The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) yesterday said it would deploy monitors of high profile corruption cases.
Its chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) praised the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen for directing that special courts for be set up within High Courts to handle only corruption cases.
The PACAC chairman said they welcomed the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee set up by the CJN, but has reservations about its composition.
He spoke at a “Roundtable for Experts on Developing a Template for Tracking and Monitoring Corruption Cases in Nigeria”, organised by PACAC and held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Sagay said PACAC’s monitoring team would complement the CJN’s monitoring committee.
“We were very happy when the CJN directed that special courts be set up. But we were a little bit downcast when he announced the form of monitoring he wanted.
“Without criticising them (the committee members) individually – I have nothing against them – but they are too senior. The minute they come into the court to monitor cases, the judge will know who they are, and then the case will not take the natural cause.
“Secondly, will they have time? Thirdly, many of them are actually defending people in the same circumstances over which the court is presiding. Will they be objective? Those are the issues we raised.
“That is why we want to complement what the CJN is doing with our own system of monitoring, which we expect to be more efficient and will produce better result.
“We’re cooperating with the CJN, but we want refine what he has so kindly provided. That’s the reason we’re here. The template for achieving this end is what has brought us here,” Sagay said.
The eminent professor of law regretted that despite the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015, high profile cases still drag for years in court.
He attributed this to some judges’ lack of firmness and their failure to strictly enforce the law.
“As I speak, there are 2,003 of such cases still on. They travel from the High Court to the Supreme Court and back to the High Court over an interlocutory matter, such as jurisdiction, defective charge, or other excuses.
“Good enough, the National Assembly passed this Act. Under normal circumstances, in a normal society, it ought to be effect and would have resulted in a revolutionary change. Cases would have been determined within nine monthsat the most. But that is not happening.
“Part of the causes is that judges are not taking control of their courts. They are still allowing Senior Advocates particularly to dominate them and almost create a situation where they’re taking dictations from them,” he said.
According to Sagay, the ACJA provides that cases must be heard day to day, and if it becomes absolutely essential, then 14-day adjournments may be granted.
“But we’re seeing adjournments being granted for two months,” he said.