‘Buhari still grappling with corruption, terrorism’
Contrary to the assurance by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to end terrorism and corruption when it assumed power last year, Nigerians appear to be getting worried as the two issues continued to ravage the nation.
For corruption, political analysts were of the view that the administration needed to show more transparency and determination, while others were of the opinion that the country, under the Buhari’s watch, has been exposed to a new and dangerous mode of terrorisms.
For instance, the activities of the Fulani herdsmen, various separatists’ movement demanding self-autonomy from the Nigerian union, the Niger Delta crisis coupled with the renewed agitation for restructuring, have placed the administration on its toes in the last one year.
While corruption has been a terrible monster weighing heavily on the nation’s economic development and its stability over the years, terrorism, on the other hand, was posing serious threat to its corporate existence and security.
However, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, who spoke on how to address these challenges said there was need for the government to establish special courts for the prosecution of corruption and terrorism cases “if it hopes to put a stop to the challenges.”
According to him, “I was one of the advocates for the establishment of special courts even before the advent of this administration. And the reason for advocating it hinged on the slow pace of criminal justice system. Before now, a trial could last for eight to nine years, as a result of numerous and unnecessary adjournments, to the extent that when a case is finally ripe for trial, vital evidences would have been lost.
“Sometimes witnesses would have died and some of them, including judges may have been transferred out of the area. At the end of the day, it would be necessary to discharge the burden of proof. So we felt that in order to expedite action, there should be special courts.”
Speaking on how the administration initially reacted to the establishment of special courts when it was suggested, the lawmaker said, “Initially, the judiciary came up with practice directions. They were actually three practice directions and their effects were that the cases involving corruption and terrorism should be given accelerated trial, but unfortunately, the practice directions were not obeyed.
The lawmaker noted that even up to 2012, a lot of people including lawyers were not aware of these practice directions, saying: “Then there was section 40 of the EFCC Act, which also stipulates that there shall be no interlocutory appeals, so that cases could go on without being truncated through unnecessary appeals. But, shortly before the end of the last regime-the Seventh Assembly, a bill was passed that actually revolutionized the criminal justice system in Nigeria, which was signed into law by the former President, Goodluck Jonathan. It actually revolutionised the entire criminal justice system in Nigeria and paved way for speedy trials. As a result of this, some of the cases in courts are moving faster than before. The Act also prevents interlocutory appeals. Despite this, there is still this feeling that because of the importance of the fight against corruption, and the need to quickly dispose corruption cases, has become imperative the establishment of special courts to try corruption cases.”
On whether delayed prosecutions of corruption and terrorism cases were making the government appear unserious to ridding the country of corruption and terrorism, he said, “Before the coming into effect of the new act, there were countless adjournments and appeals and several interlocutory appeals to the extent that some Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) cases in court have been there for about 10 years. But if we have special courts, judges would be dedicated to strictly attend to corruption cases. Then, there will be quick dispensation of matters.
“When I say this, I believe that Federal High Courts and the State High Courts should have divisions to try anti-corruption cases. This is not to say that we are going to create tribunals. We will have dedicated judges, whose duties will be only to sit on corruption cases. So the creation of special courts that I am envisaging is not the establishment of tribunals.”
He, however, disclosed that the government was tinkering with the idea of having special courts. According to him, “It is only the modality that I cannot tell. But I know very well that it is considering the establishment of special courts for this purpose.”
He added that the consideration of trials of corruption cases with those of terrorism is very fundamental to the sustenance of the society. “Hearing of corruption and terrorism cases must be expedited,” he said.