The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mahmud Mohammed, yesterday, decried what he termed “lack of political will to prosecute high-profile corruption cases” by the executive.
In what seem like a reaction to an earlier statement by President Muhammadu Buhari, the CJN made his position known during a meeting with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), in his conference room. He said the lacklustre attitude of government towards the prosecution of criminal cases, “especially those involving politically exposed persons or political party family members,” was a major factor that has stalled trial of so many corruption cases.
A statement issued by media aide to the CJN, Mr. Ahuraka Isah, revealed that the meeting took place on November 24. Among those in attendance included Supreme Court Justices as well as heads of other federal courts.
President Muhammadu Buhari had while flagging-off the 2015 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference, slammed the judiciary, accusing it of sabotaging his effort to prosecute high-profile corruption cases.
Buhari, who was represented at the event by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, lamented that “allegations of judicial corruption have become more strident and frequent,” noting: “There is both local and international dissatisfaction with the long delays in the trial process. In the past few years, this has become especially so for high-profile cases of corruption, especially where they involve serving or former political office holders.”
The CJN, however, said: “Experience within the Judiciary shows that there is abject lack of political will to prosecute some of those cases pending before our various courts almost a decade in some instances.
“It is not because there are no special courts, but mostly for reasons of political expedience and other ancillary considerations.
“I would likewise wish to encourage you (AGF) to display a greater resolve than your predecessors in tackling outstanding cases before the courts. In times past, the Attorney General of the Federation would often lead teams of legal counsel in high profile cases so as to demonstrate the resolve of the government to enshrine the rule of law.
“Sadly, recent Attorneys-General have become less inclined to do this. I would certainly like to see you, as the Attorney General, appear before us especially in cases of important national purport.
“There is the need for seasoned prosecutors to prepare and file charges before courts of competent jurisdiction so that criminal matters are timeously determined.
“The quality of prosecutions presented in courts by our prosecutorial agencies must be improved upon, as they are sometimes of a standard that will never found a conviction in any court anywhere, yet, a well prepared prosecution can see to the determination of criminal matter within a month.
“Of course, no competent prosecutor who has filed valid charges would permit an accused to mount an interlocutory appeal, to the extent of going forth and back, sometimes twice or more to the Supreme Court, since such lapses could be injurious to the dispensation of justice.”
The CJN also advised the AGF to recruit more lawyers who should be adequately trained to handle more cases on behalf of the State, saying it would create a reservoir of highly trained, public spirited lawyers to feed the Bench and the Bar.