On poor investigation, shoddy prosecution
Recurring issues of poor investigation and prosecution that have negatively impacted the judicial process and the system of justice administration could not have been raised at a more auspicious time than when the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad did the other day. Those concerned need to be aware of the grave danger of such shoddy performance of their sacred duties; and change for the better in the interest of justice and the country. Major stakeholders in this charge, the police and prosecuting counsel in government ministries and agencies should heed the CJN’s admonition with the seriousness that it deserves.
At an event organised for Investigators and Prosecutors by the National Judicial Institute in Abuja, Justice Muhammad enjoined judges to eschew technicalities in the course of the dispensation of justice, adding that “failure to diligently investigate and prosecute can further endanger victims, witnesses, and other vulnerable persons.” Indeed poor investigation and prosecution of offenders are responsible for most of the economic and security challenges bedevilling the nation.
Failure to punish criminal offenders, while constituting a travesty of justice, also encourages impunity, emboldens criminals to do worse things, and generally lead to entrenchment of criminality. This much has been admitted by notable public officers, including governors and lawmakers experiencing wanton criminality in their domain. Many times, judges presiding over criminal matters have had cause to lament shoddy investigation, and sometimes shoddier prosecution that has led to the inevitable discharge and acquittal of accused persons who otherwise should be in jail.
Certainly, judges need to work hard to ensure that justice is served to all cases presided over by them, but ministers in the temple of justice must first provide the necessary assistance by providing the judge with unassailable facts to help him dispense justice. Said Justice Muhammad: “It is often painful to see offenders walk away on technicalities just because due diligence was not observed during an investigation or in the course of the trial. To this end, your respective responsibilities have a lasting impact on the peace, security and stability of this nation, flowing from the fact that the presence or absence of undesirable elements in the society is firmly situated within your day-to-day activities and the powers conferred on you via different legislations. Therefore, failure to diligently investigate and prosecute can further endanger victims,
witnesses, and other vulnerable persons.”
It is no secret that the nation is fast becoming unpopular for the vices of a few whose activities, for the failure of the nation prosecutorial system, continues to grow and gain more followership, which further brings the nation’s reputation to disrepute. If the administration of President Muhammad Buhari is serious about tackling issues of corruption and insecurity, then due attention must be given to its justice administration system, particularly agencies responsible for the investigation and prosecution of offenders.
In spite of the pledge made by the President upon assumption of office to tackle corruption and bring an end to insecurity in the North East, corrupt enrichment by political office holders continues to thrive, even as kidnappers and criminal bandits reign supreme in virtually all parts of the country. Reports of Nigerian youths arrested or declared wanted by international security agencies over internet fraud and other social vices no longer evoke the shock and dismay that such news would have elicited in the past.
Nigerians do deserve an efficient Police Force, trained and equipped to undertake forensic investigations and diligent prosecution; as much as they need an independent Judiciary courageous enough to award due sanctions and conviction of offenders without fear or favour as would serve as deterrence.
Unfortunately, a topical national discourse today is the demand by Nigerians for the prosecution of members of the Boko Haram insurgent groups and their sponsors. Nigerians need not demand, let alone make a fuss before the government undertakes the prosecution of sponsors of an outlawed sect that is responsible for the death of thousands, destruction of proprieties worth millions of naira and projected the nation unto the ranks of most terrorized nations in the world. The war against the insurgents in the northeast has been on for over 10 years, and if by now the government has not been able to secure the arrest and prosecution of sponsors of the sect in spite of the huge sums so far expended, then there’s everything wrong with the nation’s system of investigation and prosecution.
The high rate of corruption, crime and insecurity currently being experienced in the country today is a reflection of the nation’s weak investigative and prosecutorial system; Nigeria may just be communicating the wrong message to its young generation, one which says not all offences are punishable, unlike what obtains in other climes. It is notable that while Nigerian security agencies could not conduct a proper trial or secure a conviction against former governor of Delta State James Ibori, he was successfully prosecuted and convicted in the UK with his properties confiscated. While Hushpuppy enjoyed a camaraderie relationship with the head of Nigeria’s Intelligence Response Team, he was on the watch list of other international security agencies and currently faces prosecution in the United States after months of painstaking and detailed investigation. Sadly, the nation’s security agencies seem more adept at celebrating the arrest of criminals in the media, than securing their convictions in court.
The country certainly can do better and the government can start with the restructuring of its security architecture starting with the amendment of the Constitution to allow for the creation of State Police Units, a system that brings the security agencies closer to the people and thus allows for better policing. With about 400,000 policemen serving an exploding population of more than 200 million, Nigeria is grossly under policed. Besides the need for more funding to recruit more qualified personnel for the force and expose them to periodic training particularly in the use of advanced technological systems, the police force should be decentralised as this will aid diligent prosecution.