CORRUPTION: Special Courts To Be Or Not
PART of the fallouts of the change of baton in the federal government is the recent stress being laid on fight against graft. Despite his reticence, President Muhammadu Buhari has raised the din of his avowed determination to kill corruption before it kills Nigeria to a deafening level. And having found that corruption seems to have permeated virtually every sector of our national life, he noted the place of the judiciary in the fight against corruption.
That discovery informed his recent hint of special courts to try suspects of financial and sundry offences. The call seems to be receiving sympathetic ears, especially, when it is recalled that during the tenure of his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, a similar idea was raised.
Perhaps, because most stakeholders, including the then Chief Justice of the Federation, (CJN) Alooma Muhktar, did not consider it the way to go, the matter was left to hang languidly to coma. But now, given the vehemence of the anti-corruption holler, the idea is fast gaining a life of its own!
The fact of President Buhari’s background as a former military head of state who utilized special military tribunals created by decrees and recent reminder by the members of the Peace Committee, must have informed the cautious reception the idea of special courts is being received. Even at that, President Buhari and proponents of the idea are looking seriously at having special courts. In addition, available indicators show that most corruption cases being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) so far have been traveling with the speed of a snail through the regular
courts. That has raised the argument in favour of special courts, and the fact that such facility would remove the vexatious frivolous adjournments that rob the cases of their real essence.
Most opponents of the creation of special courts draw public attention to the fact that Nigeria being under a democratic system of government does not need such military contraptions to prosecute those burdened with allegations of corruption.
Those who demur at the suggestion of special courts also contend that since the nation would not import a different set of lawyers and magistrates to try the offenders, creating special courts would create room for dubious practice of jurisprudence.
They maintain that creating special courts gives the immediate impression that the officers have been infused with a specific mindset, such that those who may be arraigned before the courts are already adjudged guilty even before any attempt to prove innocence.
Given the foregoing consideration, how credible would special courts be in the fight against corruption under a democracy? What would be the modalities and specifications of the Special courts in the
hierarchy of other conventional courts? What is the extent of their specialness? For a better understanding of the subject matter, it may be necessary to take a close look at what a special court is.
By its general connotation, a special court suggests a body within the judicial arm of government which main focus of attention is to address only one area of law or that enjoys specifically defined powers. On the other hand, general-jurisdiction courts exist to try all manner of cases.
From the foregoing, it could be deduced that within special courts, cases stand great chance of being disposed of quickly. Moreover, trials within special courts would be more rapidly processed than within a court of general jurisdiction. Again, by its ad hoc nature, special courts may not follow the same procedural rules as general-jurisdiction courts. This is where opposition to the creation is likely to make issues.
Though, much has been said about capacity of lawyers and judges to handle the intricate technical aspects of white crime trial, it is not known as yet how Nigerians would respond to special courts being manned by persons without the background of training in law.
The credibility of the special courts will come under the weight of the perceived belief that President Buhari wants to bring back military tribunals through the backdoor. Moreover, the other benefit, which special courts could bring about in the anti-corruption battle, which is timeliness, may also suffer as accused persons might be constrained to appeal against the abridged process that does not follow the usual high court rules. In the long run, the specialness of the courts could also be construed as tutored judges primed to make pronouncements that align with the perception that those accused are already guilty as charged.
Apart from the consideration of personnel, the investigative authorities have their own challenges. The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) have their limitations both in terms of capacity and credibility. The Latin maxim, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ comes into reckoning when the recent attempt to investigate EFCC is factored in.
If the foremost anti-graft body is faced with serious accusations of graft, it is left to be seen how much integrity is left with it in the eyes of the public. There can be no discounting the nature of support that EFCC could give to Special courts, as such if that crucial fulcrum is weaken, it is debatable how far the Special courts could go.
The question which begs for answers is whether in place of creating special courts, institutional reforms and capacity building should be embarked upon to strengthen the available structures.
During the recent national Convention of the Nigeria Bar Association, (NBA) the President stressed in his remarks that corruption is at that base of the socio-economy penury of the country. He noted that for “millions still wallowing in want and diseases, corruption is a major reason why they cannot go to school, why they cannot be gainfully employed, and why there are few doctors, nurses and drugs in hospitals and health centers.” Nigerians are on one page in condemnation of corruption, but what the country and its leaders are yet to get a handle on is how best to tackle and uproot corruption from the body fabric of the nation. There is a near unanimity of opinion that jungle justice is out of question on how to punish corrupt persons. Yet the attempt to reinvent the wheel by trying to create a parallel structure to the existing judicial process has brought about new distractions.
