AS President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed war against corruption begins to gather momentum, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has thrown its weight behind the growing clamour for a special court to try corruption cases.
EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, added his voice to the call, saying that such a court would expedite the trial of corruption cases unlike what is currently obtainable at regular courts where graft cases are bogged down by serial adjournments. His predecessor, Farida Waziri, had also canvassed the establishment6 of such a court.
Proponents of the idea argue that not only will it fast-track the process of justice dispensation, it will also increase the efficacy of trial judges. They contend that corruption cases in regular courts are being stalled by interlocutory applications and other legal technicalities. There is also a tendency that judges who are assigned other matters alongside corruption cases may not focus properly.
Cases are known to make several journeys to the Supreme Court and back to trial courts for retrials, no thanks to delay tactics lawyers employ in an attempt to thwart the course of justice. There have also been instances of transfer of judges out of jurisdictions where cases originated. Some of such cases have to begin all over again irrespective of how far the trials have gone.
However, a Special Court of this nature cannot be established by mere presidential fiat. It is a process that requires a constitutional amendment which involves time and resources. If we are to wait until we go through the grill of constitutional amendment to create this Court, the anti-graft campaign may lose steam. The momentum will be lost and we will be back to square one if political interests eventually thwart its establishment.
Though we agree with Lamorde that very experienced, senior lawyers often frustrate corruption cases at regular courts, there is no guarantee that the same antics would not be employed at the Special Court, since the rules of proceedings will not be different, especially as appeals from this Court will still lie at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
We urge the advocates of the Special Court not to create an impression that once established, anyone charged before it must be convicted at all costs. Irrespective of the court where a case is being tried, justice must still be done to the state, the defendant and society at large.
We believe that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan this year has comprehensive panaceas and options for the quick and effective dispensation of justice. All we need to do is to implement it without fear, favour or pandering to the whims of politicians.