Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Who is to be blame for delayed corruption cases, judiciary or EFCC?

The delay cannot be attributed to the judiciary. It is caused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the defending lawyers.

With regards to EFCC, most times, they do not conclude their investigations. They only carry out investigations and convict suspects on the pages of newspapers. When they eventually take suspects to court, they do not have the evidence to prove their cases.

It is at that point that they would start calling for evidences. Even when the EFCC has evidence to prove its case, the lawyers on the other side would try to frustrate the prosecution by filing all kinds of objections. And if a judge does not listen to him, they would say their right to fair hearing has been violated.

Essentially, it is not the fault of the judiciary, but that of the EFCC and the lawyers (both prosecuting and defence).  If the EFCC carries out proper investigations, it will not encounter difficult in establishing its case.

 In Nigeria, we arrest before we investigate whereas investigation ought to have been done before you make an arrest. The moment you arrest a suspect, you should confront him with charges. When you have enough evidence, a suspect would either beg for leniency or plea bargain. This is a fundamental problem. Arresting before investigating someone promotes injustice.

The EFCC has the facilities to carry out all their investigations before confronting a suspect and taking him to court. If investigation is properly done, I can assure you that an accused person you are confronting would not even bother to hire a lawyer; he would want to bargain.
•Mr. Joe Agi (SAN)

The judge will do his best to give everybody a fair chance. If a lawyer says I have a headache, I will not be coming to court and he has written a polite letter, the judge will say, well, may be the best thing is to allow him to have the day off.

  But I believe it is the work of the Nigerian Bar Association; it is a question of ethics. When lawyers purposely delay cases in court, it is not the fault of the judge. If, as a judge, I discover that a lawyer is delaying a case in my court, what would I do?

In Britain, a judge will write to the bar association and that will lead to a disciplinary action. But in Nigeria, who do we write to? So, what do you do? You have to strike a balance between keeping your work going and being seen as bias.

But if you take any harsh step, the next thing is accusation of bias. The bar should maintain ethical discipline among lawyers. But there is no ethical discipline in Nigeria.
•Justice Ebenezer Adebajo (retd.)

I will blame the judiciary for its snail speed in treating corruption-related cases.  We may divide the court into three – the bench, the bar and the registry. Lawyers are also officers of the court, according to the provision of Rule 30 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (2007). And that is why they are called ministers in the temple of justice.

Many lawyers are dubious. Some of them establish personal relationship with judges so that they could easily undermine or frustrate a case.

Creating such a relationship is contrary to the express provision of Rule 34 of the RPC. It is very unfortunate that cases are now won not necessarily on the strength or weakness of the case but purely on the basis of personal influence. This breeds incompetence and lack of diligence in prosecuting cases to a successful and logical conclusion.

The registry, which comprises the court’s personnel, is heavily permeated with corruption, incompetence and nonchalant attitude. In most cases, they frustrate cases by failing to do what is necessary.

The registry can neglect to serve a hearing notice or file production warrant, notifying the prison authorities of the day an accused person should be brought to court; sometimes, they would give conflicting dates.

The date endorsed on the case file may be different from the date given to the litigant. Sometimes, the file would just disappear, which naturally means that the matter can never go on.

Not many judges mind sitting at the appropriate time, that is, if they are going to sit at all. For many judges, sitting for a case is secondary to attending their personal business.

The EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission are virtually independent of the police when it comes to the prosecution of their cases. So, they do not suffer from the police’s inability or unwillingness to submit case diaries, which are necessary for the prosecution of criminal cases but they, however, fail to mobilise their witnesses.
•Barrister Sanusi  Sadiq (Kano-based lawyer)

One can hardly make a general or blanket statement. For me, it is a combination of the dilatory practice of some defence lawyers, the lack of evidence by the police, because there are several cases where they leap before they look. They file cases in court and then come back to say they are having difficulties in bringing the witnesses — and again we have judges writing in longhand, which ordinarily leads to delay.


So, except we take it on a case by case basis, or examine individual cases, I don’t think it’s fair to concentrate the blame on any one individual. You can’t blame the judges alone, you can’t blame the prosecutors alone, and you can’t blame the defence lawyers alone. It’s a cocktail of issues and it would be unfair to concentrate the blame in any one area.

 It is true that some lawyers would employ every interlocutory process to forestall cases and I see judges also rising up to that challenge and ensuring speedy prosecution of cases but as I said, one could only begin to apportion blames if we begin to consider individual cases. But the admonition I’d give to our investigators is that they need to do more thorough jobs.


We often blame the judges, but it is not always their fault. You’d find out sometimes that the investigators are not even ready, they present shoddy evidence and what can the judge do in that case?
•Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN)

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is very apt in its anti-corruption war. However, the war requires institutional approach because the judiciary would only rely on the information given by the EFCC for prosecution. So, both organs must work in consonance with each other in order to make meaningful progress in the war against corruption.

In terms of who to blame for the delay in dispensing justice for corruption-related cases, I think we should hold both the judiciary and the anti-graft agencies responsible.

The judiciary should take the lion share of the blame considering its edge over the EFCC. I think that there should be a special court for accelerated hearing of corruption-related cases — the way the election petitions tribunals were set up.

Also, if we could have a law to stipulate the lifespans of corruption-related cases, it would be good. We should not give room for frivolous applications by lawyers and diminish the facts and evidences on the ground.

On the part of the EFCC, it should not rush to court but it should engage in investigations that would enable it to get concrete evidence.
•Barrister Dotun Hassan

I don’t think that the EFCC and the judiciary are responsible for the delay in cases of corruption in our courts. However, the collusion of those suspected to be corrupt is what is causing this problem.

No serious investigator would want to take his matter to court without doing his homework well.

The process of extracting evidence is a very serious and strenuous process. The investigator would have to cover all grounds before he presses charges against the suspect.

No matter the offence someone commits, there is a legal process that must be followed. The process to arraign a man who stole N10 is the same as that of a man who stole even billions of naira. What we need is the cooperation of the judiciary and that of Nigerians as well as the anti-graft agencies to see that corruption matters are dispensed with on time.

It needs a holistic working of everybody concerned. I cannot for now tie it to one particular party in this sense.
•Chief Utum Eteng, lawyer

The EFCC needs to get its act together and complete its investigation of each case before going to air with it. One perceives right now of its attempts to overdramatise matters still under investigation, but then, most of the facts are already released to the media before the suspect is even charged before a competent court.

This leads to unnecessary sensationalism which has no burden of proof compared with what the prosecution has to prove in a court of law in our common law jurisdiction, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Then the going gets very tough because public expectations are already heightened to put the nail on the coffin of another corrupt public official only to be dashed by the prosecution not meeting the standard of proof required by law, and the stultifying of the prosecution by the accused person because all the ammunition of the prosecution is already exposed before any shot is fired in the prosecution process.

In my opinion, the EFCC has enormous powers of investigation and prosecution under the law, and, if properly used, more success will be achieved within shorter periods than we presently have.

Having said that, the tendency is to also blame the judiciary for delays in the process.
•Babatunde Fashanu (san)

Compiled by:
Mudiaga Affe, Toluwani Eniola, Geoff Iyatse, Ramon Oladimeji and Ted Odogwu






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