Jurist, Lawyers Call For Caution

JusticeFALANA: We Have Special Courts Already

AS President Muhammadu Buhari steps up the battle against corruption, with the proposal to introduce special courts to facilitate prosecution of cases, eminent jurist, Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola and Chief Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo (SAN) have expressed caution and reservation over the proposed plan.

Expressing his reservation, Ayoola who was a former justice of the Supreme Court said; “We have not seen the White Paper or the Act setting up the courts, neither has President (Muhammadu) Buhari come out with the enabling law, so it is very important that the enabling law is first released by the government before anybody could assess whether these courts have the capacity to deliver and meet national expectations.”

In his reaction, Awomolo is of the opinion that setting up a special court for corruption could amount to treating the symptom and not the disease, stating that what the nation needs is a sober look at when and how Nigeria went wrong in its march towards nation building vis a vis the origin of corruption in the country.

“What we need are specialised judges not special courts. Judges who are good in certain aspects of the law need to be encouraged to handle matters in that regard. For instance, we have seen some judges at the Federal High Court who have performed quite creditably with handling terrorism cases in recent time. There is no need to begin to set up any special courts. How it is done is that judges who have special skill on family or matrimonial issues get cases of that concern assigned to their courts while judges skilled on land matters get to attend to such issues and if you are specially gifted with knowledge of maritime law, you get to handle dispute arising from that field. That way Judges become specialised in specific fields including the field of anti-corruption.”

Awomolo argued that the fact that you name a court special court on corruption does not automatically make the court specialised in that area, and stressed that rather than focus on nomenclature of a court, emphasis should be on training and re-training of judges to become specialists in specific areas of law and life.

In his interview with the Guardian, Chief Osaheni Uzamere, prominent Benin lawyer said the time Nigeria would have established special courts for corruption cases was 16 years ago, when former President Obasanjo set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Going forward, he said what the situation needs now are Special Rules.

“Therefore, it is not sufficient to just establish the courts, you must bring out special rules because the rules that govern the conventional courts, leave a lot of loopholes for exploitation even by lawyers like myself. You say a man has stolen N70 billion because stealing simply put is bailable, you will let him off, then you say you are seizing his passport, how many passports do you think he has, a lot of them have several passports even if you seize all his passports, he goes to Seme Border and escapes. It should be for instance that he who is accused of corruption in that court, is not entitled to bail and the constitution should be so amended; section 26 that deals with fundamental rights.”

Going down memory lane, Uzamere mentioned the Faild Banks’ Tribunal set up under late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, which were encumbered by same old rules.

He said: “Between 1994 and 1997, the Abacha regime established the failed banks tribunal and the first tribunal was in Benin City under Justice Constance Momoh and I had the privilege of being one of the lawyers that appeared before her. Throughout the duration, I was representing some clients from Kano and elsewhere and I remember also that Wole Olanipekun was representing some Indians or Arabs from Ilorin and because we were using the old rules, that court was encumbered. If you like go and establish 50 courts now, you are providing more jobs for lawyers by appointing them judges. If they are to work on the current criminal procedure law, we won’t get anything; we won’t get anywhere because it is the same court. We are in a peculiar situation, we need peculiar solutions.

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  • Baba Adini

    I agree with Awomolo that setting up a special court for corruption could amount to treating the symptom and not the disease. A true solution is not just setting up courts, but creating a system of accountability and checks on government officials. Currently such a system is lacking that makes it clear that government property is held in trust for the citizens and not for government officials. There is need for a transparent accounting system that takes into recognition financial disbursement and expenses, property acquisition and disposal, property location and property tracking. Until we have such a system in place, Buhari war on corruption will fail.

    • Okafor

      When civil servants are not paid for months what do we expect? Where you have to generate your own electricity and sink your own borehole and govts are there from Fed to State to Local Govt. States will blame the Fed and Local Gots will blame the states. Nigerians we have to take deep breath and ask ourselves whether we will this way and for how long. After the war armed robbers were being shot publicly it did not stop armed robbery.

      • Julius Joel

        What’s your point?

