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.