Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has warned lawyers to stop frustrating corruption cases.
He said some defence counsels stall prosecution of cases by filing frivolous and endless interlocutory applications
Magu, who was represented by EFCC’s Head of legal services, Gbolahan Latona, issued the warning at the Fifth Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
The EFCC Czar also accused lawyers of intimidating judges with “groundless petitions.”
He said, “It is extremely challenging in Nigeria today to prosecute defendants, particularly in corruption, economic and financial crimes.
“Some defence counsel pride themselves in their ability to stall prosecution of cases by endless and sometimes frivolous interlocutory applications and appeals; blackmailing and intimidating judges who do not yield to their gimmicks with groundless petitions, and encouraging their defendant clients to malinger etc.
“To those lawyers, what makes a good lawyer is his ability to use every means available to prevent or frustrate the trial, weary the anti-corruption agencies and their witnesses so that the case would not be determined on its merits but rather on technicality.
“Undue delay in the judicial process has been identified as one of the most daunting challenges in the prosecution of corruption, economic and financial crimes in particular and others in general. It has become an albatross of the entire criminal justice system of Nigeria.
“However, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act now has provisions that attempts to curb some of these excesses.”
“A transfer of a Federal High Court judge poses a great challenge in the prosecution of corruption related crimes. Although fiats can be granted to judges for the conclusion of part-heard cases, it may be burdensome for the concerned judges, given the heavy caseloads in their new divisions.
“Some of them who show strong determination to conclude such cases sometimes become wearied or discouraged by the negative attitude of counsel, particularly the defence.
“Several cases have been started de novo or afresh because of the transfer, retirement or elevation of the presiding judges. This entails bringing the witnesses to court afresh for their testimonies with the attendant challenges in terms of their availability, willingness; and incidental financial costs.
“This above scenario necessitated major players in the criminal justice sector to question the effectiveness of extant provisions such as Section 19 (3) of the EFCC Act aimed at expediting criminal trials.
“Calls were therefore made for a paradigm shift which included the enactment of new procedural rules and creation of special courts to try corruption related offences.”