Jurist, Lawyers Call For Caution
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.