Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), yesterday described the signing of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act by the past administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan as one of his best actions.
Sagay, who spoke at the 2016 yearly lecture and award ceremony of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC) Lagos branch, with the theme: “The Judiciary, Media, Anti-graft Agencies and the Fight against Corruption,” said the new act has helped in quicker prosecution of corrupt cases and administration of justice.
According to the legal luminary, the Act has curtailed antics of defence counsels who attempt to frustrate corruption trials by eliminating granting of stay, in case of appeal, ensuring that corruption trials go on daily basis with only five adjournments in the life time of the case and allowing trial judges, who are elevated to complete their outstanding cases without assigning it to a new judge to start de novo (afresh).
When newsmen asked him on the perceived excesses of the anti-graft agencies, Sagay said any aggrieved Nigerian, whose rights have been trampled upon should approach the court to get justice.
Sagay said, “It is not an open sesame for any agency to do what they like. I have approached the court before when my rights were trampled upon by EFCC but there is need to protect the asset of the country that has suffered too much in the last 6 years.”
“We need to support the fight against corruption because the amount of works are tremendous with the unprecedented amounts of corruption cases seen everyday,” he added.
“The president is not controlling the anti-graft campaign and he is not involved in the day-to-day work of the committee and the agencies like the EFCC and ICPC, apart from occasional issues of reporting to him.
The Professor of law also expressed worry over the unprecedented number of corruption cases in the courts, said the most important matter in government today is eradicating corruption because Nigeria may collapse without eradicating it.
Sagay also criticised new antics by defence counsels who cross-examine witnesses for weeks in order to delay cases as well as new ploy to accuse judges of bias, thereby provoking them to withdraw in criminal proceedings for a new judge.
He revealed that the committee, a think-tank, which provides guidance for anti-corruption agencies has come out with a new manual for prosecution towards achieving an effective and efficient prosecution.
Apart from the guidebook, he said, the committee established last nine months ago has also called for the provision of teams involved in prosecution to monitor prosecution stage by stage.
“When it is applied, it will improve the system. The committee has organised workshop for 180 prosecutors, where experts have been brought to teach them how to draft charges in order to sharpen prosecution and reduce number of charges to ensure speedy prosecution,” he explained.
Apart from that, Prof. Sagay said, a special crime court act has been drawn to establish special courts and judges particularly in financial and economic crimes, money laundering, drugs, kidnapping, cybercrime etc.The judges, he said, will be concentrating on these special group offences to speed off the system.