.… receives 2, 306 high-profile case files
…..splits into four sub-committees, introduces new guidelines
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA–The National Judicial Council, NJC, has evolved a new practice direction that will fast track hearing and determination of all pending high-profile corruption cases.
The Council, in a statement on Sunday, said its Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trials Monitoring Committee, COTRIMCO, has also resolved to actively engage prosecutorial bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in furtherance of its mandate to ensure quick determination of such pending cases.
It said the new guideline would be issued to Judges across the federation that are currently presiding over trial of alleged looters.
Besides, the NJC which is headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, equally disclosed that COTRIMCO which it said has been divided into four sub-committees, has received a total of 2, 306 on-going alleged corruption matters that are now receiving attention.
According to the statement that was signed by the Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, “The sub-committees are; Practice Directions, Training, Feedback and Engagement and Awareness. They were constituted at the meeting of the anti-graft Panel, under the leadership of the Chairman, Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima, CFR (Rtd).
“The Committee also divided the Country into three zones for ease of monitoring and evaluation of the said cases.
“The Zones are: Zone A, Abuja FCT, Zone B, Northern Zone and Zone C, Southern Zone”.
It said that Chief Judges of State Divisions that had yet to submit list of alleged corruption cases to the committee have been directed to do so without delay.
“The Committee directed its Secretary, Gambo Saleh, Esq. who is also the Council’s Secretary, to write the defaulting CJs.
“At the last count, Zone A in Abuja has 554 pending alleged cases, Zone B has 347 cases, with Zone C having 1, 405 cases.
“The Committee, after brainstorming on all the pending alleged corruption and financial crime cases submitted to it by the Heads of Court that had complied, also indicated that a new Practice Direction would be issued to Judges handling the said cases.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, GCON, had directed the Heads of Court to designate Courts and Judges that will solely handle the on-going trials on daily basis; to fast-track all the pending alleged corruption cases.
“The Practice Directions sub-committee has commenced a review of various practice directions by leveraging on both local and foreign comparative jurisdictions to meet global best practice.
“The Committee said it was imperative that other critical stakeholders buy into the mission of the body, directing that regular updates and advocacy postings on sub-committees’ activities must be a permanent feature of the project.
“No date has been fixed for the planned interface with the anti-corruption bodies”, the statement added.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had at the flagging-off 2017 All Judges Conference in Abuja, commended the CJN for directing judges to submit pa comprehensive list of all corruption and financial crimes in order to designate special courts to handle them.
President Buhari said he was in support of the CJN’s action, saying “the public is awaiting the results of this initiative”.
Some terms of reference of the Justice Suleiman Galadima-led committee include: “To monitor and regularly evaluate the progress and activities of courts designated to try corruption an financial/economic crime cases;
“Advise on Practice Directions for approval by the Chief Justice of Nigeria to be applicable in all such courts across the country with a view to eliminating procedural and administrative bottlenecks militating against speedy disposal of such cases;
“Advise on the trainings, re-trainings and other refresher programmes for Judges and staff of the designated courts aimed at enhancing their capacities to function effectively;
“Come up with an effective feedback mechanism from Heads of Courts to the Council on the activities and progress of cases before designated courts;
Likewise to, “Generally advise Council on the day-to-day strategies for the monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the designated courts and on strategies for improvement in performance”.