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Published On: Wed, Apr 25th, 2018

Corruption trial: Blame prosecution, not Judiciary over delay -CJN

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By Lawrence Olaoye

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnogen, has cautioned against heaping the blames in the delay in trial of corruption cases on the Judiciary.
Onnogen, while responding to questions from State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said frequent requests for adjournments by the prosecution causes delay in trial of corruption cases.
The CJN also blamed the prosecution’s lack of diligence for the delay.
Asked for his reaction to the claim that the Judiciary was not doing enough to ensure speedy trial of corruption cases, Onnogen said “there has never been situation in which any case was taken to court and decided upon and the Judge was not there to listen to the case. , or having finished hearing, he refused to deliver judgement.
“So, when cases are not tried expeditiously and the Judge is there, ready to listen to the case, you come and for one reason or the other, you take a date to adjourn the case, and the courts grants the adjournment which is normal during proceedings, you cannot turn round and blame the Judge for that. These the basic things that everybody must know. We must all work together, cooperate for the system to move forward.
But if you keep thinking that the Judiciary is the culprit in this delay process, you are not telling the whole story. It is not the judiciary that would go and arrest someone before looking for evidence; it is not the judiciary that would go into investigations. No, we do not operate the Inquisitional mode of justice as it is practiced by the French. Our own is that an independent body must investigate, prosecute while the judge decides.”
Asked whether he was happy with the performances of the judges so far, the CJN said “Yes! So far, so good. Under the circumstances, l must admit that so far , so good. It is in other to enable you know the workings of the system that l set up the COMPRECO ( Commission for the Prevention of Corruption) committee. All along, everybody is passing bucks. The prosecution will say it is not our responsibility, we are not the cause of the delay, the investigator will say l am not the cause, the Judge will say, l am not the cause. So, the people must know who is the cause of the delay. That is why l set up that committee. And it is made up of both the defense counsel, the prosecutor and the Judiciary under the NJC.”
On allegations that the Judiciary not cooperating with the Executive in the fight against corruption, Onnogen said “I have answered that before and l still say the same thing. We are on the same page with the Executive. There are three arms of government and these three arms constitutes the government. The government is not only the Executive.”
On why special courts for corruption trial has yet to be constituted, he said “It is the Executive in conjunction with the Legislature that has the prerogatives of setting up Courts, including the Special Courts, under our Constitution and not the Judiciary. Once the Executive set up such Courts, the Judiciary will run not by providing the manpower.”
On the latest in prisons decongestion, “You are seeing everything being done on the issue. Next week, we are continuing with our action. But there is one thing you need to know, there is the physical constraint about the congestion itself. How many were to be contained in a prison room and how many are there now. Secondly, you should also know that the actual prisoners are fewer compared with the total number you see there. This is where the issue of awaiting trial comes in and that is the aspect where prison decongestion is working on and l can assure you that this is being handled.”
Asked why he came calling on the President, On Ogben said “I am here to felicitate with Mr. President. As you are aware, he has just returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at the head of federal government delegation and there is also the need for regular interaction to keep him abreast of latest development in the Judiciary.”

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