Abuja — Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday, directed all heads of courts in the country to compile and forward to the National Judicial Council, NJC, comprehensive lists of all corruption and financial crime cases being handled by their various courts.
The CJN, who gave the directive during a special court session the Supreme Court held to mark the opening of the 2017/2018 legal year, noted that "inexplicable and seemingly intractable delays" have been the bane of criminal justice administration in the country.
He decried that such delays "result in the unfortunate disruption of due process."
Consequently, Justice Onnoghen ordered all the heads of courts to designate at least one court in their various jurisdictions as special courts, solely for the purpose of hearing and speedily determining corruption and financial crime cases.
He said where such cases proceeded on appeal to either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, special dates on each week should be fixed solely for hearing and determining such appeals.
He said the National Judicial Council, NJC, would at its next meeting, constitute an Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee that will continually monitor the progress of high-profile criminal cases.
According to the CJN, "this committee would be saddled with, among other things, the responsibility of ensuring that both trial and appellate courts handling corruption and financial crime cases key into and abide by our renewed efforts at ridding our country of cankerworm."
Warns bribe givers to desist
Justice Onnoghen, who also used the occassion to swear-in 29 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, and vowed to bring the full weight of the law on anyone found to have offered gratification to a judicial officer.
He said: "We shall reform, strengthen, continue to work with the National Judicial Council, and with the support of the public rid the Judiciary of both perceived and real corruption.
"I encourage members of the public to cut off the supply side of corruption by stopping the offering of bribes to judicial officers. The full weight of the law will be visited on all those who are caught in this nefarious activity that is capable of eroding integrity and confidence in the judiciary.
"Finally on this issue, I wish to appeal to litigants, advocates and the public to refrain from making unsubstantiated and malicious allegations/complaints against judicial officers.
Guard your ranks jealously
Calling on the 29 Senior Advocates of Nigeria to guard their ranks jealously, the CJN warned that the award was a privilege which stood to be withdrawn if abused.
"I must remind you that being a privilege, it can, and shall be withdrawn if abused. The privileged you are conferred with today is not intended as a weapon of intimidation or licence for rudeness and arrogance," he warned.
On his part, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, in his address, said the new legal year was an opportunity for judges and lawyers to rededicate themselves to the rule of law.
He said the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari will do whatever it takes within the context of the provided precedent to ensure peace and security of the nation in the sustenance of our democracy.