•Corruption war can’t be won by magic –CJN
From Godwin Tsa and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Paul Orude, Bauchi
Apparently bothered by the slow pace of corruption cases in various courts across the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday accused Judges of conniving with lawyers to frustrate speedy determination of cases before them.
President Buhari was particularly miffed by the fact that in spite of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 (ACJA), which encourages speedy trial of cases, “corruption cases filed by government are not progressing as speedily as they should.”
“This certainly needs to change if we are to make success in our collective effort in the fight against corruption,” the president said.
He charged the judiciary to ensure that criminal cases are expeditiously dispensed with.
Buhari who spoke yesterday in Abuja at the International workshop on the judiciary and the fight against corruption, 2016, a workshop organized by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, the National Judicial Institute, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, said he has made the fight against corruption one of the top priorities of his administration in the hope of restoring the economy and to build a new Nigeria.
But he lamented that the expectation of the public was 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.
Buhari equally called on Judges to desist from partisan politics and to work with an independent mind devoid of any influence in the discharge of their duties.
“Now, in carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, the judiciary must remain impartial and most importantly, be seen to be impartial. It is incumbent on the judiciary to analyze facts based on the 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 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 depletes the quality of governance.
“In tandem with the above and as gatekeepers of the law, the judiciary must maintain its absolute independence. 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.
While acknowledged the efforts of the judiciary in purging itself of corrupt officers, the president said it was now clear that corruption was one of the main obstacles to peace, stability, sustainable development, democracy, and human rights around the globe.
He noted that the responsibility of the judiciary in a democratic society such as ours was a critical being one of the three pillars of the modern democratic nation state and also “essential to the process of checks and balances, which is so fundamental to the way societies such as ours are meant to operate and function. This apparent function that the Judiciary plays is undeniably one of the cornerstones of any effective strategy against corruption.”
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed agreed that corruption was a threat to the legitimacy of constitutional governance and democracy. However, he noted there was no single magical solution arguing that the menace needed to be tackled simultaneously on all fronts, individually and collectively.
“ Hence, we (judiciary) must do our part and act now. Our actions must be concrete, ethical and time-bound, as are necessary to ensure an efficient and effective justice system.”
He noted that corruption in Nigeria, as in other climes, was a complex and many-sided problem that cannot be solved in isolation.
“The reality of its corrosive effect is found in the socio-economic threat that it poses to the development and harmony of Nigeria. As we have witnessed, corruption suppresses economic growth and undermines the sustainable management of our commonwealth.”
The CJN conceded that corruption also results in flagrant breaches of the fundamental human rights of citizens and undermines our collective security
“ 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.
“I daresay that corruption cannot be easily tackled without transparent, efficient and speedy delivery of justice. Indeed, this is fundamental to our economic growth, development and national well-being. Hence, the growth of our democracy is underpinned by the satisfactory resolution of our individual and collective differences through a proficient and virile justice system.”
The Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa said that the National Assembly was in support of the anti-graft crusade of President Buhari.
Speaking with journalists in Bauchi, Doguwa who is representing Doguwa/Tudun Wada federal constituency in Kano State said: “We’re all proud to be identified with Mr. President in his fight against graft and we will make sure that this country is moved to the next level.”
Doguwa explained that successes being recorded in the fight against corruption would enable the country secure the resources it has for the betterment of the generality of its citizens.
He described allegation of selective punishment as untrue saying “the Law is not friendly to anyone.”
Doguwa, described the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal government as focused and democratic in its anti-graft crusade, a situation he said, positioned the National Assembly to come up with legal framework that would help the Executive arm succeed in the anti-corruption war.