No doubt the argument over process of tackling the anti-corruption started by interrogating whether the prosecutorial powers should be withdrawn from police and handed over to persons qualified in law and therefore capable of framing appropriate charges against accused persons.
And not only about capacity there was also apprehension that the police had been infected with the corruption bug, which disposes them to provide escape route for offenders that are able to pay.
When justice is made available only to the highest bidder, respect for law wanes giving way for corruption to fester. Even at that, some lawyers have also been accused of conniving with corrupt persons to frustrate the wheel of justice. Could it be then that the perceived lack of integrity or credibility of the legal system gave vent to the call for special courts? Since it may not be easy to change the system because perfect humans exist nowhere, the best bet is to purify the system. Certain regular courts could be isolated to try purely corruption cases.
There should also be devised ways of checking the judges to ensure that they do not transform to tingods. For instance, Judges, whose rulings to a certain percentage are upturned at the appellate stage, should be excused from the bench. The Judiciary occupies a fundamental position in the fight against corruption as such remaking the judicial process should be a cardinal point in the reformation process.
At least, it cannot be said that all Judges are well disposed to corruption. The system should be made to be clean to encourage the practitioners clean. Special courts may come as ad hoc contraptions and that it is not what Nigeria needs of genuine national development that is in view.
Whether special courts are created or not, two approaches, enlightenment and openness; would help to enthrone transparency in the fight against corruption. When corrupt cases are well publicized, the tendency for hanky-panky is reduced. Those who steal or cut corners do not do so in the open or let the other person know.
Training and capacity building are also measures to equip lawyers and operatives in the anti-corruption fight dispel corruption from our land. The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, mooted this in his remarks at the NBA conference. He said: “The first thing I did when I became IGP was to ensure that investigations were intelligence-driven. If that is done, pre-trial detention will reduce”.
The IGP also revealed that he has introduced the recommendation of Alternative Dispute Resolution, (ADR) mechanisms in civil disputes, where the Police are invited to get involved.
Next to creation of special courts is the question of sentencing and plea bargaining. The mindset that whoever is accused of corruption is corrupt makes it seem that the situation is irredeemable or that the process could not be perfected. Citizen participation cannot be ruled out in the search for genuine and durable anti-corruption war.
AYOOLA, AKINJIDE: Caution And Definition Of Modalities Are Essentials
FORMER Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, and Chairman of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide (SAN), have expressed caution and reservation over the proposed plan by President Muhammadu Buhari to establish special courts to try corruption cases in the country.
In separate interviews with The Guardian, the two legal icons were united in their view that it is too early to comment on the move and its capacity to successfully tackle increasing incidents of corruption in the country.
In their view, it is very important that Nigerians should wait to see the enabling Act setting up the courts, which according to them, would spell out the objectives, the targets, the extent of its power and relationship with other layers of courts that is; the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, as well as defining the modality of operation.
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 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.”
Notwithstanding his reservation, Ayoola, however, noted that the status of the courts could not be lower than the Federal High Court. This, according to him is the minimum allowed under the Nigerian Constitution to handle cases of that nature.
When probed further on whether the courts would be able to do the magic similar courts in the past could not do, Ayoola said, “these courts certainly may not be able to perform beyond the facilities available to them, including the prosecutors who may not be different from those available to similar courts in the past and the regular courts, unless some radical changes occur in the system.”
Falling short of calling the move a duplication of effort, the former ICPC boss is of the view that the instrument of the ICPC has not been effectively and maximally explored and deployed in fighting corruption.
To prove his point, the renowned jurist, made reference to the Act, which established the agency, which provides for the appointment anti-graft judge in each of the 36 states of the federation, to exclusively, handle corruption related cases only.
The former anti-corruption Czar, however lamented that till date this crucial component of the ICPC Act is yet to be explored, save for the dedicated court located only in Lagos.
Realising that the enabling legislation for the proposed special courts is not yet out and may take time for it to be ready, the former Supreme Court justice counseled the government to take a look at the ICPC document with a view to amending and using it to achieve its objective of establishing special courts for corrupt practices.
