The Presidential Advisory Commission Against Corruption (PACAC), headed by Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), on Tuesday said that judges have a critical role to play if the delay of high profile corruption cases in court must stop.
The commission which fingered lawyers, especially the respected silks said that the judges would do well if they could stand their ground and reject unnecessary adjournments and stay of proceedings in such cases.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye said if judges strictly complied with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, high profile cases would be more quickly determined.
He spoke in Lagos during PACAC’s interactive session with the media and civil society organisations (CSOs).
According to him, rather than being firm, some judges indulge lawyers who are out to delay cases for their clients by abusing the court process.
Owasanoye said: “If you do a thorough analysis of all the high profile cases that are hanging in court, they are not hanging because investigation was poor. It is because the suspects are manipulating the court system.
“If you accuse me of corruption and I have a good defence, why should I want the case to go on for 10 years?
“I should be the one insisting on no adjournment. I would want my case quickly concluded so I can clear my name, but that’s not what you get.
“So while there’s need for thorough investigation, we should understand that the reason corruption fight is slow is because of the high tolerance of the courts of the shenanigans of lawyers.
“Once the judges stamp their feet and say: ‘I’ll not entertain an adjournment, this case must proceed,’ you will see changes. We’ve seen those situations in this country before. We need to get the narrative right.”
Owasanoye said corruption was thriving because Nigerians had become tolerant of it, adding the government cannot fight corruption without the public’s support.
“For as long as we tolerate corruption, it’ll continue to thrive. We need to show our revulsion for corruption,” he said.
Owasanoye said banks were part of the problem as they now help some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to hide funds which ought to be in the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“They do this in the name of private banking. It is a violation of the law and attack on the government,” he said.
Prof Sagay said those who complain of rights violation when they are arrested over corruption allegations ignore the fact that the rights of millions of Nigerians have been violated through graft.
“There are social, economic and cultural rights. Each time billions of naira is looted, people’s rights to education, health, and social services are violated,” he said.
Sagay urged Nigerians to join the fight against corruption as the consequences affect everyone.
The eminent professor of law urged CSOs to do more to help rid the country of corruption.
“CSOS of today have gone to sleep. For this fight to be effective, we need their support,” he said.
He also urged labour leaders to join the battle and avoid being compromised