Supreme Court hits back at AGF over delays in high profile cases

From Godwin Tsa,  Abuja

The Supreme Court, yesterday, hit back at the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN)  for indicting the nation’s judiciary for tdelays in the trial and delivery of judgments involving high profile corruption cases.

While faulting the position of the AGF, the apex court said it was wrong for the  Federal Government cannot blame  the judiciary for the delays.

“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,” it said in a statement signed by Ahuraka Isah, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.

Part of the statement read: “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 be 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.

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“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 high volume of cases, limited number of judges, poor infrastructure or archaic equipment.

“While giving reasons for its under-funding 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.”