According to him, one of the amendments that may be necessary to be made is the one that would make it possible to transfer anti-corruption judges in states that have no graft cases to handle in their jurisdiction to jurisdictions where corruption cases exist.
AWOMOLO, RAJI: We Need Specialised Judges Instead
•Urge Genuine Support For Judiciary, Anti-Graft Agencies
AS President Muhammadu Buhari continues to tinker with the proposition of setting up of a Special Court for corruption, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Chief Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo and Ahmed Raji, have opposed the creation of the said court, saying it is nowhere near a solution for curbing corruption.
According to Awomolo and Raji, setting up a special court for corruption amounted to treating the symptom rather than the disease, saying that the nation should take a sober look at when and how Nigeria got it wrong in its march towards nation building, regarding the origin of corruption in the country.
In separate interviews with The Guardian in Abuja, over the weekend, the two senior advocates stated that creating a special court for corruption would simply be window dressing and called on the President, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, judges and lawyers to be genuinely committed to the fight against corruption.
Chief Awomolo stated: “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 creditably well 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 of 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.”
Speaking further, Awomolo argued that the fact that you name a court ‘special court on corruption’ does not automatically make it specialised in that area, pointing out 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.
His words: “Just naming a judge to man a special court on corruption does not make the court or the judge a specialist on corruption cases. We need to train and re-train judges even after making them specialised on specific areas of our laws. We also need to protect our judges, we need to empower them, and we need to embolden them and train and retrain them. We must fund the judiciary and make it more independent. We must fund the institutions created to fight corruption. Mere word of mouth is not enough.”
While suggesting a modification of legal procedure and calling for the adherence to the Practice Direction, he added: “The immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar did a great job by the initiative of the Practice Direction. If we follow that, a great deal of achievement will be recorded in trial of both criminal and civil cases. In other words, before you bring any matter to court, you must satisfy the judge that proper investigation has been concluded, all the witnesses are ready, all the materials for prosecution are ready and then you are given a fiat. Then at the pre-trial stage, you look at all the issues and documents put together and once trial commences, it’s trial from day to day until judgment is entered. If we follow that Practice Direction from High Court to Court of Appeal and finally to Supreme Court, it will go a long way to speed up trial of corrupt persons and get the deserving decisions against them.”
On how the ongoing probe of the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, by the Senate over allegation of fraud relating to N1trillion looted funds recovered from former governors and other public office holders could affect or fail to impact on the moral authority of the anti-graft agency, Awomolo said he would not really “like to comment on that one trillion naira thing in the senate.”
According to him, “if I were the Senate President, I would recompose that committee. The presence of some members of that committee gives the impression that it is not independent, not impartial and cannot be trusted. They have their agenda. It is a personal agenda. I cannot trust them. As a lawyer, I cannot trust them, because with their composition I cannot see them as impartial and independent.”
He expressed concerns about public servants and office holders living above their means this way: “But coming back to the issue of people living above their means, we have to trace where we got it wrong. We have to trace it to the days of the military when in 1976, the military government removed unceremoniously permanent secretaries, Justices of the Supreme Court and Appeal Court and other high ranking public servants, professors, etc. And these were people who served Nigeria honestly and loyally, but they had no house, no cars to their names… And that dawned on serving public officers that one day they too could be removed. Everybody started saying, ‘well, everyman for himself, God for us all.’ So, we now started having directors, assistant directors, deputy directors who use their private companies to bid for public contracts in order to ensure that if they are removed tomorrow, they have something to fall back on. We must guarantee security of tenure for public officers, we must pay them adequate remuneration and we must make them committed to their job, by giving them enabling environment. Sadly, political interference has destroyed public service so much.
A permanent secretary will be there for a maximum of eight years, and so, within those eight years, he has to have a house and put children in good schools by all means possible. If you are a director, you know after eight years, you are done, and so, you prepare for your exit, by corruptly enriching yourself and compromising the system. It’s a race.
My view is that public officers have resorted to all these because of government policies. We need to look back and ask; what do we do? We see them everywhere living above their known means. We see them competing with big business men. I’m sure lots of them are shareholders in the many private aircrafts that we see. They are shareholders in many of those businesses we see. I am not saying that public officers should not have interest in business. I am saying their business interest should not be detrimental to their commitment to public service. Those days, public officers were like priests; they lived comfortable lives; they brought up good children and left good legacies. So what we need to do is to do a thorough examination of our past and present in order to shape a better future for Nigeria.
