Friday, August 21, 2009

Judiciary and the Anti-Graft War

Chairman of the Economic and Fin-ancial Crimes Com-mission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri and others have attributed the slow pace of the anti-graft war in Nigeria to flaws in the judicial process. According to them, many accused persons standing trial in anti-graft cases, have, through their lawyers, systematically devised effective means of whittling down and undermining the effectiveness of the courts in the speedy disposal of the cases against them.
We cannot agree more that our flawed judicial process has consistently impeded the sweeping measures to combat corruption in Nigeria. Not infrequently, former State Governors and political bigwigs standing trial in high profile anti-graft cases bribe their way to obtain dubious court injunctions to impede their prosecution in court. Anti-graft cases are stalled by unnecessary court adjournments.
Distressfully, some lawyers handling anti-graft cases, who are supposed to be officers in the temple of justice, throw decorum and professional ethics overboard to bring frivolous court applications aimed at scuttling the judicial process.
Having said this, we are not unmindful of the fact that the greatest obstacle in the wheel of the criminal justice system in Nigeria is executive interference in the affairs of the judiciary. Contrary to the principle of separation of power, some members of the executive manipulate some anti-graft cases in favour of some former State governors and high personalities. Some former State governors who have benefited from this unjustified largesse are walking the streets today as canonized saints.
Even the EFCC cannot be exculpated from the tardiness and moral degeneration which have flawed our judicial process. Oftentimes the delay in the prosecution of those suspected to have been involved in graft and official corruption results from poor preparation and presentation of cases by the EFCC. In some cases, charges preferred against some suspects by the EFCC are later dramatically dropped by the same EFCC without genuine reasons. Some of the suspects being publicly paraded by the EFCC are always beaming with smiles with the belief that they would be let off the hook sooner or later.
Till date, no suspect who has been investigated by the EFCC has been duly convicted and sent to long imprisonment. The EFCC pre-bargain option has drawn public outcry. Even the integrity of the office of the Federal Attorney-General in the prosecution of the anti-graft war is sometimes called into question by the public.
Consequently, we call on the Bar and the Bench to live up to expectation in the dispensation of justice in anti-graft cases. Let there be responsible criminal investigation and prosecution. Quality criminal justice system stems from quality criminal investigation and prosecution. When our judiciary is corrupted by the very people who should labour to maintain its prestige, the inevitable outcome is huge stranglehold on the judiciary, bare-faced injustice and enthronement of corrupt criminal justice system.
All said, an efficient and effective criminal justice, predicated upon the basic principles of law and justice and propelled by a vibrant judicial system is indispensable in winning the ant-graft war in Nigeria.