Special Courts; A Worthy Experiment

CJN Walter Onnoghen

FOR a very long time, former Chairmen of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, especially Madam Farida Waziri, harped on the need for Special Courts to be dedicated to anti-graft cases.

The call became necessary because the wheel of justice is extraordinarily slow in Nigeria. It is even slower when it comes to the trial of big-time corruption cases, especially politically-exposed persons and bankers who capitalise on the slow judicial process and elements within the anti-graft agencies to frustrate the anti-corruption war.

The Federal Government which had identified the Judiciary as a stumbling block in its anti-graft efforts resorted to some sting operations against judges in October 2016 in an effort to shift the stumbling block out of its way.

When Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen became Chief Justice of Nigeria, CNJ and Chairman of the Nigerian Judicial Council, NJC, in November 2016 he promised to reposition the Judiciary as an active partner in the anti-graft war. Last September, he directed heads of courts to create Special Courts in their respective jurisdictions for the faster trial of corruption cases. A comprehensive list of all corruption cases was drawn up and the Anti-Corruption Cases Trial Committee, COTRIMCO, was set up to monitor enforcement.

Barely seven months on, this initiative has recorded a remarkable stride. The NJC Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, disclosed last week that the Special Courts had recorded 324 judgements. Twelve cases were struck out with 62 others reserved for judgement. The Special Courts in all the divisions of the Judiciary have recorded heightened activities more than ever before towards speedier dispensation of justice.

It is not surprising that the Judiciary was able to send two former governors – Reverend Jolly Nyame of Taraba and Senator Joshua Dariye of Plateau State – to jail after being found guilty. Their long-drawn trials were more efficiently concluded.

We congratulate the Judiciary under CJN Onnoghen for the huge contribution it has made in the anti-graft war. Without the Judiciary’s voluntary and active involvement, the anti-graft war can never go far. However, this is just the beginning. The NJC’s COTRIMCO should focus strongly on all ongoing cases and ensure that judges handling them do not go back to sleep.

Nigeria’s justice delivery system must break from its past inefficiency and moral turpitude. With the internal cleansing of the Judiciary and the accelerated disposal of anti-graft cases, Nigeria will soon hopefully improve in its worldwide anti-corruption standing. This will impact immensely on our economic fortunes.

Based on the positive results achieved in the Special Courts experiment, we recommend the establishment of more of them in the prosecution of crimes like electoral offences, kidnapping, cultism, terrorism and others to make Nigeria a better place for all.


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