ALSO, in his own contribution, Raji (SAN) noted that the creation of a Special court on corruption was an unnecessary exercise that would not yield the needed result. He warned that that could even send a negative signal that corruption has come to stay in the country.
Said he: “One may be tempted, because of all the hues and cries about corruption, to say that there is the need to have a most critical approach. But I do not think having a special court is the solution to the fight. Government should look at the root cause of corruption and how to prevent it in our society. Because having a special court leaves us with an impression that corruption has come to stay. It leaves a sour taste that we are going to live with it for the rest of our lives.”
Raji pointed out, “corruption is just one item of crime; we have rape, homicide, terrorism, conspiracy and all sorts of crimes. Are we saying if there is an upsurge in a particular crime, the solution will be to go and create a special court for that crime? Where will that leave us? Then, I’m afraid we may soon have a Special Court of Rape, Court of Terrorism, Court of Homicide and Court of Conspiracy. Where will that one lead us? I do not think there is any country in the world, where we have special court for corruption. It’s just one item of crime.”
Proffering a more proactive approach to fighting corruption, he said: “I think rather than go into the unnecessary expenditure of having a new court, which come with amendment of the constitution and the rigmarole of going through all the state parliament, I think that our courts can be structured in such a way that it is more efficient and effective in the administration and dispensation of criminal and civil justice. It has been done in other jurisdictions such as, Lagos and two others, where they have special courts with criminal jurisdiction and in that court; you may have dedicated judges for corruption matters. It is done in England, where they have commercial courts, where they have other branches; they have probate division and they know, which judge to use for a particular subject within a main subject.
So, if we have a criminal division and we have 10 judges, because of the hue and cry over corruption, we can dedicate four of them to handle corruption related matters rather than think of having a special court and then court of corruption. It is defeatist, with the greatest respect. So, I don’t see the need for a special court. I agree that corruption is such a bad thing that we should give the maximum attention. But creating a special court isn’t the solution. That is like treating the symptom of a disease rather than the disease itself. Why do we have corruption? How do we plug all the holes that enable corruption? How do we prevent it? That’s what we should be looking at.”
ARCHIBONG: Let’s Have A Multi-pronged Approach
Innih Archibong, a lawyer and civil society activist is the Executive Director of Liberty Now. In this interview, he examines the legal dimensions of creating special courts to try cases of corruption. He spoke with ARMSFREE AJANAKU.
What is your assessment of moves to create special courts to try cases of corruption?
AS long as these special courts would take cases on the basis of the principle of natural justice, there shouldn’t be a problem. Also, like I always say, government is an economy; you can run it like a company, and not be far from meeting the desired targets. The principles of production, and what is required to run a corporation, must also be put in place.
Assuming that someone comes into a company as a rescue manager or as the head of the company, and the person begins simply to identify and attack those who were said to have been the problem of the company, I do not think that company will really survive in the long run. So to get things right, as the new executive is trying to right the wrongs, he must be concerned about the short, middle and long term survival of that company.
So I will urge the leaders at this time, to also look at the economic health of the country, particularly at a time now, when the price of oil is going down. We should be concerned about how to strengthen the economy by cutting back on spending and how to make things more efficient. Of course, looking at the issue of corruption and trying to tackle it is one way of reducing the waste. As a keen observer of this government, I can see that people are becoming more cautious. There is the deterrence factor; that is one step, but other steps in terms of reviving the economy and providing a holistic strategy for dealing with corruption need to follow.
Would the creation of the special courts solve the problem of shoddy investigations at the anti-graft agencies, where we see cases being hurriedly charged to court, only to be thrown out?
The problem with the criminal justice system in Nigeria is multifaceted, and it starts with the absence of quality investigation. I have found from experience that investigators do not really concern themselves with investigating. There are very few true investigators; investigation is about fact finding. It is not about arrest and detention; many times investigators imagine that when you arrest and detain a person, you have arrived.
It is about putting small threads of information to make a whole. Most times, you are doing the investigation behind the person, and you go back and forth until the case is watertight. It is very rare to find people who are able to do that in Nigeria. So it is about capacity and training and re-training of investigators is critical. So if any special court is going to be created for prosecuting corruption, it has to be in accordance to the rules of natural justice. If we take away the right to fair hearing, and we do not listen to the other side, then we will be effectively shooting ourselves in the foot, and the international community will react.
