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The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, on Tuesday took a swipe at the country’s le­gal practitioners, accusing them of truncating the trials of corrupt Nigerians.
Justice Mohammed said a lot of lawyers have abandoned the instrumentality of the law and have chosen to be used as con­duit pipes to ask for bribes for or on behalf of corrupt elements in the courts.
The CJN spoke at the public presentation of a book authored by Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) at Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja.
He equally accused lawyers of employing frivolous applica­tions and baseless objections to stall corruption trials.
The book titled: “Anatomy of Corruption in Nigeria – Is­sues, Challenges and Solutions,” is a compendium of expert anal­yses and digest of the full rami­fication of the subject, corrup­tion; its concept, manifestation, spread, debilitating effect, and how to tackle and eradicate it, by some legal pundits from the Bar and the Bench, as well as academ­ia in the country.
The CJN, who wrote the fore­word to the book, acknowledged that “It is a known fact that like a cancer, corruption has meta­morphosed into the fabric of the country and there is an urgent need for a conscious, concerted and coordinated effort to ensure that we do all that is necessary, to rid our dear country of this men­ace,” however noted that the na­tion’s public prosecutors were overwhelmed by the sheer com­plexity of the cases, especially fi­nancial crimes.
“In the noble legal profession, corruption is occasioned when our legal practitioners trade the years of sweat spent in attaining membership to the Bar, for the shortcut of being used as a con­duit to solicit bribes for or on the behalf of corrupt elements either within or outside the Courts.
“A number of lawyers within the profession no longer uphold the law but in fact, devise ways of truncating the conduct of trials and the diligent dispensation of justice, through frivolous appli­cations and baseless objections that owe more to personal, rath­er than professional, considera­tions. Our Prosecutors are over­whelmed, seemingly out of their depths in more complex financial crimes and therefore prone to de­lay. Given these shortcomings and deliberate ills, there is a veritable atmosphere which provides the avenues for corruption to thrive.
“The Nigerian Judiciary con­tinues to do its best, given its re­sources, to be at the forefront of the fight against corruption. In 2013, the leadership of the Ju­diciary introduced Practice Di­rections to fast-track high level corruption cases, among other crimes considered to be an exis­tential threat to the Rule of Law, Order and good governance.
These Practice Directions are designed to ensure that the cases brought to the courts are deter­mined with dispatch and to this end, the fast-track mechanism ensures that cases of corruption are decided with little or no delay,” Justice Mohammed said.
On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) assured Nigerians of President Muham­madu Buhari’s unwavering com­mitment to tackle corruption.
Prof. Osinbajo acknowledged that the problem of widespread corruption could be attributed to the various levels of leadership and government in the country, adding that until there was a de­liberate effort to deal with the problem, it would continue to hold the nation down.
He submitted that: “Corrup­tion is an existential threat to eve­ryone’s life. It is not just stealing resources, but stealing the future of the people.