts, should be sensitized about the very critical nature of the fight against high-level official corruption to Nigeria’s development and the welfare of its peoples.”
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ogun State, Mr. Olumide Ayeni, who chaired the event said: “Any person who loves this society will welcome and attend events of this nature. It is a very important subject we are here to discuss, to find ways of addressing the cankerworm that has evaded our society.”
The Special Assistant on Prosecution to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Okoi Obolo- Obla, who represented the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said: “I admire what SERAP is doing. It is not Buhari’s work to fight corruption alone, it is all our fight. It is corruption that is fuelling this agitation by the different groups.”
Mr. Gbolahan Latona, head of Legal, EFCC, who represented EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu said: “We are not working at cross purposes with the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation; we are cooperating with them.
“We have a wide range of corruption cases in concert with state agencies. The Attorney-General Office has the right to initiate new high-profile corruption cases and investigate it themselves without waiting for cases initiated by the EFCC. We are also working on best practices’ manuals for the prosecutors and investigators. If you want a corrupt-free society, we must all work towards it.”
Mr. Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, SAN, President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) represented by Mr. R.O. Balogun said: “Lawyers should report to NBA anything they observe in court that is corrupt, noting that everybody must be involved in the fight against corruption.
Mr. Babatunde Ogala on his part said: “The moment you take public office, the expectations of you are very high. Corruption is a problem in all of us, our values encourage corruption, pressure from family and well-wishers, once you attain political office. Government is fighting corruption to the best of its ability.”
Others represented at the event included the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC); the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the US Embassy, the Royal Netherlands Embassy and members of the Civil society.
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