The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhamad, has lambasted the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), warning him to desist from accusing the judiciary of delaying the trials of high-profile corrupt politicians.
The apex court faulted the AGF on his allegation, insisting that the judiciary does not deserve to be blamed for the delays in the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promises were hinged on three cardinal points: fighting corruption, tackling insecurity and creating jobs. But after about seven years in office, the President has failed to fulfil any of the promises.
A statement by Ahuraka Isah, Senior Special Assistant to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, said Malami should instead look within.
The statement reads in part, “The position of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) that the judiciary be held responsible for delays in the trial and delivery of judgments on corruption cases involving politically exposed individuals appears to be one-sided.
“The Nigerian judiciary is not here to lay claim to being perfect but when the political and economic conditions under which it is operating is compared with its counterparts in other climes, it would be adjudged a prized model.
“The judiciary by its constitutional position does not have criminal investigation unit or ‘Fraud Detective Squad’ to detect and investigate criminal involvement of any person, neither does it have a garrison command to fight its cause or enforce its orders and decisions.
“More often than not, the Federal Government’s prosecution sector files more charges than it can prove or provide witnesses to prove, ostensibly at times for the prosecution to even fail.
“The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) under reference is infected with sores in some parts, making speeding adjudications improbable in some instances, in addition to a high volume of cases, a limited number of judges, poor infrastructure or archaic equipment.
“While giving reasons for its underfunding of the judiciary, the Federal Government said on January 26, 2022, at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Justice Sector Summit 2022 in Abuja) that judiciary has not been transparent in the spending of budgets allocated to it each fiscal year.
“Although judiciary has refrained from joining issues all this while but to state the facts, in line with the budget call circular and ceiling the Federal Government sent to the judiciary before the commencement of the fiscal year, the judiciary prepares its budget estimates for capital, overhead cost and personnel cost according to the ceiling, needs and priority.
“The judiciary defends its budget before the Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on Judiciary at the National Assembly, besides the initial vetting by the executive.
“The Judiciary has an internal mechanism for budget control and implementation. Each court and judicial body has a budget unit, the account department, internal audit, Due Process Unit, as well as Departmental Tenders Board.
“There is also a Due Process Committee at the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Judicial Tenders Board that award contracts on expenditure above the approval limit of the accounting officers of the Courts and judicial bodies.
“These layers of control were established by the Judiciary to ensure transparency, accountability and effective budget implementation. The type of transparency that the Federal Government has stressed.
“Similarly, by virtue of Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly carries out oversight visits to the Judiciary to monitor the implementation of its budget.
“Section 88(2)(b) also mandates the National Assembly to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
“The Executive also put in place some mechanism to monitor budget implementation and accountability in the Judiciary through its organs like the office of Accountant General of the Federation and Auditor General of the Federation and other agencies where the need arises.
“Apart from the internal audit units of the Judiciary, the Federal Audit Department maintains offices in all the courts and judicial bodies that monitor spending in the Judiciary.”
“If the Federal Audit raises a query on any transaction and it is not well defended, it sends such to the Public Account Committees of the National Assembly. Officials of the Judiciary would be invited to explain themselves.
“The question to ask is who else should the Judiciary open its account books to, and who among these organs had raised exceptions which were not defended by the Third Arm? The answer is none.
“One only hopes that these allegations against the judiciary by the Federal Government is not just a way of giving a dog a bad name so as to then hang it,” the statement added.