It’s Buhari, National Assembly’s duty to set up special anti-corruption courts – CJN Onnoghen

Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen
Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, says it is the duty of the Executive to set up special courts for cases related to corruption.

Mr Onnoghen stated this on Tuesday after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja.

The CJN had proposed the establishment of the courts to fast-track dispensation of justice on corruption cases.

Neither the presidency nor Mr Onnoghen disclosed the purpose of Tuesday’s meeting.

Below is a transcript of the CJN’s encounter with State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting.

Sir, can you please bring us to speed on why you are here today?

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.

There is this claim that the Judiciary is not doing enough to ensure speedy trial of cases. What is your reaction?

Now, l believe that you know, with your experience of many years of practice that 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 are 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.

Are you happy with the performance of the judges so far?

Yes. So far, so good. Under the circumstances, l must admit that so far , so good. It is in order 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 buck, 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 us why l set up that committee. And it is made up of both the defense counsel, the prosecutor and the Judiciary under the NJC.

What is your reaction to claims that the Judiciary is not on the same page with the Executive on the current anti-corruption war?

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 constitute the government. The government is not only the Executive.

When shall we see the constitution of the special courts to try corruption cases?

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 it by providing the manpower.

What is the latest now 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.

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