Orders clampdown on unethical judges
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday directed Heads of Divisions of courts to establish a special court for corruption and financial crimes cases.
He also ordered heads of courts to clamp down on both prosecution and defence counsel who engage in unethical practice of deploying delay tactics in criminal trials.
This, he explained will curb the unnecessary delay associated with the prosecution of such cases.
Also, the CJN further directed the heads of courts to compile and forward to the National Judicial Council (NJC), comprehensive lists of all corruption and financial crime cases with them.
The CJN announced these measures at the special session of the Supreme Court where he administered oath on 29 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN).
The new measures, Justice Onnoghen said, were aimed at making virile the present administration’s fight against corruption.
Going further, he said an Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee will be constituted at the next NJC meeting, to enable the council effectively monitor and enforce the directive.
This committee, the CJN stated, “would be saddled with, among other things the responsibility of ensuring that both trial and appellate courts handling corruption and financial crime cases key into and abide by our renewed efforts at ridding our country of the cankerworm.”
On prosecution and defence counsel employing delay tactics, he said, “heads of courts are now to report such cases to the NJC which in turn, would transmit them to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, in the case of Senior Advocates, and Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in the case of other Legal Practitioners.
“Heads of courts have been directed to designate in their various jurisdictions, one or more courts, depending on the volume of such cases, as Special Courts solely for the purpose of hearing and speedily determining corruption and financial crime cases.
“Where such cases come on appeal, to either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, Special Dates on each week, shall be fixed solely for hearing and determining such appeals.
The CJN also said the judiciary cannot win the anti-graft alone; hence the need for collaboration and interface with stakeholders.
In his remarks, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), lauded the vigorous process of reforms aimed at repositioning the nation’s judiciary to enable it play its role in a more humane and efficient manner.
The AGF similarly acknowledged Justice Onnoghen’s circular on Practice Direction dated May 28 on the “compulsory enforcement of Arbitration provisions in contracts by the courts in order to promote faster commercial dispute resolutions and foster greater confidence in the judicial system by domestic and foreign investors.”
The event had in attendance Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former Vice President Alex Ekwueme among other notables, including state governors and past CJNs.