Buhari: Corruption cases being scuttled by Judiciary – Lawyers reply Buhari

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1.   Buhari: Corruption cases being scuttled

2.   Anti-graft war: Lawyers reply Buhari

 

 

DAILY TRUST

Buhari: Corruption cases being scuttled

By Isiaka Wakili | Publish Date: Jul 19 2016 ‘

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has said the prosecution of corruption cases is not going well.
He said in spite of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 the courts allowed some lawyers to frustrate the reforms.

President Buhari made the remark in Abuja yesterday at the opening of the international workshop on the Role of the Judiciary in the Fight against Corruption.
The president demanded   a change of attitude to the fight against corruption for desired effects.

He said eradicating corruption was a collective task   that should involve the judges, members of the legal profession, all branches of government, the media and the civil society.

He charged the judiciary   to keep its house in order to serve the public well.

“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,” he said.

The president also stated that a well-functioning criminal justice system was imperative to address corruption effectively as his government sought to move Nigeria towards greater growth and development.

President Buhari also warned that in carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, the judiciary must remain impartial and   be seen to be so.
“The judiciary must take steps to ensure that it is not seen as being partisan. As such, it must be aware of the sensitivities of the public and take steps towards avoiding even the shred of a doubt as regards its independence.

“In justice, integrity is a necessity. Hence, judicial officers and all other members of this sector must always demonstrate manifest integrity,” he said, adding “we expect to see less tolerance to delay tactics used by defence lawyers or even the prosecution in taking cases to conclusion.”

He said he was 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.”

He said that the future of anti-graft efforts in Nigeria rest  not only on well-functioning, preventive systems, but also an effective sanctions and enforcement regime in accordance with the laws.

Buhari said his administration was counting on the judiciary to assist in this regard, reiterating his commitment to promoting and supporting the institution to achieve a well-staffed and well-resourced judicial system.

“The judiciary can count on me for this so that together we can rid our nation of the cancer of corruption,” the president said.
President Buhari also stated that “A corruption-free Nigeria is possible. Therefore, let every arm of government be the change we want to see in our country.”

Corruption won’t be tolerated –CJN

By Adelanwa Bamgboye

In his speech Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, assured the nation that corruption would not be tolerated and that due punishment would be meted out to corrupt individuals.

He commended the ongoing efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), under by Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

He said that corruption in Nigeria, as in other climes, is a complex phenomenon that could not be solved in isolation.

The CJN noted that corruption suppressed economic growth and undermined the sustainable management of the commonwealth.

“It also results in flagrant breaches of the fundamental human rights of citizens, undermines our collective security; aggravates poverty, while threatening the legitimacy of constitutional governance and democracy.
“Perhaps above these, corruption blunts the sword of justice and engenders contempt for the rule of law, a fundamental principle of any civilized society.  It is therefore important for us to be holistic in our submissions and pragmatic in our solutions,” he said.

Tackling corruption, according to him, is not easy, pointing out since the causes are complex, it has no single magical solution.

He said that 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.

Presidency should provide evidence   – OCJ Okocha
 
By Adelanwa Bamgboye, John Chuks Azu & Clement A. Oloyede

The immediate past Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, OCJ, Okocha (SAN) has said the president must be specific on the particulars of lawyers who are frustrating reforms   introduced by the ACJA.

He said while he did not know the basis upon which the President’s statement was made, it would have been preferable if particulars of such lawyers were given.

He said when the particulars of such lawyers were given, people could now make informed decisions.

“It is not every lawyer that is involved in criminal trial, and we have over one hundred thousand lawyers in this country. So is it the lawyers that are prosecuting or those defending in criminal trials that are frustrating the reforms introduced by the ACJA?”

Another senior Lawyer, Abeny Mohammed (SAN) agreed that   lawyers were using frivolous applications to frustrate cases but he added    that the courts could ignore them. According to him, we can only shift the blames to those lawyers, who are using it to frustrate the cases.

“However, under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, not every application can be heard in the interim. The court can refuse to hear the application and proceed with the case and tell the counsel that the application can be heard later.

“It is a matter of the court exercising their discretion judicially and judiciously. The lawyers should be blamed more than the courts,” he said.

Lawyers selfish – Jacobs

Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) observed that what the presidency said is visible for all to see. “Despite the fact that there is provision for Section 306 saying that there should be no stay, you see lawyers filing applications for stay upon stay.”

He added that even after such applications were refused by the court, such lawyers would  file another one. “This shows our lack of readiness for the system to work. People are still filing frivolous objections that the ACJ prohibited. People are asking for adjournment indiscriminately.” He said that despite the ACJA providing for five adjournments once the trial commences, lawyers still went to courts to seek for adjournments more than what the Act provided.

He said lawyers needed attitudinal change. “Our attitudes need to change if the society must change. We cannot continue to do things in our own ways and expect things to change. It’s not the law that can reform a nation but we must also reform our attitude.”

Jacobs added that the selfishness of some lawyers was not making them   look at the interest of the larger society. He suggested that lawyers and judges needed  more training to understand the right thing to be done.

Reacting, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) cautioned lawyers against engaging in acts capable of frustrating government’s on-going efforts to curb corruption and impunity.

