The Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO), has submitted its interim report to the National Judicial Council (NJC), indicting all the prosecuting agencies, courts and the Nigerian Prison Service for contributing to delay in trial of alleged looters.
The committee, which is chaired by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, further recommended the deployment of more Judges to handle corruption cases.
A statement by the Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, yesterday, disclosed that COTRIMCO tendered the report at the 86th meeting of the council.
In the report, the committee identified poor prosecution, absence of counsel for parties in court, reliance on irrelevant documentary evidence, multiplicity of charges, non-adherence to court rules/procedures, retirement/transfer of judges, as well as re-assignment of cases to start de-novo, among factors that have been stalling all the pending high-profile corruption cases.
It maintained that other factors militating against speedy disposal of corruption cases included incessant amendment of charges after commencement of trial, and cumbersome record transmission process to Court of Appeal.
“The committee distilled the issues from its findings from discussions with heads of courts and observations made from the surprise visits of the members to courts handling corruption and financial crime cases in some parts of country.
“On the part of the prosecution, the committee observed the following:- That offenders are charged to court before proper investigations of the charges are done, and afterwards, expecting the court to detain such alleged offenders till conclusion of their investigation.
“Inadequate prosecuting personnel at the prosecution agencies; that some prosecutors lack the requisite experience to prosecute corruption cases, which invariably leads to poor handling of such cases; lack of commitment on the part of some prosecutors and collusion between them and defence counsel to pervert justice either by stalling the trials of cases or achieving pre-determined results.
“That there is no threshold to the number of witnesses the prosecution calls; inadequate funding of prosecution agencies to carry out thorough investigation of the corruption cases with attendant low quality prosecution cases; and frequent requests for adjournment by the prosecutors”, the statement added.
Besides, the committee was said to have observed that the prosecution in most cases, duplicate charges which could be up to 170 counts against a defendant, but at the end, are unable to substantiate them, leading to the discharge of such defendant.
“The committee also observed the issue of multiplicity of cases involving the same Defendants, and on similar subject matters going on in different courts at the same time. This particular factor makes it impossible for some trials to proceed. In spite of the fact that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, provides for day-to-day trials of criminal cases, a defendant who is undergoing trial in other courts is always unavailable for trial”.
It equally pin-pointed the absence of parties in courts as a major factor delaying criminal justice administration, “as cases are mostly adjourned when parties are absent in court”.
Other factors the committee blamed for constant delay of cases are reliance on extra-judicial statement by prosecutors.
It noted that where the defence challenges the voluntariness of a confessional statement, the Judge has to order a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of the confession, thereby causing delay.
“The committee submitted that both the defence and prosecution are often culpable by relying on irrelevant evidence they would not necessarily use thereby causing unnecessary delay”.
On the part of the court, the committee identified the following as contributing to the delay in quick dispensation of corruption cases: “Retirement/transfer of Judges handling such cases. When this happens, such cases which may have gone far are re-assigned to another Judge to start de-novo.
“Granting of remand order by a court without following up to ensure suspects are brought to court; inadequate provision for proper record keeping and shelving of court files and other relevant documents in some courts; cumbersome process of transmission of records from trial courts which impedes the early disposal of appeals; and difficulties associated with ascertaining addresses for service of process by bailiffs”.
It decried that prison on its part contributes to the delay by failing to remind court of subsisting order to reproduce suspects in court and most times lack means to convey awaiting trials to the law court.
Consequently, it recommended proper training for prosecution agencies in the area of investigation, especially in the area of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
“There is need for prosecuting agencies to have competent prosecution departments manned by qualified personnel; synergy between the various prosecution agencies to enhance proper prosecution of criminal cases.
“Use of professionals, such as accountants, auditors, etc, to investigate high profile and complicated cases; need for training and re-training of staff of court handling criminal cases; need to provide judicial officers with a legal/research assistant to make their work easier.
Meanwhile, worried by the possible derailment of the anti-graft campaign of this administration, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged the Federal Government to disband forthwith, the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property (PPRPP) for its serial disregard for the rule of law and for directly undermining the constitution.
This is as the group also accused the presidential panel of turning the war against corruption into ‘war against opposition’ elements.
Addressing newsmen, yesterday in Abuja, the Coordinator of the association, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the call for disbandment of PPRPP became necessary because of ‘the dubious duplicity and illegal manner of operation of the PPRPP, which are primitive, unconstitutional and unacceptable in a 21st century constitutional democracy.’
He said the association had on many occasions asked the government to allow the principle of rule of law and the strict application of the Constitution to guide the officials in all their conducts but noted that there was glaring evidence that the war against corruption has been corrupted to become ‘war against opposition.’
According to him, the group had received multiple petitions against the PPRPP, especially its unorthodox methods of operation, which are extra-legal.
Citing a response letter written by the WAEC to the Chairman, Ad-Hoc Committee on Activities of the Presidential Investigation Panel, House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja dated April 17, 2018, in which the examination body noted a disparity in the result of Chief Obono Obla, a copy of which was made available to the media, Onwubiko noted that the group had received petitions through calls about allegations of academic impropriety made against the chairman of PPRPP, but said it had resolved to follow the activities of the ad-hoc committee set up by the House of Representatives to investigate the illegal activities of the panel.
Onwubiko said, ‘‘We are worried that the anti-graft campaign of this administration has significantly derailed, and is rather totally focused as a political witch-hunt and nothing more.
‘‘We have on many occasions asked this government to allow the principle of rule of law and the strict application of the Constitution to guide the officials in all their conducts but time and time again, there is glaring evidence that the war against corruption has been corrupted to become war against opposition.’’
Still speaking about the anti-graft campaign, HURIWA said “we had had cause to write to President Muhammadu Buhari calling for the disablement of the so-called Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property, which foundation was grounded on a dead military decree but the President has yet to even reply to our letter, which we sent over three months now, showing that the plots of this government for allowing the existence of this illegal contraption goes to indicate that the current government is planning to replace constitutional democracy with authoritarian communism.
‘‘This is because the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property has completely started the massive clampdown on Nigerians, and especially members of the opposition class, who are known to own property of significant worth.
‘‘The modus operandi of this panel is to first of all approach their targets with a juicy proposal to join the All Progressives Congress and contribute to the running of the party, and gain immunity from further harassment, and for those who had stood their grounds, what this panel does is to instigate series of litigations in the courts presided over by some compromised judges, who had also been blackmailed because of some assets traceable to them or their cronies.
‘‘We once more call on government to disband forthwith the so-called Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property because of its dubious duplicity and their illegal manner of operations which are primitive, unconstitutional and unacceptable in a 21st century constitutional democracy,’’ it added.
Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.
FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer
The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.
Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media
The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.
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