The plans of the federal government on the method to use in dealing with treasury looters have been revealed.
President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly started the process of identifying a few fearless and courageous judges who will be responsible for the prosecution of those guilty of looting the nation’s resources.
The Punch reports that President Buhari is opting for a comprehensive onslaught against the problem of corruption in the country. The federal government is said to be creating 37 special courts to try corruption in all the 36 states of the federation including the FCT, Abuja. A top operative of one of the anti-graft agencies, who spoke anonymously, said the need for the special courts came up because of the long process involved in attending to corruption-related cases in regular courts.
The 36 judges who will preside over the special courts are those whose integrity has never been questioned, and who it is judged will not be influenced by any outside force. The anti-graft officer said: “The President is being careful; he does not want people to do a wishy-washy job for him. Buhari is pressing for the establishment of special courts to try corruption cases. He wants the courts to be established in Abuja and the 36 states of the federation so that they can fast-track such cases.”
The federal government has reportedly contacted the National Judicial Council (NJC) to provide judges with impeccable reputations to preside over the planned courts. The NJC released the names of 100 judges from the 36 states of the federation to the leadership of the three major anti-corruption bodies in the country after an internal process of selection.
The judges were screened by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and the Department of State Security on Tuesday. The screening is to identify judges with a passion for the law and the constitution rather than deference to personalities.
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The officer stated: “On Tuesday, the NJC forwarded the list of 100 judges to the anti-corruption agencies for screening. The exercise is meant to select the judges for the special courts the president is moving to establish to try corruption cases. The plan is to get judges that are bold, courageous, and fearless. Many of them must have delivered sound judgements (in the past). They don’t want those who play to the gallery.
“The screening exercise is very intensive; they are passing through the NJC that has the list of all the judges. When the NJC is through with its screening, it passes the list of the judges to security operatives and the anti-graft agencies to continue with the investigation. And because this is a democracy, they have to go through acceptable legal channels; they have to amend the constitution to set up these courts. They want to start with speed; even the legislatures have to be involved to amend the constitution. We are working on the information we got about them (the judges). There are those who have been compromised in the past, who will not be part of the arrangement.”
However, when the head of media and publicity of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren was contacted about it, he said he did not know anything about the on-going screening exercise, which is said to have entered its second phase. “I am not aware of the exercise you are talking about,” he said.
The ICPC’s spokesman, Folu Olamiti, said that he could not comment on the story when contacted. The EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, in 2012, when he was being screened by the Senate, called for the establishment of special courts for corruption cases.
He had said: “The reason for the clamour for special courts for certain cases has to do with the processes of law. Judges have corrupt cases and other cases to attend to, but if we have special courts for corruption cases, it would facilitate the process. I don’t think it will be too much to ask that a special court be dedicated to corruption cases.”
The Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, and the executive chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, described the plan to create special courts to handle corruption cases as a welcome development. But a senior advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike, described the establishment of such courts as needless.
Last week, while granting audience to members of the National Peace Committee led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in the presidential villa, Abuja, President Buhari had announced that the prosecution of those who looted the nation’s treasury would commence in a matter of weeks.
The National Peace Committee had advised Buhari to adhere to the rule of law in his anti-corruption war.