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Corruption: Buhari Worries Over Delay Justice; Charges Judiciary To Improve Rights Based Jurisprudence

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By Ganiyu Nasirudeen

ABUJA, NIGERIA (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Worried by the spate of delay tactics being deployed in the hearing of various alleged criminal cases in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the judiciary to be in the forefront of efforts to develop rights based jurisprudence as an element in the multi-disciplinary approach advocated in the fight against corruption.

Speaking Monday in Abuja at the opening of the International workshop on the role of the Judiciary in the Fight against corruption, Buhari who maintained judiciary did have a role to play in the crusdae against corruption by enforcing the applicable laws, noted that the sacred duty of the third arm of government (judiciary) was to ensure that criminal justice administration is not delayed.

“I am worried that the expectation of the public is yet to be met by the judiciary with regard to the removal of delay and the toleration of delay tactics by lawyers. When cases are not concluded the negative impression is given that crime pays.

“So far, the corruption cases filed by government are not progressing as speedily as they should in spite of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 essentially because the courts allow some lawyers to frustrate the reforms introduced by law. This certainly needs to change if we are to make success in our collective effort in the fight against corruption” Mr. President directed.

He reiterated that he has made the fight against corruption one of the top priorities of his administration in the hope of restoring the economy and build a new Nigeria, adding that in the face of dwindling revenues and at repositioning Nigeria’s economy, it became obligatory to “swiftly tackle two ills; waste and corruption”.

“The eradication of corruption is a joint task involving not only judges and members of the legal profession, but literally all stakeholders, including all branches of Government, the media and the civil society. The challenge is to come up with an integrated approach that balances process and substance, promote clarity to ensure a coherent and realistic formulation of objectives.

“To this end, the Judiciary is under a duty to keep its house in order and to ensure that the public, which it serves, sees this. Thus, we cannot expect to make any gains in the war against corruption in our society when the judiciary is seen as being distant from the crusade. This will not augur well and its negative effect will impact all sectors of society. The judiciary must fight delay of cases in court as well as it fights corruption in its own ranks, perceived or otherwise. We expect to see less tolerance to delay tactics used by defense lawyers or even the prosecution in taking cases to conclusion” the President insisted.

President Buhari asserted that the future of anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria rests not only on “well-functioning, preventive systems, but also an effective sanctions and enforcement regime in accordance with the laws”, hence he declared, the hope in the judiciary to assist in this regard.

While it is true that corruption is a global phenomenon occurring in almost all countries in the world, the challenge, President Buhari lamented was much more pronounced in some countries than others, but more complicated in developing countries. He regretted that It has now become clear that corruption was one of the main “obstacles to peace, stability, sustainable development, democracy, and human rights around the globe”.

The President in his address noted that the judiciary is a public institution whose job is to provide fundamental checks on other public institutions; therefore, a fair and efficient judiciary he declared is the key to all anti-corruption initiatives.

He restated that was why Article 11 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, provides that the independence of the judiciary and its crucial role in combating corruption, shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of a State Party’s legal system and without prejudice to judicial independence, take measures to strengthen integrity as well as prevent opportunities of corruption among members of the judiciary.

The Article, Nigerian Leader reasoned simply signified a corrupt judicial system not only violates the basic right to equality before the law, but also denies procedural rights guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.

In carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, President Buhari demanded the judiciary must remain impartial and most importantly, be seen to be impartial. He also advised that it was incumbent on the judiciary to analyze facts based on the applicable law without prejudice and penchant regarding the case they are dealing with, and without acting in any way that would favor the interests of any of the parties.

He insisted: “Where judicial corruption occurs, the damage can be pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse. It undermines citizens’ morale, violates their human rights, harms national development and depletes the quality of governance.

“In tandem with the above and as gatekeepers of the law, the judiciary must maintain its absolute independence. Judges should hear and handle their assigned cases without any external pressure or influence either by state powers, or by their hierarchical superiors, stakeholders or economic interest groups.

“The Judiciary must take steps to ensure that it is not seen as being partisan. As such, it must be aware of the sensitivities of the public and take steps towards avoiding even the shred of a doubt as regards its independence. In justice, integrity is a necessity. Hence, Judicial Officers and all other members of this sector must always demonstrate manifest integrity.”

The workshop, President established was important and timely not only because far-reaching reforms of the judiciary remains one of the key priorities of his administration but because it also offers the country a unique opportunity to interact and agree on the basic tenets and guiding principles that will make Nigeria’s efforts acceptable to all right thinking people.

He admitted that the workshop availed him the opportunity to reflect as well as build upon the efforts of the judiciary’s fight against corruption and also to assert his administration’s commitment towards the struggle. Buhari observed “A well-functioning criminal justice system is imperative to address corruption effectively, as we seek to move our country towards greater growth and development”.

“I recognize the tremendous efforts the judiciary is making to foster justice and accountability in Nigeria. Even as we recognize those efforts, it is worth reminding ourselves of the persisting challenges that confront the criminal justice system” the President stressed.

The responsibility of the judiciary in a democratic society such as Nigeria, Buahri specified was a critical one, saying it was one of the three pillars of the modern democratic nation state and essential to the process of checks and balances, which is so fundamental to the way societies such as Nigeria are meant to operate and function.

“This apparent function that the Judiciary plays is undeniably one of the cornerstones of any effective strategy against corruption” Mr. President declared.

While commending initiative of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption; the National Judicial Institute; the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat for conceiving the workshop, President Buhari reassured his commitment in promoting and supporting the judiciary to achieve a judicial system which is “well-staffed, well-resourced and that promotes and recognizes dedicated, committed and motivated Judges”.

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