Review of Government Policy- Anti- Corruption and Financial Cases: Curbing inordinate delays and lawyers’ dilatoriness

President Muhammadu Buhari in his electioneering campaigns promised to stamp out graft in Nigeria and to this end, will set up special courts to speed up the trial of corruption cases. The President then sought the co-operation of the Judiciary in his administration’s fight against corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.To redeem the battered image of the judiciary before the Nigerian public, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, GCON in his speech at the Special Session of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to mark the commencement of the 2017/2018 Legal Year, emphasised the need to avoid all forms of dilatoriness by lawyers in prosecution of corruption and financial crimes cases and/or determination by the Court.

Consequently, on 27 September 2017, the CJN directed the Heads of Courts in Nigeria to set up Special Courts to speedily hear and determine corruption and financial crimes cases and forward the comprehensive list to the Nigerian Judicial Council. The Heads of Courts are to designate one or two courts in their jurisdiction as Special Courts for the hearing and speedy determination of corruption and financial crimes cases and pegged the number of legal appearances for each party to five.

The CJN also announced major reforms in the criminal justice system to effectively monitor and enforce the new policy. The National Judicial Council (NJC) approved the setting up of an Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee with the mandate to among other things ensure that “both Trial and Appellate Courts handling corruption and financial crime cases key into and abide by the renewed efforts at ridding our Country of the canker worm.” The CJN also directed all heads of courts to clamp down on lawyers who deploy delay tactics in criminal matters before them.

The Committee is made up of 16 members and chaired by Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima, CFR, a retired justice of the Supreme Court. Other members of the Committee include:

1. Hon. Justice Kashim Zannah (OFR), Chief Judge, Borno State
2. Hon. Justice P.O. Nnadi, Chief Judge, Imo State
3. Hon. Justice Marshal Umukoro, Chief Judge Delta State
4. Hon. Justice M. L. Abimbola, Chief Judge, Oyo State
5. Mr. A.B Mahmoud OON, SAN, President, Nigerian Bar Association,
6. Chief Wole Olanipekun OFR SAN, Former NBA President
7. Mr. Olisa Agbakoba OON SAN, Former NBA President
8. Mr. J.B Daudu SAN, Former NBA President
9. Mr. Augustine Alegeh SAN, Former NBA President
10. Dr. Garba Tetengi SAN, Member, NJC
11. Mrs. R.I Inga, Member, NJC
12. Mrs. Hajara Yusuf Representative, Ministry of Justice
13. Alhaji Kabiru Alkali Mohammed, mni Representative, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
14 Olanrewaju Suraju Representative, Non-Governmental Organisations
15 Ahmed Gambo Saleh, Esq., Secretary, NJC – Secretary.

The Terms of Reference of the Committee include:

i). To monitor and regularly evaluate the progress and activities of courts designated to try corruption a financial/economic crime cases;
ii). Advise on Practice Directions for approval by the Chief Justice of Nigeria to be applicable in all such courts across the country with a view to eliminating procedural and administrative bottlenecks militating against speedy disposal of such cases;
iii). Advise on the trainings, re-trainings and other refresher programmes for Judges and staff of the designated courts aimed at enhancing their capacities to function effectively;
iv) Come up with an effective feedback mechanism from Heads of Courts to the Council on the activities and progress of cases before designated courts;

We hope that this Committee will swing into action and bring to bear the necessary expeditiousness, such that corruption and financial crimes cases and indeed all cases in court will be heard and determined expeditiously. This will in no small measure redeem the tarnished image and independence of some of our courts.

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