- We are happy that the anti-corruption cases monitoring committee has swung into action
The news that the Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trials Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) inaugurated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) has swung into action, is a welcome development. According to NJC’s Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, the committee has so far received information on 2,306 existing corruption related cases pending in various courts across the country. With protracted cases of corruption in courts, joining to detract the present government’s efforts to fight corruption, Nigerians anxiously wait to see how impactful the committee will be on the sagging war against corruption.
According to the report, COTRIMCO, which is headed by Justice Suleiman Galadima CFR (retd), has created sub-committees on Practice Directions, Training, Feedback, Engagement and Awareness. It has also divided the country into three zones, for ease of monitoring and evaluation of the cases. These are, Zone A: Abuja (FCT), Zone B: Northern states, and Zone C: Southern states. According to the report, from the cases so far reported, Zone A has 554 pending cases, Zone B has 347, while Zone C has 1, 405 pending cases.
There are reports that some state chief judges have not sent report on cases pending in their jurisdictions. We encourage such chief judges to buckle up, compile and send all cases that fall within the parameters given to them. According to Oye: “The committee, after brainstorming on all the pending alleged corruption and financial crime cases submitted to it by the heads of courts that had complied, indicated that a new Practice Direction would be issued to judges handling the said cases.” We urge for a practice direction that will aid a quick dispensation of the age-long cases.
We also hope that chief judges and heads of appellate courts have designated as promised by the CJN, courts that will concentrate on the corruption related cases. So, we identify with the directive of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, GCON, that heads of courts should “designate courts and judges that will solely handle the on-going trials on daily basis; to fast-track all the pending alleged corruption cases.” In choosing the judges, security agencies should be discretely consulted, so that corrupt judges are not given opportunity to cause greater havoc.
Corruption, no doubt, has made a mess of our judicial process, and it is in the interest of the NJC, judicial officers and lawyers in particular, to restore confidence in the process. The prevailing view is that the judicial process is ineffective, and the consequence can be better imagined. Also, the embarrassment the laxity causes our country in the international arena is enormous, and Nigerians will be appreciative if COTRIMCO can rise up to the challenge.
Recently, because of the hopelessness of our criminal justice, the Attorney- General of the Federation and the Presidential Committee Against Corruption stringently canvassed that a fugitive from our laws, should stay in England to face charges, instead of returning to face allegations of infractions at home.
The prevalent practice, under which political office holders who were charged since 2007, or thereabout, are still undergoing trial, 10 years after the cases were instituted because of all manner of dubious preliminary objections by defence counsel makes a mockery of our judicial process.
If, as Oye was quoted as saying:”the Practice Directions sub-committee has commenced a review of various practice directions by leveraging on both local and foreign comparative jurisdictions to meet global best practice…”; then we urge the Chief Justice, the President of Court of Appeal and chief judges, to be on stand-by to adopt such recommendations, to restore our dignity and sanity.