President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, and other stakeholders, on Monday jointly spoke against corruption and identified the roles of the judiciary and other institutions in the fight against the scourge in the country.
Against this background, the CJN said the judiciary would no longer dismiss cases of corruption against high- profile persons without trial.
The CJN said the judiciary had put a stop to giving verdicts that exonerated high-profile citizens accused of corruption without undergoing trial.
Justice Mohammed said this amid calls by President Buhari and other stakeholders, on the judiciary to join the Federal Government’s efforts to rid the country of corruption.
The President called on the judiciary to put its house in order, tackle judicial corruption, be impartial and politically-neutral, remove causes of delays in adjudication of cases and stop tolerating the dilatory tactics of defence lawyers that prolonged high- profile corruption cases.
The President, the CJN and others including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), among others spoke at the opening ceremony of an ‘International Workshop on the Judiciary and Fight against Corruption.’
The two-day event was jointly-organised by the National Judicial Institute and the Sagay-led PACAC and it was with the theme, ‘The Roles of Judges in the Fight Against Corruption:
Sagay, who had earlier spoken at the event, had identified four reasons for the “unconcluded-trial syndrome” that had kept the corruption cases against about 15 ex-governors in court since 2007 to include, “the reluctance or failure of the judiciary to take control of their own courts and to exercise their powers firmly and decisively.”
But the CJN in a veiled response to Sagay, while delivering his speech, said one of the reasons the cases against the politically-exposed persons had remained in the court’s dockets was because of lack of will by government to get them prosecuted.
He said, “I must emphasise that the fact that these cases still remain on our case list was because of lack of will on the part of government to have these cases prosecuted.
“Also, as corresponding action from the judiciary, we are determined not to strike out or dismiss the cases or discharge and acquit accused persons without trial.
“That is why these cases remain on the list because of virile determination to have them prosecuted when the will to do so arises such as now.”
The CJN said since 2013, various levels of court in the country had “initiated and introduced Practice Directions on Kidnapping, Corruption and other Serious Offences, that provides framework for the fast-tracking of major crimes and corruption cases.”
He added, “The issue of undue delay by technicality, which hitherto plagued the criminal justice system, has also been addressed by the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”
He urged “all parties to proceedings to avail themselves of the innovations introduced by the Act in order to ensure that delay becomes obsolete in our courts.”
He assured Nigerians that the judiciary would continue to play its role in the fight against corruption, adding that due punishment would be meted out to anyone found guilty.
Reiterating the role of diligent investigation in the successful prosecution of corruption cases, the CJN commended the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, in that regard.
President Buhari said his administration made the war against corruption one of its priorities in order to restore the economy and build a new Nigeria.