      • Baba Adini

        Okafor, you made a good point, but no one should be owed salary for a second or even hours, talk-less of days. There is no doubt that the money to pay salary is in the budget and was disbursed. So where did the money go? More often somebody in government moved the money into their private savings account for huge interest or sometimes take the money outright as his personal entitlement. If you recalled a man who pleaded guilty to stealing the sum of N23.1 billion naira police pension fund was found guilty and walked away by paying only the sum of N750,000 naira to avoid jail and not to refund the stolen money. Is that fair to police officers who have not been paid their pension, because of the corrupt practices of one man? What is the difference between this man and armed robber? It is still blood money, because the police officers worked for it. Government is owing salary not because it cannot pay, but it is because senior servants and politicians collaborate to steal the money. The same goes for the issue of electricity and water you raised. Money is budgeted for these things, but someone put it in their pockets walk away and buy houses in Europe and America, send his/her children to the best schools in Europe and America, while others wallop in poverty and misery. We need new leadership in all strata of life that ask questions about the budget, about government properties and even about how to the monthly N500 million naira security votes without accountability for governors can be scrapped and appropriated for health care, or education, or electricity generation.

  • forestgee

    From the body language of the presidency, there are looking for desperate ways (even if it is illegal) to fight corruption. It will never work as a one man business.
    Strengthen the existing institutions to fight corruption…do not personalise the fight.

  • OkwuBndu

    I thought I heard the chairman of the 2014 national conference saying that if the confab recommendations are implemented, that it will go a long way in fighting corruption in the country. Why can’t Nigeria demonstrate continuity in governance especially good and relevant programs of previous administrations? Why do we most often make a step forward and several backwards? What’s the basic foundation of Nigerian Corruption? How did corruption become institutionalized in the country? Why does Nigeria appear as a lawless society governed by impunity and brute force? Why do we continue to hang onto archaic ways of doing things instead of modernising our system? These are questions we must deal with if we’re to riggule out of the vicious cycle the nation seem to have boxed herself into. In fighting corruption, should the effort and resources spent on the last confab be allowed to be a waste??? We need be sincere and honest to ourselves and stop all these manipulations against ourselves.

  • ipako

    Although I have never been a fan of chief Uzamere but on this issue, he is more credible. I think that Chief Uzamere said it all well and Buhari should take his advise. This chief has been there and experienced same scenarios with previous administrations.

  • asekong

    Now we know for sure that this President was never ready for the very serious task of fighting corruption, at least from the foregoing. If he knew, then his blue print would have dealt with the elementary, yet effective approach as enunciated by these eminent persons. It takes a man who knows his onions to do this. Sadly, we are in the era of public show which is, all motion & no movement. Troubling.

  • Julius Joel

    Awomolo is playing with words. What difference does it make to have special courts to be presided over by judges who understand the nuances of such courts. Does he think that Buhari is foolish enough to put judges who are unqualified for such courts???. I’m sure Awomolo is looking for job, he thinks only lawyers of his kind can be appointed for such courts.

  • Rick Eson

    You so right, but while dont you contact the FG before airing in public. Please let the president know what may handicap your department in the fight against corruption and looting, i am so sure he will act on it. Escalation procedure dictate: contact the main source and then public if you cant get result. We need to combine force together with the FG to wipe out
    the cancer that has so much Plague our Nation.

  • banadi

    Special courts with special Judges to give out special predetermined ruling to accused who have already been declared guilty before trial.

  • nnanta

    I believe Mr President is not consulting Prof [VP] before making all this public pronouncements because The VP is an erudite scholar who would have pointed out these issues to him. Please prof save us from these embarrassments – the world is watching !

  • Ato Hentop

    I do not agree with Awomolo in that these so called SAN are those who feed fat on stolen money by politician. Why did he not talk about the systemic failures enjoyed by the Lawyers where they leave the substance of the case only to challenge the competent of the Court. They use this tactics to delay the cases until thy kingdom come. Eventually these criminals go un punished.
    I am surprised Awomolo is coming up with such vague suggestion. Have we ever had problems with the professionalism of our judges? Our problems have always been corruption in the judiciary occasioned by the deliberate attempt by politicians with the connivance of SAN to stagnate the case.
    Special Courts would eschew these impediments planted by SAN and their corrupt politicians to sideline conviction. Period!