While it is constitutional to set up special courts outside the regular court system, the legislature has a role. The judiciary is a creation of Section 6 of the Constitution, and it says the courts that are established within the constitution would have general powers. It also says in Section 6, subsection 6j that those powers also belong to any other court that is created by the National Assembly. That brings us to two points; any court created to pursue corrupt persons must be a creation of the legislature. So the President cannot do it by fiat. The President cannot do it by himself; there are three arms of government. The work of the executive is to implement the law as made by the National Assembly, and as created by the courts. If the President goes it alone, whatever court he creates will be like a commission of inquiry, whose decisions could be set aside by the high court in a judicial review. So it would be laughable for the President to set up the courts by himself. He has to go to the National Assembly.
It implies that to do that could take some time?
It might not take so much time, especially with the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has the majority in the National Assembly, and it should not take time.
Will a simple majority in the National Assembly be enough to get that done?
I think so; but the other side is the Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee that has been set up to advice the President. I think the committee should first of all advise the President on the right way to go about the fight against corruption. That includes the advice that he needs to go through the National Assembly, and that the law setting up any proposed special courts should have in it safeguards that would allow fair hearing for the other side. This has to be done because the President cannot do any good thing outside the framework of human rights.
How about time frame; will it be okay for the special courts to have a specific time frame within which to treat corruption cases?
Time frames are usually good, but justice, like we say, traditionally grinds slowly. If you hurry justice, you will run into problems.
But we have seen cases in places like the UK where convictions are secured within months…
That is because the system in those places is moving smoothly. The system can be hurried by way of procedure. For example, the new High Court Civil Procedure rules, which are being used right now, started from Lagos under the leadership of the present Vice President. That has reduced the time within which a case is determined by a simple process of frontloading. Such safeguards and provisions can be inserted within the procedure of the special courts, and within the ambit of the principles of natural justice.
You just talked about deterrence, but would the legal approach of special courts and prosecutions alone do the magic in terms of the war against graft?
One other approach is something like a Truth Commission (for looters to confess their misdeeds, and return their loot.) Truth telling is usually a very good thing because it enables people who you may refer to as whistle blowers come out. It also enables people who have been hurt or oppressed to come out and say what they have been suffering as a result of the problem of corruption. They may be individuals, institutions or regions.
Truth telling will also enable perpetrators, the people who did those wrongs to come forward and tell the truth by themselves, so that they may be forgiven. In that way, not only do those individuals get healed, the society is also healed. One of the clearest example can be found in South Africa, where every institution of the Apartheid government was used to oppress black people.
When the time came and the oppressed people took over, the new government did not just concentrate on prosecutions. But they gave an alternative for people who wanted to come forward and tell the truth. In our case, people can be allowed to come clean, return the loot and seek forgiveness from those hurt by such deeds. The condition can be that if those concerned tell the truth, there will be no prosecution, and the nation will be healed. In other words, these people will come and tell the truth in exchange for no prosecution.
There are some who will say that for that society (South Africa), it was perfect for truth telling. In Nigeria however, there have also been attempts at truth telling, like the Oputa Commission, but the manner in which its findings was put away is not the way to go. So if we return to it, especially on this issue of corruption, we should do it the right way. So people can come forward, tell the truth, and then we can make use of the information we receive for healing and to move the country forward.
UZAMERE: We Need Special Courts Backed By New Laws
Chief Osaheni Uzamere is a prominent lawyer in Benin City, who has been practicing for more than 35 years. He spoke to Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu on the desirability of Special Court for Corruption.
What is your take on the idea of special courts to try corruption cases?
HONESTLY, the setting up of special courts to try corruption cases in Nigeria is 16 years late. The time President Olusegin Obasanjo was setting up the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC), that was the time he would have forwarded a bill to the National Assembly, no law is immutable, even the constitution, can be changed. In America, it is called amendment, in Nigeria, they call it alterations, which is not exactly an amendment. I don’t know what they mean by alteration, but the President would have forwarded an executive bill to the National Assembly setting up these special courts for this very special purpose to try corruption cases. Corruption has become an endemic issue, President
Muhammadu Buhari himself, during his electioneering campaign said if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us, and nobody would have put it better.
