The leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and that of the Federal High Court, have canvassed for mutual understanding and collaboration among the various stakeholders in the chain of justice in the country.
The call was made on Monday June 13, 2011 by both the EFCC chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri and the Chief Judge of the federal high court, Justice Ibrahim Auta who led three other Justices of the court on a courtesy visit to the corporate headquarters of the EFCC. Waziri expressed delight at the gesture of the Judges saying that the visit was timely and strategic owing to the pivotal role of the judiciary in the nation’s anti-graft war.
Waziri stressed that justice is a chain process and that collaborative efforts between the EFCC and the judiciary are imperative to give criminal elements a fight and make the anti-graft war a resounding success. To strengthen the war, she advocated speedy trial of cases, “suffering delays due to all manners of applications filed by the defence just for the purpose of stalling trial” , establishment of special courts to try corruption cases among others. She explained that if these modalities are not pursued, the wrong public perception about delay in trial of cases may continue.
“When the public tries to analyze the slow pace of the trial of high profile cases in comparison to the quick determination of small offenders in Advance Fee Fraud; Cybercrime and other cases, they tend to blame the EFCC and the judiciary. This trend if not quickly checked may lead to loss of public confidence in law enforcement and administration of justice in the country,” Waziri said. Justice Auta, on his part, reinforced the overriding need of a working alliance between the EFCC and the judiciary in the overall interest of the nation. “We all have a stake in Nigeria . The judiciary is part of government. Independence does not mean isolation. We should work hand in hand with the EFCC with mutual respect and mutual understanding”, he said.
To strengthen the anti-graft war, he said that it would be necessary to make the Court of Appeal the final court on interlocutory matters. This, he said, will save the judicial process ample time and resources. He also harped on the need to stop unnecessary amendment to existing charges “because, each time charges are amended, the whole trial process starts all over again”. Besides, he wants witnesses in every case to be ready even before any accused person takes his plea.
To hasten the trial of Politically-Exposed Persons, PEPS, the Chief Judge called for the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act while stressing the need to update the Evidence Act to modernize the admissibility of documents. He explained that courts cannot abridge trial time, because “to do so will be un-constitutional and as Judges, we work with an existing law”. Justice Auta was accompanied on the visit by Justice A. Abdulkafarati; Justice G. Olotu and Justice Gabriel Kolawole. The visit was the first of its kind any Chief Judge would make to the EFCC.