For effective and speedy trial of corruption-related cases, the federal government has been working on the reform of the judiciary to give the anti-graft war a significant bite.
Reports has it that the reform is the brainchild of a Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACC) which was inaugurated in August.
The Committee, which is to advise the present administration on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, favours judicial reform that will lead to accelerated hearing and quick dispensation of justice in all corruption-related cases
It is also expected to develop comprehensive interventions for achieving recommended reforms.
Headed by Professor Itse Sagay, a prominent professor of law and civil rights activist, the PACC has prominent members like ace criminologists, Professor Femi Odekunle of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and Sadiq Radda of Bayero University, Kano.
Other members of the advisory body are Dr. Benedicta Daudu, an associate professor of International Law, University of Jos, and Professor E. Alemika, who also teaches Sociology at the University of Jos.
The rest are Hadiza Bala Usman, a civil society activist and Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, who is also the executive secretary of the Committee.
President Buhari won a decisive victory against his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan in March’s national elections in large part because voters expect he will reduce the endemic government corruption.
It was also learnt that some of the submissions by government agencies set up to fight corruption complained that most of the cases investigated by them were often frustrated by the courts, which often dwell on technicalities to derail the efforts of the agencies rather than consider the facts of official stealing and other oblique methods used by public officers to loot the treasury.
“We wrote of our frustrations by the judges who grant injunctions to stop investigations into some of the matters we investigated in our report,” the head of one of the anti-graft agencies confided in newsmen.
While speaking at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations, in New York, USA, President Buhari restated his determination to fully sanitize Nigeria’s oil industry and make it totally free of corruption and shady deals.
The Buhari administration also established an Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reform Fund aided by three international development partners, namely the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and Open Society Foundation to actualise the judicial reform agenda.
The $5 million fund, it was learnt, is to assist the implementation of key components of the action plan and the work of the Presidential Advisory Committee.
The fund is being managed by Trust Africa, an international development civil society organisation with programme presence in more than 25 African countries.
President Buhari had, during his campaign, stressed the need to ‘kill corruption’ in public sector and recover looted funds.
“If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria,” he had repeatedly said.
The committee was set up as part of efforts to ensure the actualisation of the promise.
The reform is also being ably championed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who had similar reform experience in Lagos.
According to the official website of the presidency, www.statehouse.gov.ng, “While in public office as attorney-general, Lagos, Yemi is credited with undertaking far-reaching significant judicial reform in Lagos State, addressing critical areas as judges’ recruitment, remuneration, training and discipline.
“In addition, he addressed access to justice for the poor by establishing appropriate institutions in the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and the Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC).”
Some of these may be adopted when a new attorney-general and minister of justice takes office in October.
Osinbajo had, at the Justice Peter Bassey 10th Memorial Anniversary in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, in June, stressed the need for a thorough reform of the nation’s judiciary to uphold the rule of law, where the judicial system “is applicable to all classes of Nigerians irrespective of their status.
“The reason for what we have had in the past years is because there have been no consequence for unlawful conduct. People get away with anything and part of the reason (why) this has continued is that it is also becoming cultural,” the vice president said.
He shared his experience as the attorney general of Lagos State, saying he was faced constantly with persons who came to beg on behalf of persons who committed different offences.
“Nobody wants to accept that their brother, cousin or friend should go to jail for committing an offence,” he stated.