Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen has spoken of fresh strategies for speedy trial of corruption cases.
According to the CJN, the judiciary under his watch is determined to end corruption in the system.
He asked litigants and the public to desist from bribing judges.
Justice Onnoghen, who noted that the corrupt acts of a few in the judiciary, negatively impacted on its image, warned that any judge found wanting “would be dealt with decisively”.
The CJN spoke in Abuja at the event marking the commencement of the Supreme Court’s 2017/2018 new legal year and the swearing-in of 29 lawyers, who were conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
“Let me be clear here; it is not going to be business as usual for the few unscrupulous elements in our midst. I am determined to redeem the unfairly battered image of the judiciary. Any judicial officer found wanting would be dealt with decisively, and shown the way out swiftly.
“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.
Justice Onnoghen, who acknowledged public concern about the delay in the prosecution of corruption cases, unveiled strategies to be adopted by the Judiciary for speedy trial of corruption cases in all courts.
The CJN said part of the strategies is the directive on court heads 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.
He said court heads have also been directed to designate in their various jurisdictions, one or more courts, depending on the volume of such cases, as special courts solely for the purpose of hearing and speedily determining corruption and financial crime cases.
The CJN added: “Where such cases come on appeal, to either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, special dates on each week shall be fixed solely for hearing and determining such appeals.
“In order for the NJC to monitor and effectively enforce the foregoing policy, an Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Monitoring Committee will be constituted at the next council meeting.
“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 the cankerworm.
“Of course, we are also aware that the judiciary cannot win this war alone; hence the need for collaboration and interface with stakeholders in this noble cause.
“We are under no illusion that the fight against corruption would be an easy one, as we are already aware that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back; but we are determined to win it. We require all hands to be on deck to fight this monster.
“We in the Supreme Court, having reduced the pre-election appeals in the course of the third term of the last legal year, will devote much of this first term in dealing, by way of task work, with the identified 18 EFCC, ICPC, and economic crime cases alongside the normal civil, criminal and political cases,” the CJN said.
Justice Onnoghen, who expressed delight about the court’s performance in the last legal year, said the judiciary was no longer willing to tolerate delay in its proceedings any more. He urged judges to adopt measures to prevent delay, including doubling their efforts.
As a further measure to curb delay, he said court heads have been directed to clamp down on lawyers, who indulge in the unethical practice of deploying delay tactics to stall criminal trials.
He said: “Heads of courts are now to report such cases to the NJC, which in turn, would transmit them to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, in the case of Senior Advocates, and Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in the case of other legal practitioners.”