In a move to intensify the fight against corruption, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has given directive for the setting up of special courts for corruption and financial crimes cases.
The directive was given to heads of the divisions of courts.
According to Onnoghen, the establishment of the special courts was to curb the unnecessary delay associated with the prosecution of such cases.
Onnoghen who spoke Monday at the special session of the Supreme Court where he administered oath on 29 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) also directed that heads of courts to compile and forward to the National Judicial Council (NJC), comprehensive lists of all corruption and financial crime cases with them.
The moves, he stressed, were designed to strengthen the fight against corruption.
He announced that in order for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to monitor and effectively enforce the foregoing Policy, an Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee would be constituted at the next Council meeting.
He explained that the committee would be saddled with, among other things, the responsibility of ensuring that both Trial and Appellate Courts handling corruption and financial crime cases key into and abide by the renewed efforts at ridding the nation of corruption.
He said: “Heads of Courts are now to report such cases to the NJC which in turn, would transmit them to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, in the case of Senior Advocates, and Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in the case of other Legal Practitioners.”
“Heads of Courts have been directed to designate in their various jurisdictions, one or more Courts, depending on the volume of such cases, as Special Courts solely for the purpose of hearing and speedily determining corruption and financial crime cases.
“Where such cases come on appeal, to either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, Special Dates on each week, shall be fixed solely for hearing and determining such appeals.”
He spoke on the collaborative efforts needed to win the war against corruption.
Said he: “We are under no illusion that the fight against corruption would be an easy one, as we are already aware that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back; but we are determined to win it. We require all hands to be on deck to fight this monster.
“We in the Supreme Court, having reduced the pre-election appeals in the course of the Third Term of the last Legal year, will devote much of this First Term in dealing, by way of task work, with the identified eighteen (18) EFCC, ICPC, and Economic Crime cases alongside the normal Civil, Criminal, and Political cases.”
He added: “We must not lose sight of the indispensable role of the judiciary in the fight against corruption.
“Corruption continues to place the judiciary in the eye of the storm, but, we cannot allow that to deter us or weaken our resolve.
“It is regrettable that the image of the Judiciary has been tarnished by the notion that the Nigerian Judiciary is bedeviled by corrupt elements, hence the need for an image building parade.
“We must accept that acts of misconduct of a few rub off on the rest of the judiciary and create the impression that all judicial officers have their hands soiled with the proceeds of corruption.
“Let me be clear here; it is not going to be business as usual for the few unscrupulous elements in our midst.”
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who spoke at the occasion praised the process of reforms aimed at re-positioning the nation’s judiciary to play its role in a more humane and efficient manner.
He acknowledged Justice Onnoghen’s Circular on Practice Direction dated May 28 on the compulsory enforcement of Arbitration provisions in contracts by the courts in order to promote faster commercial dispute resolutions and foster greater confidence in the judicial system by domestic and foreign investors.