*Insists Special Courts ‘ll fast-track cases

By Emma Ovuakporie

ABUJA—THE Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Waziri, has identified the judiciary as key to the successful elimination of economic crimes and corruption.

She, however, noted  that ”frivolous injunctions” being granted by some courts were inimical to the nation’s justice system.

Waziri said this in a paper, entitled, ”Corruption and Economic Crimes: The Challenges Before Judicial Officers,” delivered yesterday at the on-going Nigeria Judges’ Conference at the Nigeria Judicial Institute, Abuja.

She advocated for a more fundamental approach in the fight against economic crimes and corruption, stressing that Nigeria may not realise its potentials nor attain its vision of becoming a developed nation if the phenomenon is not tackled headlong.

According to her: “I believe and rightly so, that judicial officers are partners of the commission in overpowering those I call “barbarians within the gates” of the system.

”These are the corrupt individuals that stand in the way of economic progress of the country and will at all times corrupt the system for their selfish needs and greed.

”Judicial officers must help this country because so much hope is reposed in them. I believe that the proper, judicious, courageous and innovative use of judicial powers can achieve results.

“I earlier cited the case of Bode George where a conviction was secured within 15 months or so, and will want to contrast it with other equally important cases which were filed and have been pending for over four  years not moving beyond the plea stage.

”I believe that the only difference lies in the innovative and judicious use of the powers of the courts. The courts can deny the corrupt the comfort of enjoying their ill-gotten loot by ensuring that they do not abuse basic remedies provided in law for good cause.

“I speak of the grant of exparte injunctions which undermine investigations. At the moment, we are battling with several court orders restraining the commission from ever investigating certain individuals and corporate bodies.

”We are yet to understand the legal reasoning behind a high court restraining the commission from carrying out its statutory duties particularly in the face of notable pronouncements on this point to the contrary by the highest court of the land.

”I speak of perpetual injunctions which in some cases have become permanent immunity to some people who are under investigation even where they have lost their constitutional immunity.

The EFCC Chairman, while acknowledging the commendable efforts of the judiciary in the war against graft, especially with the recent conviction of the former Chairman of NPA Board, Chief Bode George, however, regretted that some high profile cases have not been moved beyond the plea stage for over four years.

Waziri called for the establishment of special courts, which, she said, would fast- track judicial processes in corruption cases.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.