Indication appeared on Tuesday that the Federal Government had sent to the National Assembly, a bill requesting the establishment of a special anti-corruption court to prosecute serious crimes, including corruption cases.
The Special Crimes Bill 2016 was outlined by the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.
The proposed court will exclusively handle corruption cases and other cases including narcotic, human trafficking, kidnapping, cybercrime, money laundering and other related offences.
The offences under the existing legal framework are still being prosecuted by the some law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission before the Federal High Courts and State High Courts.
The intention of the bill sighted by our correspondent is to ensure speedy trials of the offences – as indicated in its title which reads – “An Act to provide for the establishment of a Special Crimes Court as a superior court of record to allow for speedy trials of certain offences, including economic and financial crimes, terrorism, money laundering and corruption offences and for related matters”.
PACAC had earlier sent the proposed bill to the AGF for onward transmission to the National Assembly as an executive bill.
When contacted by our correspondent on Tuesday, Chairman of PACAC, Sagay, confirmed that the bill had been sent to the National Assembly.
“As far as I know, the bill has been sent to the National Assembly,” Sagay said.
He confirmed that the bill was sent to the legislature by the AGF’s office.
The bill proposed in section 7(1) of the bill that it “shall have and exercise exclusive jurisdiction and power in respect of offences specified in Schedule 1 to this Act to be known as ‘scheduled offences’”.
The “scheduled offences” stated in Schedule 1 of the bill are “Terrorism offences under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act (No. 10 of 2011) as amended;
“Economic and financial crimes under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act (E1 LFN 2004);
“Money laundering offences under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act (No 11 of 2011) as amended;
“Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances offences under the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act (N30 LFN 2004);
“Trafficking and kidnapping offences under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 (No 32 of 2015);
“Corruption offences under the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act (C31 LFN 2004);
“Kidnapping offences under the Criminal Code (C38 LFN) and the Penal Code (P3 LFN 2004);
“Cybercrimes under Cyber Crimes Act 2015, and;
“Such other offences declared under any other Act to be scheduled offences for the purposes of this Act.”
Also, the bill under section 45 makes arrangement for the transfer process of the prosecution of the offences in the stated laws from the regular courts to the special anti-corruption court.
It prescribes that where the trial of a scheduled offence has not commenced in a High Court before the coming into force of the Act, the trial shall be transferred to the Special Crimes Court.
It allows the regular courts to continue to hear cases which are part-heard before the commencement of “the Act” and are not determined or concluded at the expiration of one year after the commencement of the Act.
Section 45 which is under the “Transitional provisions” of the proposed law reads, “(1) A High Court or any other court shall continue to hear and determine trials and other criminal proceedings in respect of scheduled offences which are part-heard before the commencement of this Act, and any trial or other criminal proceedings not determined or concluded at the expiration of one year after the commencement of this Act, shall abate and the trial or other proceedings may be brought before the court for fresh hearing.
“(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any enactment, including any rule of law but subject to subsection (1) of this section, where the trial of a scheduled offence has not commenced in a High Court before the coming into force of this Act, the trial shall be transferred to the court.”
Sagay had indicated in a number of fora that the bill had been sent to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, for consideration and onward transmission to the National Assembly.
AGF’s spokesperson, Mr. Salihu Isah, could not be reached for his comment on the level of work that the minister had done on the proposal.
Calls placed to his telephone on Sunday indicated that his line was not reachable.