- The EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, has asked lawyers to stop frustrating corruption cases
- He said some defence counsel pride themselves in their ability to stall prosecution of cases by endless and sometimes frivolous interlocutory applications
- Magu also highlighted other challenges faced by the anti-graft agency in prosecuting corruption, economic and financial crimes
Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has criticised some lawyers who he said “specialise in frustrating cases", The Nation reports.
He made the criticism at the Fifth Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, the Delta state capital.
NAIJ.com gathers that the EFCC boss, who was represented by the EFCC’s head of legal services, Gbolahan Latona, accused lawyers of intimidating judges with “groundless petitions” and filing frivolous applications to stall cases. He said such factors had made it extremely challenging to prosecute suspects.
He stated: “It is extremely challenging in Nigeria today to prosecute defendants, particularly in corruption, economic and financial crimes.
“Some defence counsel pride themselves in their ability to stall prosecution of cases by endless and sometimes frivolous interlocutory applications and appeals; blackmailing and intimidating judges who do not yield to their gimmicks with groundless petitions, and encouraging their defendant clients to malinger etc.
“To those lawyers, what makes a good lawyer is his ability to use every means available to prevent or frustrate the trial, weary the anti-corruption agencies and their witnesses so that the case would not be determined on its merits but rather on technicality.”
Magu also highlighted other challenges faced by the anti-graft agency in prosecuting corruption, economic and financial crimes, such as undue delay in the judicial process. "However, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act now has provisions that attempts to curb some of these excesses," he said.
He added that delays are aggravated by the congestion of cases, slow pace of proceedings occasioned by insufficient number of judges, the manual recording system and frequent transfer of Federal High Court judges.
In his words: “A transfer of a Federal High Court judge poses a great challenge in the prosecution of corruption related crimes. Although fiats can be granted to judges for the conclusion of part-heard cases, it may be burdensome for the concerned judges, given the heavy caseloads in their new divisions.
“Some of them who show strong determination to conclude such cases sometimes become wearied or discouraged by the negative attitude of counsel, particularly the defence.
“Several cases have been started de novo or afresh because of the transfer, retirement or elevation of the presiding judges. This entails bringing the witnesses to court afresh for their testimonies with the attendant challenges in terms of their availability, willingness; and incidental financial costs.
“This above scenario necessitated major players in the criminal justice sector to question the effectiveness of extant provisions such as Section 19 (3) of the EFCC Act aimed at expediting criminal trials. Calls were therefore made for a paradigm shift which included the enactment of new procedural rules and creation of special courts to try corruption related offences.”
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously reported that Ibrahim Magu hailed his elevation to the rank of a full police commissioner by the Police Service Commission (PSC).
In a swift reaction to the promotion, which was unveiled on Friday, April 19, Magu said the promotion would spur him to carry the anti-corruption war to a new level.
The EFCC boss, in a terse statement signed on his behalf by the commission's spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said: “I am delighted. The promotion is clear affirmation of the value of my work. To me, this a tonic to remain committed to the cause of fighting corruption and I am grateful to God and all those who made it possible."
The EFCC stages a walk against corruption - on NAIJ.com TV: