Tijani Sheriffdeen: Why Nigeria Needs A Special Court For Corruption Trials

It is said that the ears are jaded off the past glory Nigeria recounts, what has her past achievements and accomplishments done for our today?  Many would ask. But then, we won’t shy and be withdrawn from the fact that we have once dominated certain aspects of the world economy. We used to be the largest exporter of agricultural products in Africa, the likes of groundnuts, timber, cotton, cocoa and many others. Today has not being very fair to us, as we don’t seem to be having a significant number among those who export agricultural products again. Maybe those who are crying and wailing not to hear her past achievements are right.

Not only agriculture, our crude oil used to be well sought after, due to its low sulphur content, we were gaining high forex from it, unlike now that we have teensy-weensy forex from the sales of crude oil. While the barrels were turning into money, Nigerians were just hearing it and seeing nothing done with the money gained from their natural resource. If our reserves were actually reserves in the normal sense, we shouldn’t be in the state of recession that we are today. Unfortunately, corruption wouldn’t allow much to be seen and heard of Nigeria.

Our leaders see the clarion call to lead as a call to enrich their selves and families; they shy not in looting the country’s wealth for their personal gains. Instead of seeing social amenities in number, you see gigantic and stupendous houses littered around the country, with hefty cars you don’t even see in countries where they are produced. Corruption has not only eaten deep the fabric of our nation, it has finished eaten the fabric, now it has leaped on the body of the nation. President Muhammad Buhari in his manifesto said he would be coming for corruption as if we don’t kill corruption it would kill this nation. Has it not started killing this nation?

Upon installation as the President of Nigeria, President Buhari started taking steps in the battle against corruption. Presently we have a number of cases still in court waiting to be attended to, while so many trials are still on. As a result, President Buhari has proposed that we have a special court that would be listening to cases pertaining to financial and sundry matters. It is recalled that during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan, a similar idea was raised. Unfortunately, it didn’t see the light of the day because most stakeholders including the then Chief Justice of the Federation, (CJN) Aloma Muhktar did not consider it a way to go. But now that cases are waiting for other cases to go, the idea is fast gaining strength and power.

Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, Former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Chairman of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide (SAN) expressed caution and reservation on the plans of the President to establish a body under the judicial arm, that would see to corruption cases in the country. In their words, they feel it’s too early to comment on the move and its capacity to successfully tackle increasing incidents of corruption in the country. In their view, it is very important that Nigerians should wait to see the enabling Act setting up the courts, which according to them, would spell out the objectives, the targets, the extent of its power and relationship with other courts.

A question comes to mind at this point, do we continue to have this sluggish means of attending to corrupt cases in our society? Do we continue to take years to attend to cases in our country?  When a case is unnecessarily prolonged, people start losing interest by asking questions like “when would they see to the end of this?”  And when people start losing interest, the case starts fading out gradually, while the apprehended person starts smelling freedom. The question here is, do people lose interest in someone who has stolen their common wealth? Obviously no, the way the cases are being attended to makes people bewildered, as they don’t understand the direction to which the case is going. This and a number of reasons are why many who support President Buhari’s move to establish a special court for corruption cases stand with him. In other developed country, when there are courts hear of any corruption case, they do everything possible in ensuring there is a fast hearing on the case. And the alleged person gets to know his or her fate, in all this, the masses are not left out as there is wide dissemination of information on how the case is been tried i.e. the people are enlightened.

We understand Nigeria is deficient of so many things and we cannot compete with well developed nations, but then, there is nothing wrong in having a special court on corruption to attend to cases on financial misappropriation and related offences. This would in every sense unburden the other courts, they would be able to attend to the cases on ground and give unbiased verdicts. This means there won’t be waiting and endless waits in courts, that people don’t even know the direction to which a case is going anymore. Interestingly, this development would help our judicial arm restructure itself, as only those who are trained in the area of attending to corruption cases would be recruited to see to justice in the special court. It’s so saddening how you find a judge who is specialised on land matters attending to marital discord issues, this move will undoubtedly help reshape our judicial arm.

There are a number of cases still in court; people are already forgetting the Dasukigate issue, because it’s not receiving the right attention. Suppose we have a special court, the issue might have been resolved. The stain of corruption didn’t spare anti-graft agencies as former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde was accused of fraudulently diverting over one trillion naira proceeds from corruption recovered by the agency. Lamorde, who’s yet to clear his name in the scandal, was later sacked as EFCC Chairman on the 9th November 2015 by President Buhari.

Truly if we don’t kill corruption it will kill our nation. Tell me how a nation like Nigeria won’t go into recession with all these looted funds. A special court will do us nothing other than help us ensure that the right people are brought to book. The nation’s economy is not only low, it’s in recession. Our health sector is begging for life, our educational sector is crumbling to stand, the oil sector sustaining us brings in almost nothing again, and some have stolen a fortune from this country. The syringe we need to suck out corruption in our society is the special court on corruption. No doubt in the fact that it would help!