The Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption said on Monday that it was not against the judiciary and the legal profession but was furious with a few judges and lawyers sabotaging the Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight.
Speaking on behalf of PACAC in Abuja, a member of the committee, Prof. Femi Odekunle, said the few judges and lawyers not only frustrated the anti-graft war, but also damaged the diligent and honest work of many good and hard-working judges.
He said, “Here, I must digress to say that contrary to the perception in certain quarters, PACAC is not against the judiciary, the legal profession or any set of judges or lawyers.
“Yes, PACAC is furious against a few judges and a few lawyers who are sabotaging the anti-corruption fight – because the few not only frustrate the fight, they also damage the diligent and honest work of the so many good and hardworking judges in our judiciary.”
He spoke at the ‘Capacity-building workshop for judges, magistrates, area court judges and registrars’ on the ‘Application of the Practice Directions on the Implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.’
The event was co-organised by PACAC and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Odekunle, in his welcome address, said the collaboration between PACAC and the FCT judiciary in putting the training together, was a sign that there was no animosity between his committee and the judiciary.
He believed that the misconception of hostility between PACAC and the judiciary was being propagated by the enemies of the fight against corruption.
He said, “The purpose of this workshop is to put into practice and give life to the provisions and direction, so that the personnel of the FCT judiciary can unlearn certain archaic practices and internalise fresh practices to enhance justice and justice delivery.
“Finally, I must reiterate that any indication of animus by PACAC against the judiciary is at most charitable a ‘myth’ and at worst a perception being propagated by the enemies of the fight against corruption.
“If you need any proof of this position, the collaboration between PACAC and the FCT judiciary on the conception and execution of this workshop here today is a proof -positive.”
Odekunle also pointed out that judges were not to blame for all the ills in the nation’s administration of criminal justice system.
The Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, warned judges and magistrates in the FCT to desist from granting remand orders without probing into the circumstances.
He said it would help to check the excesses of the prosecuting bodies.
Bello stated, “I have observed that remand orders are just being granted as a matter of course when the provision is express. I think we should be more proactive, particularly when there is a second request. We must be able to find reasons, legitimate grounds, as to why the extension of the remand order earlier granted should be made. This will check the excesses of the remanding authority. This, we know, should not be a matter of course. We must be able to ascertain why.
“In the first instance, we may allow it to go, but when you want to lay hands on the detained persons, you must give us reasons why there should be an extension of the remand order. The idea is to ensure expeditious completion of investigation and reduce delay of trial.”
He said he was about setting up “declogging panels,” which, by the court’s new practice directions, would be empowered to identify dormant criminal cases not being prosecuted by the relevant agencies and possibly strike them out for lack of diligent prosecution.
He said he had written to the various prosecuting agencies to inform the court of cases that they could not be prosecuted but that the agencies had yet to respond to the letters sent to them about six months ago.
A justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, in her keynote address, called on judges to be firm and take back the control of their courts.
The justice added, “We must take back the control of our courts. We are dominus litis (master of a suit) in our courtroom. I have never been able to understand how any court will allow counsel, representing a client, get the opportunity to dictate the tune in the courtroom.
“The law has given the judge the power to dictate the tune for lawyers and litigants to dance to. The judiciary cannot afford to allow itself to become the weakest link in the enforcement of our laws because the wheels of justice grind so slowly.
“It is my ardent hope that all chief judges will follow this laudable example and enact similar Practice Directions in their various jurisdictions.”