The Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, has advocated stiff punishment for senior legal counsels who obstruct or frustrate legal proceedings on high-profile corruption cases.
Sagay, who spoke on Tuesday at a media roundtable by a human rights advocacy group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, noted that such punishment for SANs must include denial of the right of appearance in such corruption cases.
In his paper, Sagay also urged prosecuting counsel in grand corruption cases “to apply to reinstate any case struck out for want of prosecution. In cases requiring appeal, the authorities must apply for leave to appeal out of time, and prepare evidence and legal arguments thoroughly, including by inviting consultants to advise.”
According to Sagay, prosecuting authorities must “Insist on full application of Sections 306 and 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, namely: No stay of proceedings under any circumstances – S. 306.Any preliminary objection must be taken together with the substantive issue – S. 396(2), and hearings shall be on a daily basis, but in exceptional cases, adjournments not to be in excess of 14 working days, may be granted. Such adjournments not to exceed 5 in any proceedings – S. 396 (3) and (4).”
Sagay also recommended that “A High Court Judge who is elevated whilst presiding over a criminal case, should be allowed to conclude the case without any effect on his new status. The Head of various Courts, namely Chief Justice of Nigeria; President, Court of Appeal; Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; and Chief Judges of State High Courts, should be sensitized about the very critical nature of the fight against high-level official corruption to Nigeria’s development and the welfare of its peoples.”
Sagay’s other recommendations read in part: “Pending the establishment of a Special Crimes Court for the whole country, Criminal Divisions should be created in the Federal and State High Courts. Specially vetted and selected Judges, known for integrity and self-discipline should be posted to man such Courts.”
“It is very important to deploy the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee and Civil Society Groups to monitor all high profile corruption cases on a day to day basis (i) to ensure that corruption cases are heard speedily and in full compliance with Sections 306 and 396 of the ACJA, (ii) to report non-compliance by any Judge to the National Judicial Council (NJC).”
“All suspected proceeds of crime should be placed under temporary forfeiture during the trial of a high-profile person. Prosecuting authorities should resort to Non-Conviction Based Asset forfeiture, where proof beyond reasonable doubt is difficult to achieve because of technicalities. Prosecuting authorities should also consider resorting frequently to the Plea Bargaining Provisions of ACJA in order to save time and state resources.”