Buhari: Judiciary Is Not Doing Enough to Support Fight against Corruption
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday reviewed the performance index of the judiciary and surmised that the third arm of government is not doing enough to support the fight against corruption.
Buhari, who spoke at a workshop on the Role of the Judiciary in the Fight against Corruption organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, the National Judicial Institute, the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, said the judiciary had not met the expectations of the public in eradicating delay in trial of criminal cases.
"I am worried that the expectation of the public is yet to be met by the judiciary with regard to the removal of delay and the toleration of delay tactics by lawyers.
"When cases are not concluded the negative impression is given that crime pays.
"So far, the corruption cases filed by government are not progressing as speedily as they should in spite of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 essentially because the courts allow some lawyers to frustrate the reforms introduced by law," he lamented, adding that, "this certainly needs to change if we have to make success of our collective effort in the fight against corruption."
He said though he recognized the tremendous efforts the judiciary had made to foster justice and accountability in Nigeria, he nevertheless used the occasion to remind the judiciary of the persisting challenges confronting the criminal justice system.
The president stated that because of the special position the judiciary enjoyed in the Nigerian democracy, it should not allow corruption to thrive within its ranks.
According to him, in carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, the judiciary must remain impartial and most importantly, be seen to be impartial.
"It is incumbent on the judiciary to analyze facts based on the applicable law without prejudice and penchant regarding the case they are dealing with, and without acting in any way that would favour the interests of any of the parties."
Buhari said that where judicial corruption occurred, the damage would be pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse.
"It undermines citizens’ morale, violates their human rights, harms national development and depletes the quality of governance," he added.
He urged the judiciary to maintain its absolute independence, stressing that, "judges should hear and handle their assigned cases without any external pressure or influence either by state powers, or by their hierarchical superiors, stakeholders or economic interest groups."
He further urged the judiciary to take steps to ensure that it was not seen as being partisan.
Buhari challenged the judiciary to be aware of the sensitivities of the public and to take steps towards avoiding even the shred of a doubt as regards its independence.
He said the judiciary was under a duty to keep its house in order and to ensure that the public, which it served, saw this, noting that, Nigerians could not expect to make any gains in the war against corruption when the judiciary was seen as being distant from the crusade.
"This will not augur well and its negative effect will impact all sectors of society. The judiciary must fight delay of cases in court as well as it fights corruption in its own ranks, perceived or otherwise. We expect to see less tolerance to delay tactics used by defense lawyers or even the prosecution in taking cases to conclusion."
While welcoming participants to the workshop, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed admitted that corruption could not be easily tackled without transparent, efficient and speedy delivery of justice.
He said: "Tackling corruption is neither easy nor quick and it is a symptom of deep-rooted factors. The causes are complex and the means
to control corruption are gradually being understood. There is no single magical solution, as is with most problems in development; it
must be tackled simultaneously on all fronts, individually and collectively."
However, the CJN warned that the judiciary could not act on its own without the support of all stakeholders in the justice sector.
He said: "The prosecution, defence, police and other parties must play their respective roles in ensuring that they obey all directions of the courts and act timeously in the interest of justice. In this respects, I must commend the ongoing efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ably chaired by Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for working tirelessly to ensure the resilient investigation and prosecution of corruption and other related offences."