Prison Officials Swap Convicts in Exchange for Money – Falana

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Femi Falana SAN

Human Right Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana SAN yesterday described as worrisome the criminal conspiracy between prominent Nigerians convicted of crimes and prison officials who swapped them with innocent members of the public.

Falana who was delivering a paper titled “Access to Justice: Socio-Cultural Economic and Geographical Limitations thereto-A critique” at the Judges Annual Seminar as parts of activities marking the beginning of Legal Year also advocated the review of the 1999 constitution in such a way that would give magistrates power to adjudicate on matters affecting Fundamental Human Right of citizens.

The Human Right activist alleged cases where a convicted high profile citizen would be set free having paid prison official who in turn would swap him with the innocent but poor citizen.

He, however, commended the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnogen for setting up a special court to try high profile corruption cases.
Falana said lawyers should ensure quick dispensation of justice by not filing frivolous applications that can delay cases in court.

Besides, he charged Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and National Judicial Council (NJC) to be more proactive in the fight against corruption at the judiciary.

According to him, the intervention of the Chief Justice of the Federation would go a long way to speed up the trial of corruption cases in all the courts. He, however, warned against delay tactics on the part of lawyers.

In order to make the directive of the Chief Justice of the Federation a success, Falana suggested that the Chief Justice of High Courts and Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal should be made to issue such Practice Directions for the trial of corruption cases.

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Falana advised the lawyers and judicial officers to make sure that corruption is wiped out from the judiciary, which he said is the last hope of common man.

His words “if NBA is committed to the eradication of judicial corruption, it has the capacity to do so. With 120 branches spread across the country, the NBA can police judges, lawyers and court officials with a view to stamping out corrupt practices.

“Because NBA was condemning corruption without adopting any concrete measures to stop it, the security and the anti-graft agencies recently seized the initiative and arrested judges in the dead of the night to the eternal embarrassment of the legal profession.

“To prevent any further embarrassment of our judges, the NBA and NJC ought to adopt and inbuilt mechanism the menace of corruption from the bar and bench.”
While lamenting the ouster of the jurisdiction of the State High Courts in the adjudication of dispute between citizens and Federal Government and industrial dispute, Falana said the constitution should be amended in such a way that magistrate courts can take up some of the cases.

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