Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, has advocated, “stiff punishment for counsel, particularly Senior Advocates, who have turned obstruction and frustration of proceedings on high-profile corruption cases into an art.”
Sagay said such punishment for SANs must include denial of right of appearance in such high profile and grand corruption cases.
Sagay said this on Wednesday at Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)’s latest media roundtable titled: Strategies and Approaches for the Successful Completion and Effective Prosecution of Abandoned and Unresolved High Profile Cases of Corruption in Nigeria; Combating Grand Corruption and Impunity in Nigeria.
In his paper, Sagay also 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 5 in any proceedings – S. 396 (3) and (4).”
Sagay also 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 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 sensitized about the very critical nature of the fight against high-level official corruption to Nigeria’s development and the welfare of its peoples.”
“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. Prosecuting authorities should resort to Non-Conviction Based Asset forfeiture, where proof beyond reasonable doubt is difficult to achieve because of technicalities. Prosecuting authorities should also consider resorting frequently to the Plea Bargaining Provisions of ACJA in order to save time and state resources.”
Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Ogun State Mr. 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.”
Mr. G.K Latona Head of Legal, of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) representing EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu said, “We are not working at cross purposes with the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation; we are cooperating with them. We have a wide range of corruption cases in concert with state agencies.
“The Attorney General 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.”