Rights activist, Femi Falana, has applauded the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, for issuing a mandate to all heads of courts the nation over to make unique courts for the elite trial of corruption cases.
Falana, in a statement he personally signed yesterday, said the CJN deserved commendation for the radical initiative.
“No doubt, the timely intervention of the Chief Justice will go a long way to speed up the trial of corruption cases in all our courts,” he said.
The fiery senior lawyer recalled that as part of anti corruption policy of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration, an Executive Bill for the establishment of a special court with exclusive jurisdiction to try corruption cases was submitted to the National Assembly.
“Although it was submitted over a year ago, the federal legislators have not deemed it fit to pass the crucial bill into law for reasons best known to them. Hence corruption cases have been subjected to inordinate delays in our courts which are congested with many other cases,” Falana noted.
He urged the CJN to direct the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Chief Judges of the States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) “to issue practice directions to accelerate the determination of corruption cases
in order to make a success of the special courts.”
“To obviate undue delay in the determination of corruption cases, the practice directions have made special provision for the service of processes on parties by electronic mail addresses, facsimile number and GSM Telephone number or any other available mode of communication.”
He said even though the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act with respect to the abolition of stay of proceedings in criminal trials in all federal courts, some defence counsels have devised new dilatory tactics, including the practice of subjecting each prosecution witness to cross examination lasting 20 days or more by asking irrelevant questions and sending junior lawyers to court to ask for adjournment to allow senior counsels in chambers to personally handle the cross examination of prosecution witnesses.
“Trial courts should stop such delay tactics which are programmed to defeat the letter and spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. Finally, defence counsel who conspire with their clients to frustrate the prosecution of corruption cases should be made to pay punitive costs, while not more than three lawyers should appear in court for any of the parties in corruption cases,” he said.