Special Assistant on Prosecution to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Okoi Obla, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of not cooperating with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in the fight against corruption.
Obla spoke yesterday at a media roundtable titled: “Strategies and approaches for the successful completion and effective prosecution of abandoned and unresolved high profile cases of corruption in Nigeria”.
It was organised in Lagos by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with TrustAfrica.
The presidential aide, who represented the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) at the event, said the EFCC refused to forward files on grand corruption cases to the office of the AGF.
“I admire what SERAP is doing. It is not Buhari’s work to fight corruption alone, it is all our fight. It is corruption that is fuelling this agitation by the different groups.”
But, the EFCC Head of Legal Department, Mr. G.K Latona, who represented the commission’s Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, said: “We are not working at cross-purposes with the Office of the AGF; we are cooperating with them. We have a wide range of corruption cases in concert with state agencies.
“The AGF Office has the right to initiate new high-profile corruption cases and investigate it themselves without waiting for cases initiated by the EFCC.
“We are also working on best practices manuals for the prosecutors and investigators. If you want a corrupt-free society, we must all work towards it.”
At the media roundtable, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption Chairman Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) advocated “stiff punishment for counsel, particularly Senior Advocates, who have turned obstruction and frustration of proceedings on high-profile corruption cases into an art”.
He said such punishment for SANs must include denial of right of appearance in such high profile corruption cases.
Sagay urged prosecuting counsel in grand corruption cases “to apply to reinstate any case struck out for want of prosecution. In cases requiring appeal, the authorities must apply for leave to appeal out of time, and prepare evidence and legal arguments thoroughly, including by inviting consultants to advise”.
According to Sagay, prosecuting authorities must “insist on full application of Sections 306 and 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, namely: No stay of proceedings under any circumstances – S. 306.Any preliminary objection must be taken together with the substantive issue – S. 396(2), and hearings shall be on a daily basis, but in exceptional cases, adjournments not to be in excess of 14 working day, may be granted. Such adjournments not to exceed five in any proceedings – S. 396 (3) and (4).”
He recommended that “a High Court judge, who is elevated whilst presiding over a criminal case, should be allowed to conclude the case without any effect on his new status”.
The senior lawyer added: “The head of various courts – namely Chief Justice of Nigeria, President, Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and Chief Judges of State High Courts, – should be sensitised about the very critical nature of the fight against high-level official corruption to Nigeria’s growth and the welfare of its peoples.”
Sagay’s other recommendations read in part: “Pending the establishment of a Special Crimes Court for the whole country, Criminal Divisions should be created in the Federal and state high courts. Specially vetted and selected judges, known for integrity and self-discipline, should be posted to man such courts.
“It is very important to deploy the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee and Civil Society Groups to monitor all high profile corruption cases on a day-to-day basis (i) to ensure that corruption cases are heard speedily and in full compliance with Sections 306 and 396 of the ACJA, (ii) to report non-compliance by any judge to the National Judicial Council (NJC).”
“All suspected proceeds of crime should be placed under temporary forfeiture during the trial of a high-profile person.”
Ogun State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Olumide Ayeni, who chaired the event, said: “Any person who loves this society will welcome and attend events of this nature. It is a very important subject we are here to discuss, to find ways of addressing the cankerworm that has evaded our society.”
President Nigerian Bar Association Mr. Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN) said: “Lawyers should report to NBA anything they observe in court that is corrupt.”
Others represented at the event included the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the National Human Rights Commission; Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the United States (U.S.) Embassy, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, members of the civil society and the media.