He advised lawyers not to compromise the professional ethics or  aid criminality for personal gains, but must ensure the protection of societal interest at all time.
Sagay, urged lawyers to desist from professional misconduct, noting that where lawyers deliberately work to aid his client escape punishment is unethical.
“The obligation of a lawyer to accept briefs does not extend to the protection of their clients from the consequences of crimes against the society.

“A lawyer who looks at his client and believe that client is guilty of a crime, should advise that client to plead guilty otherwise he should drop the case. He does not have a choice.

“He should not knowingly, or being aware that a client is guilty of an offence, set out to provide the defence of not guilty with the intention of seeing him set free from the consequences of his crime.

“It is therefore unethical to set out to frustrate legal proceedings by exploiting the rules of procedure and regulation. It is unethical to make frivolous application with the hope of delaying the proceedings in a case.

“Defence counsel, should avoid ending up as a partner in the crime by sharing guilt and proceeds of that crime.
“A lawyer’s role should not degenerate from that of a legitimate defence counsel to becoming an accomplice after the fact.
“A lawyer who is over-enthusiastic in the defence of his client and crossing the line from being a lawyer to being to becoming a co-defendant will be prosecuted as such” Sagay said

Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/buhari-corruption-cases-being-scuttled/155951.html#JeoecRr1lyouPYKi.99

 


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THE SUN

Anti-graft war: Lawyers reply Buhari

— 20th July 2016

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

Lawyers yesterday tackled President Muhammadu Buhari over his comment that the judiciary was frustrating the speedy determination of corruption cases.
President Buhari on Monday said the judiciary was yet to perform its functions to the satisfaction of Nigerians inspite of the reforms brought about by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

Speaking at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja, while declaring open a workshop for Nigerian Judges organized by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption in conjunction with the NJI, the president said the Judiciary must take steps to ensure that it was not perceived as being partisan.
But reacting, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said the prosecution of criminal cases follows due processes and laid down procedures recognised by law before arriving at conviction.

Besides, president of the NBA, Mr. Austin Alegeh (SAN) said an enabling environment  must be put in place for judges to perform optimally in the discharge of their duties.

“The president should put some things in place for the judiciary to perform its role without inhibitions.

“In other climes, you don’t necessarily  need to bring an accused person to court before his trial can continue. There are cameras that connect an accused person from prison to court so that he doesn’t need to come to court.

“Here, there are no such facilities and the Federal Government who is expected to produce  an accused person in court sometimes don’t do that. In such a situation, Judges and lawyers will be waiting for an accused who is being held in custody by the Federal Government. This is the same Federal Government that wants corruption cases to be speedily dispensed with.

“A classical example is the trial of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki who on several occasions, government refused to bring to court.

“In this same country, our Judges are till taking notes in long hand instead of by electronic sytstem. These and many more are the problems working against the speedy trial of corruption cases.  I can say that the judiciary is doing its best within its available resources and working environment.”

Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) shared the position of the NBA president.

“Under our law, every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law. You cannot just come to court and the court will say okay you are guilty, go to prison.

“The entire administration of former criminal system starts from the commission of crime, investigating the crime, arresting the suspect and taking him to court. And so, the judiciary alone, without the support of the  prosecution and defence counsel, can do nothing.

“So, Mr. President should blame the system which include the Executive and Judiciary, and the lawyers as well. So, it is not just the judiciary problem at all.
“In addition, I am sure you are a witness to a situation where an accused person is being charged on 200-count. This makes the whole thing looks like a child’s play. By the time you finish reading count one and goes to the next one, the Judge may have forgotten about the first one.

“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should look at the offences and make it more concise.

If you charge a man with 40-count, at the end of the day, the witnesses will start giving contradictory evidence and the defence counsel will capitalise on such contradictions and get judgments for their clients. This is not the fault of the judiciary.

“I always say this and I will repeat it, EFCC and other law enforcement agencies will do the nation and society a lot of good if they operate within the ambit of the law which say investigation before arrest.

“Here, you find them arresting someone before investigations are conducted. So the problem is squarely that of the investigation agencies prosecution; let them do their homework well and then trial will be concluded within six months.”

In his reaction, Mr. Amobi Nzelu said President Buhari only expressed his personal opinion on the matter, noting that criminal trials operate within a written law which must be followed by Judges to arrived in conviction or an acquittal.

“It is better for 40 criminals to go unpublished than to convict an innocent person,” he said.

Nzelu who lauded the anti-corruption war of President, said the judiciary was doing its best.

“I appreciate what Buhari is doing and I doff my cap for him for touching those who were perceived to be untouchable. There was massive corruption, the country was looted dry and people are now in pains as a result,  but he (Buhari) should be patient and allow the judiciary to do its work. The three arms of government are inter- independent and no one should be seen as trying to undermine the other.”

Another lawyer, Vincent Otaokpukpu said the judiciary was not the only stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice and therefore cannot take the blame alone.

He posited that other stakeholders including the police, EFCC, prosecution and prison should share in the blame as they contribute in the delay of cases in court.
“I don’t see the judiciary as the problem because there are constitutional rights of an accused person standing trial in court. For instance the constitution allows him adequate time prepare for his defence as well as fair hearing. So, the Judge has a duty to balance the interest of justice and the constitutional rights of an accused person. It is not a one way thing like going to the market to buy some items. In any case, justice hasten is justice denied.”


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