The Federal Government has started reviewing the proposed Special Crimes Court Bill 2016, prepared by the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, in preparation for its transmission to the National Assembly, The PUNCH has learnt.
This was confirmed to our correspondent by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), whose office received the proposed bill from PACAC on behalf of the Federal Government.
Responding to our correspondent’s enquiries over the weekend, the minister said his office had started work on the bill.
But the minister did not give details of the work he was doing on the proposed bill.
When asked about the time the work would be concluded and when the proposed bill would be sent to the National Assembly, he said, “We are working on it. I wouldn’t like to be preemptive as of time, but we are working on it.”
The Special Crimes Court Bill, 2016, proposes to create courts that will exclusively handle corruption cases and others, including narcotic, human trafficking, kidnapping, cybercrime, money laundering and other related offences.
The offences under the existing legal framework are being prosecuted by some law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, before the Federal High Court, state High Courts and the Federal Capital Territory High Court.
The intention of the bill is to ensure speedy trial of the cases, as indicated in its title, “An Act to provide for the establishment of a Special Crimes Court as a superior court of record to allow for speedy trial of certain offences, including economic and financial crimes, terrorism, money laundering and corruption offences and other related matters”.
It is proposed in Section 7(1) of the bill that that the special court “shall have and exercise exclusive jurisdiction and power in respect of offences specified in Schedule 1 to this Act, to be known as ‘scheduled offences’.”
The “scheduled offences” listed in Schedule 1 of the bill include “terrorism offences under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act (No. 10 of 2011) as amended;
“Economic and financial crimes under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act (E1 LFN 2004);
“Money laundering offences under the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act (No 11 of 2011) as amended;
“Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances offences under the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act (N30 LFN 2004);
“Trafficking and kidnapping offences under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 (No 32 of 2015);
“Corruption offences under the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act (C31 LFN 2004);
“Kidnapping offences under the Criminal Code (C38 LFN) and the Penal Code (P3 LFN 2004);
“Cyber crimes under Cyber Crimes Act 2015, and;
“Such other offences declared under any other Act to be a scheduled offence for the purposes of this Act.”
The bill, also under Section 45, makes arrangement for the transfer of the process of prosecution of the “scheduled offences” from the regular courts to the Special Crimes Court.
It prescribes that where the trial of a scheduled offence has not commenced in a High Court before the coming into force of the proposed Act, the trial shall be transferred to the Special Crimes Court.
It allows the regular courts to continue to hear cases which are part-heard before the commencement of the Act and cases which can be determined or concluded within one year of the commencement of the Act.
Section 45, which is under the “Transitional provisions” of the proposed law, reads: “(1) A High Court or any other court shall continue to hear and determine trials and other criminal proceedings in respect of scheduled offences which are part-heard before the commencement of this Act, and any trial or other criminal proceeding not determined or concluded at the expiration of one year after the commencement of this Act shall abate and the trial or other proceedings may be brought before the court for fresh hearing.
“(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any enactment, including any rule of law but subject to subsection (1) of this section, where the trial of a scheduled offence has not commenced in a High Court before the coming into force of this Act, the trial shall be transferred to the court.”