June 21, 2009

Falana urges review of Evidence, ICPC laws

By Abdulwahab Abdulah
President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), Mr. Femi Falana, has said unless the law setting up the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the present law of evidence are review, it would be difficult to prosecute corrupt public officials in the country.

Speaking at the  2009 national conference of Anti-Corruption Committees in Nigerian Legislatures and Heads of Anti-Corruption Units in Government Establishments organized by the ICPC, in Akure, Ondo state, Falana said presently the  ICPC has close to 200 cases pending in the various High Courts and appellate courts, which were moving at slow pace due to some legal constraints.

He said unless the law establishing the commission and the law of evidence are amended to eliminate or reduce interlocutory appeals, many of those cases will never be concluded in the near future.

He said: “The law of evidence should be completely overhauled to accommodate new trends in science and developments in law. A situation whereby computer print out of bank statement is rejected by a trial court cannot be accepted. In the recent case of Amadi v. FRN (2009) 9 WRN 36 the Supreme Court endorsed the finding of the trial Court to the effect that the e-mail address of the accused was properly admitted in evidence.”

He also called for the nominees of the members of Board of the anti-graft agencies to be appointed from the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigeria Labour Congress, the Nigeria Police, Institute of Chartered Accountants, Federal Executive Council, International Federation of Women’s Lawyers (Nigerian Chapter) or any other relevant women’s group to make the Board not to be susceptible to government influence and control.

“The on-going move to amend the anti-graft laws by the National Assembly should be supported by the anti-graft agencies in particular and Nigerians in general. In order to strengthen the EFCC and ICPC to perform their statutory functions without interference the Nigerian people must earn the confidence of both institutions.

“The general perception now is that the anti-corruption battle has been lost to the rule of law policy of the Federal Government,” he said.

The proposed amendment of the anti-graft agencies ought to take cognizance of the input of Nigerians in the fight against corruption. In particular, the National Assembly should ensure that the appointment and the removal of the heads and board members of anti-graft agencies are ratified by the Senate.”

The Lawyer also called for the anti-graft agencies, particularly the ICPC which is headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge to organize seminars and workshops for Judges on the menace and consequences of corruption. Beside, he said the media should highlight the judgment of courts and interrogate judges who hand down decisions that tend to support corruption, election malpractice and other heinous crimes.