The situation in Nigeria has become so bad, what makes it bad is that the Constitution of Nigeria itself promotes corruption. In an African country, a society, you now have executive governors, executive presidents in an underdeveloped country like Nigeria, where everything goes, executive governor in a state is a constitutional monstrosity, it is a constitutional monster; you just decide that one man called executive governor can just do anything with the funds of the state, he can do anything. When the allocation comes, with his signature, it is sufficient to pull all the funds out and then you will say you have a legislature there, but in the legislative houses, you have boys and probably girls, who are not very well baked; so, they are easily enveloped by their governors, who will share some of that money with them and it is the constitution that makes it possible. You go to England and the US, and you import their constitutions, do we behave like them? No. We don’t.
Now, look at South Africa, the country is falling fast, in fact, corruption is so rife now. When I was there, there was this allegation that President Jacob Zuma was building his country home, he has to do that, because he just married six wives and he built a vast estate for them and people were saying he used government funds to do it and regrettably, these kind of things will not happen when apartheid was there. The Whiteman will make sure that he uses the money for what it is meant for.
Therefore, it is not sufficient to just establish the courts, you must bring out a special Rules of Court for the courts, because the current rules, the conventional 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. A lot of people don’t understand the basic problems of Nigeria, they just talk. If you don’t address these fundamental issues, the only other thing that can cure it is a ‘Rawlings’, a bloody revolution along the lines of the French Revolution in the 18th Century, what is known in history as the guillotine revolution. Like I said, it is 16 years due, but there must be other things around it.
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 we were using the old rules and that court was encumbered by those rules. 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. I have the privilege of saying with pride and distinction, that in this part, Benin City, I did the very first case against EFCC, I got judgment so I am very familiar with these special courts that have to deal with peculiar problems, we are in a peculiar situation, we need peculiar solutions. But if you just establish these courts, which are of a dire necessity and you just establish them, provide some billions, new quarters, new judges, new prosecutors, you are just wasting money again in the wrong direction. There must be an executive bill and a review of the constitution.
You bring a man, you accuse him of stealing N100b, which is very easy, because a man, who has spent eight years as governor, he would be stealing, I am not being original here, Richard Akinijide, a no nonsense lawyer in his 80s, Balarabe Musa, a no nonsense politician and former governor, have described all the governors as thieves but what makes them thieves is not because they want to be thieves, but the Constitution makes them thieves. And remember Jonathan said very wisely that if you put a yam in front of a goat, what do you expect the goat to do? Corruption in Nigeria is in large scale.
Now look at what is happening with EFCC, the chairman, Lamorde, is under investigation for stealing money, the Senate wants him to appear before it, but some people led by Senator Godswill Akpabio, who has been invited by the EFCC, wrote a letter that they are not supporting bringing Larmode to be questioned. We cannot move forward when you ask thieves to be catching thieves, the chief thief catcher becomes a thief, where are you going from there?
Change is not a revolution, what Nigerians simply did was protest vote for anybody, but Jonathan, Nigerians were just tired of the way Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was going on. Buhari appeared to everybody to be one leader who is not corrupt, who is incorruptible, he has seen it all since he was a young man. So, Nigerians saw him as a special breed that is why we all voted for him and what gave it to him is the card reader.
What are the hindrances against regular courts in fighting corruption?
I did a case, some judges were refusing to grant bail, and I made a fourth application to another judge, and my argument was that the provision says a judge, it doesn’t say, the High Court, because there is only one High Court in Edo State, but more than 50 judges, and I said I can take this case to as many judges. The rules, as they are now, are fair gifts to brilliant lawyers, so it is easy to free people who are thieves, because of the rules.
While we await government’s decision on special courts, what do you think should be done to strengthen EFCC and ICPC?
Simple, look, there are certain things that Obsanjo did, that I applauded him, as a matter of fact, he is a very brilliant politician. He made it possible for Goodluck Jonathan to be president, God doesn’t come down, he uses people. Another good thing he did was that when he was establishing the EFCC, he brought a young man, Nuhu Ribadu, he must have got reports about that boy, that as young as he was in the Force, he doesn’t take nonsense from anybody. He brought him, promoted him to work in the EFCC, but when he now left, they used our own man here who was chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) to demote the boy and send him to Kuru. Look, bring back Ribadu, the man is not a politician, to complete what he started.
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