Lagos-based rights activist, Femi Falana, has praised Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, for issuing a directive to all heads of courts across the country to create special courts for the exclusive trial of graft cases.
In a statement yesterday, Falana said the CJN deserved commendation for his far-reaching initiative, adding that the well-timed intervention of the CJN will go a long way to speed up the trial of corruption cases in all Nigerian courts.
The Senior Advocate Of Nigeria recalled that President Mohammadu Buhari submitted an Executive Bill for the establishment of a special court with exclusive jurisdiction to try corruption cases to the National Assembly, but that its non-passage by the lawmakers meant that corruption cases have been subjected to inordinate delays in our already-congested courts.
He urged the CJN to direct the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Chief Judges of the States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) “to issue practice directions to accelerate the determination of corruption cases.’ He said even though the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act with respect to the abolition of stay of proceedings in criminal trials in all federal courts, some defence counsel have devised new dilatory tactics, including the practice of subjecting each prosecution witness to cross examination lasting 20 days or more by asking irrelevant questions and sending junior lawyers to court to ask for adjournment to allow senior counsels in chambers to personally handle the cross examination of prosecution witnesses.
“Trial courts should stop such delay tactics programmed to defeat the letter and spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015,’ Falana said, adding that defence counsel who conspire with their clients to frustrate the prosecution of corruption cases should be made to pay punitive costs, while not more than three lawyers should appear in court for any of the parties in corruption cases.
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