President Buhari Expresses Worry Over Delay in Trial of Corruption Cases
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said he is worried by the delays in the trial of cases of corruption by the judiciary.
The President stated this in Abuja while declaring open a workshop on the “Roles of Judiciary in the fight corruption,’’ organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption in collaboration with National Judicial Institute, Commonwealth Secretariat and UNODC.
“I am worried that the expectation of the public is yet to be met by the judiciary with regard to the removal of delay and the toleration of delay tactics by lawyers.
“When cases are not concluded the negative impression is given that crime pays.
“So far, the corruption cases filed by government are not progressing as speedily as they should in spite of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 essentially because the courts allow some lawyers to frustrate the reforms introduced by law.
“This certainly needs to change if we are to make success in our collective effort in the fight against corruption.’’
“Now, in carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, the judiciary must remain impartial and be seen to be impartial.
“It is indeed incumbent on the judiciary to carefully and fully analyse the facts based on applicable law without prejudice and penchant regarding the case they are dealing with, and without acting in any way that would favour the interests of any of the concerned parties.
“Where judicial corruption occurs, the damage can be pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse.
“It undermines citizens’ morale, violates their human rights, harms national development and degrades the quality of governance.
“Judges should hear and handle their assigned cases without any external pressure or influence either by state powers, or by their hierarchical superiors, stakeholders or economic interest groups.
“The judiciary must take steps to ensure that it is not seen as being partisan.
“Hence, judicial officers and all other members of this profession must always demonstrate manifest integrity.’’
The President further urged the judiciary to be in the forefront of efforts at developing rights-based jurisprudence as an element in the multi-disciplinary approach advocated in the fight against corruption.
According to him, the judiciary has a role to play in the fight against corruption by enforcing the applicable laws.
He said the judiciary had the sacred duty to ensure that criminal justice administration was not delayed.
Buhari, who frowned at what he called “the use of delay tactics by some defence lawyers and prosecutors’’ in corruption cases, said such habit was frustrating his administration’s ongoing crusade against corruption.
According to him, an efficient and fair judiciary is key to the success of all anti-corruption initiatives.
The President said the fight against corruption would remain one of the top priorities of his administration in the hope of restoring the economy and building a new Nigeria.
He, however, noted that the eradication of corruption was a joint task involving not only judges and members of the legal profession, but literally all stakeholders, including all levels of government, the media and the civil society.
“The challenge is to come up with an integrated approach that balances process and substance, promote clarity to ensure a coherent and realistic formulation of objectives.
“To this end, the Judiciary is under a duty to keep its house in order and to ensure that the public, which it serves, sees this.
“Thus, we cannot expect to make any gains in the war against corruption in our society when the judiciary is seen as being distant from the crusade.
“This will not augur well and its negative effect will impact all sectors of society.
“The judiciary must fight delay of cases in court as well as it fights corruption in its own ranks, perceived or otherwise.
“We expect to see less tolerance to delay tactics used by defense lawyers or even the prosecution in taking cases to conclusion.’’
Buhari observed that the future of anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria rested not only on functional preventive systems, but also on an effective sanctions and enforcement regime in accordance with the laws.
He stated that his administration is counting on the judiciary to assist in this regard.
He assured of the Federal Government’s commitment to promoting and supporting the judiciary to establish “a judicial system that is well-staffed, well-resourced, promotes and recognises dedicated, committed and motivated Judges.
“The judiciary can count on me for this so that together we can rid our nation of the cancer of corruption.
“A corruption-free Nigeria is possible; therefore, let every arm of government be the change we want to see in our country.’’
Buhari congratulated the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption and the National Judicial Institute for their collaboration and initiative.
He expressed the hope that the outcome of the workshop would serve as a veritable input to the collective effort at “killing corruption before it kills Nigeria’’.
Prof. Itsey Sagay, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, had narrated how some judges frustrated government anti-corruption efforts in the country.
He expressed dismay that since 2007, only one out of the 15 corruption cases against 15 ex-governors was successfully prosecuted, saying that even the affected ex-governor was only fined N3million for a fraud case that involved N4 billion.
He said the committee had so far trained 160 prosecutors to ensure effective prosecution of high-level corruption cases in the country.
In their separate remarks, the country representatives of the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and Commonwealth Secretariat lauded the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in the fight against corruption.(NAN)