The outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, yesterday, adduced reasons why prosecution of corruption cases involving highly placed individuals, suffered delays under his tenure.
The CJN who made the disclosure in a speech he presented at a valedictory court session held in his honour at the Supreme Court yesterday, regretted that though he directed that such cases should be heard and concluded within six months, he said "due to identified challenges, the target could not be met."
According to him, "When I assumed office as the CJN, I was inundated with complaints regarding delays in the prosecution of corruption cases particularly those involving highly placed individuals. Therefore, I requested the National Judicial Council, NJC, to collect data on all the cases pending before all the courts in Nigeria and their status.
"Subsequently, I directed that these cases should be heard and concluded within six months wherever possible. However, due to identified challenges, the target could not be met. Some of the challenges are; "The sheer volume of cases being handled by individual judges ensures that their cause lists are unduly choked. The prosecuting agencies oft times arrest and charge alleged offenders before concluding investigations and as such they are largely unprepared for trial.
"Considering the report that the British Government spent about £14 million to investigate and prosecute James Ibori, it is not difficult to realise part of the reasons for the slow pace of investigation and prosecution of such cases in Nigeria. "Similarly, the number of charges filed, makes it cumbersome to prosecute. For example it is commonplace to find 50 counts on a single charge sheet.
"Defence lawyers have perfected strategies of stalling the trial process via filing pointless interlocutory appeals. Which situation further underscores the need to hasten our plans to amend the relevant sections of the constitution and other statutory laws calculated to block unjustified invocation of the 'Right of Appeal'.
"It is hoped that these challenges shall; be addressed as quickly as possible to ensure that the judiciary plays its necessary role in curbing corruption in Nigeria," he added.
Meantime, the CJN, yesterday, swore in two new judges into the apex court bench. The two new judges of the Supreme Court are Justices Musa Dantijo Mohammed and Clara Bata Ogunbiyi.