Media-Hype is not necessary in criminal charges, says Raji
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ahmed A. Raji, while commending President Muhammadu Buhari for his courage in the anti-corruption crusade, however, wondered if implementing agencies are on the same page with him. He spoke to BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE in Abuja on the impact of so many cases on Judges’ hand
How would you rate the performance of the federal government in the Judiciary, with emphasis on anti-corruption war?
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated a lot of courage. We have to give him that credit. For the first time, he has done what ordinarily we thought to be impossible, given the general climate under which the system has functioned.
What is your take on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) numerous arrests and media-hype about them?
I do not think the hype is what is needed in criminal trial. What is needed is thorough investigation and excellent prosecution.
The government has the will, but whether the functionaries in charge are really carrying this out, as it ought to be is another kettle of fish, which may be too early now to comment.
Can you appraise the EFCC’s performance with regards to investigation and charges of suspects?
In some cases, there were thorough investigation, but in some, no. It is a mixed grill. In some of the cases, you can see some thorough investigations but in some, you can see some wishy-washy kind of investigations, leading to incompetent prosecution. I believe there is still room for improvement when it comes to investigation and proper prosecution.
What are the implications of the pressure on judges?
It does have a lot implications and the most unfortunate aspect is that when there is a bad prosecution arising from incompetent investigation, Nigerian society often shifts the blame on the judge as if the investigator is the prosecutor, as well as the Judge, forgetting that a Judge will only determine a matter based on what is presented before him/her. So, this has put our judges under considerable pressure of public opinion, which may at times make them act contrary to the law, because of the fear of being blacklisted, being painted and being stigmatised one way or the other.
I think this has added to the burden on our judges, apart from the condition of service under which some of them work.
Do you believe there are selected arrests and prosecutions of suspects, as being alleged by the opposition?
The question is, is there any case against those people? If there is, whether they are in the opposition or the ruling party is not relevant.
But if there is nothing against somebody and you just take him/her and charge him/her on frivolous issues, then one can talk of clamping down.
However, if there is something they have done, the fact that it has not been evenly administered does not make it to look like clamp down. It only amounts to selective justice, because to say, ‘Oh, we did it, but the other people in the other party also did it’ is not a defense. They better look for a better defense.
But then, it will amount to a selective justice, which is not good for the system.
What do you make of allegations that the federal government may be influencing Judges and implications for justice, if it is so?
I do not think the federal government will tell any Judge to convict anybody. I do not believe so. They can have undue influence on them, but to come out specifically to say ‘convict,’ I don’t think so.
In any event, a proper judge who has subscribed to his oath before assuming the office and who lives by that oath will resist any kind of untoward or unholy pressure, either from government or people outside the government.
So, it is not an excuse for a Judge to decide the case outside what the witness says.
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