Muhammadu Buhari yesterday accused the judiciary of failing in its statutory duty to the Nigerian state, especially in terms of prosecuting corrupt persons.
The president also restated the need for judges to be impartial in the fight against corruption.
Addressing participants at an international workshop on the role of the judiciary in the fight against corruption, held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja, President Buhari asserted that when judicial corruption occurs, the damage can be pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse.
“It is incumbent on the judiciary to analyse facts based on the applicable law without prejudice and penchant regarding the case they are dealing with, and without acting in any way that would favour the interests of any of the parties.
“Where judicial corruption occurs, the damage can be pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse. It undermines citizens’ morale, violates their human rights, harms national development and depletes the quality of governance.
“In tandem with the above and as gatekeepers of the law, the judiciary must maintain its absolute independence. Judges should hear and handle their assigned cases without any external pressure or influence either by state powers, or by their hierarchical superiors, stakeholders or economic interest groups,” the president stated.
He emphasised that the sacred duty of the judiciary is to ensure that criminal justice administration is not delayed and further noted that now, in carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, the judiciary must remain impartial and most importantly, be seen to be impartial.
President Buhari pointed out that the judiciary must take steps to ensure that it is not seen as being partisan and as such, must be aware of the sensitivities of the public and take steps towards avoiding even the shred of a doubt as regards its independence.
“In justice, integrity is a necessity. Hence, judicial officers and all other members of this sector must always demonstrate manifest integrity,” he said.
According to him, the judiciary should be in the forefront of efforts to develop rights-based jurisprudence as an element in the multi-disciplinary approach advocated in the fight against corruption.
He noted that it does have a role to play in the fight against corruption by enforcing the applicable laws
“Critically important also, is the sacred duty of the judiciary to ensure that criminal justice administration is not delayed. I am worried that the expectation of the public is yet to be met by the judiciary with regard to the removal of delay and the toleration of delay tactics by lawyers.
“When cases are not concluded, the negative impression is given that crime pays. So far, the corruption cases filed by government are not progressing as speedily as they should in spite of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 essentially because the courts allow some lawyers to frustrate the reforms introduced by law.
“This certainly needs to change if we are to make success in our collective effort in the fight against corruption,” he added.
He further noted that, “As we are all aware, I have made the fight against corruption one of the top priorities of my administration in the hope of restoring the economy and building a new Nigeria.”
President Buhari said that in the face of dwindling revenues and in a bid to reposition Nigeria’s economy, it became obligatory to swiftly tackle two ills; waste and corruption. He contended that the eradication of corruption is a joint task involving not only judges and members of the legal profession, but literally all stakeholders, including all branches of government, the media and the civil society.
He said the challenge is to come up with an integrated approach that balances process and substance and also promotes clarity to ensure a coherent and realistic formulation of objectives.
“To this end, the judiciary is under a duty to keep its house in order and to ensure that the public, which it serves, sees this. Thus, we cannot expect to make any gains in the war against corruption in our society when the judiciary is seen as being distant from the crusade.
“This will not augur well and its negative effect will impact all sectors of society. The judiciary must fight delay of cases in court as well as it fights corruption in its own ranks, perceived or otherwise. We expect to see less tolerance to delay tactics used by defence lawyers or even the prosecution in taking cases to conclusion.
“Let me conclude by saying the future of anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria rests not only on well-functioning, preventive systems, but also an effective sanctions and enforcement regime in accordance with the laws. We count on the judiciary to assist in this regard,” he added.
President Buhari also affirmed the commitment of his administration to promoting and supporting the judiciary to achieve a judicial system that is well staffed, well-resourced and that promotes and recognises dedicated, committed and motivated judges.
“The judiciary can count on me for this so that together, we can rid our nation of the cancer of corruption.”
He noted that a well-functioning criminal justice system is imperative to address corruption effectively, as he seeks to move the country towards greater growth and development.
“I recognise the tremendous efforts the judiciary is making to foster justice and accountability in Nigeria. Even as we recognise those efforts, it is worth reminding ourselves of the persisting challenges that confront the criminal justice system.
“Having said that, the responsibility of the judiciary in a democratic society such as ours is a critical one. It is one of the three pillars of the modern democratic nation state and is essential to the process of checks and balances, which is so fundamental to the way societies such as ours are meant to operate and function.
He observed that this apparent function that the judiciary plays is undeniably one of the cornerstones of any effective strategy against corruption.
“As already established, corruption is a global phenomenon, it knows no boundaries. It exists and affects all countries. It exists in the public sector, the private sector, and indeed, in all facets of the society,” he stated.
Also Speaking, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, said the workshop was aimed at enhancing the strategies on the adjudication of corruption cases.
He said corruption in Nigeria had become complex and could not be solved in isolation, pointing out that corruption suppresses economic growth and undermines the people’s collective security, while aggravating poverty.
“Corruption cannot be tackled without transparent delivery of justice,” he said.
Earlier, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said his office had so far received over 8,000 case files from the Nigerian Police for prosecution.
He said the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, had been acknowledged as a revolutionary legislation, adding that what was remaining was its effective implementation and that the act had created value chain across all levels and that there was need to make it a “truly national law”.
On his part, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay, decried the incessant delays in the prosecution of corruption cases, pointing out that the delays allow people with corruption allegations to seek new offices such as the Senate or even governorship, which then allow them immunity from prosecution.
NASS Crisis: PMB Mets Sen. Mark, Ken Nnamani
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met with former presidents of the Senate, David Mark and Ken Nnamani at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
This is the first time Mark will be visiting President Buhari at the Villa since he assumed office in 2015.
Earlier, before meeting Mark, President Buhari also met with the Katsina State governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
Though the former Senate president didn’t speak to journalists after the meeting which lasted less than an hour, LEADERSHIP gathered that the visit had to do with the crisis in the Senate, which has pitched the executive against the legislature.
Mark who was Senate President for eight years under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is credited with stabilising the upper chamber.
The recent forgery case against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, has further worsened the already bad relationship between the executive and the legislature.
The senators view the forgery case as a declaration of war against the legislature and a move to remove the leaders of the Senate.
The Senate last week, in one of their executive sessions, reportedly mooted impeachment plans against President Buhari. The chamber however, through its spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi, denied the allegations, saying nothing like that was discussed in the executive session.
PMB To Flag Off Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line July 26
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed yesterday that President Buhari will on July 26, 2016, flag off the Abuja-Kaduna rail line.
The minister explained that since the railway was ready for use and had been undergoing test run for some time now, it was important for the president to flag off its official use.
“I can assure you that President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to flag off the Abuja-Kaduna rail line. The coaches are ready and the track is in good shape. We are ready to go,” Amaechi said.
Speaking during one of the test run sessions of the rail modernisation project which connects Abuja and Kaduna State, Amaechi said the project was ready and would commence full commercial operations once the president inaugurated it.
The minister had also advised individuals without identification not to bother coming to board the trains, saying, “we will not let you in if we don’t know you”.