By Aniekan Udofia
As the African Union(AU) marks Anti-Corruption day, the Member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency and Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Mr Onofiok Luke has advocated a time limit to be fixed for the trial of corruption-related matters for the nation’s Judiciary to succeed in its corruption fight.
Luke stated this as a panelist at the 4th African Union Day of Anti-Corruption. Speaking on the subject: “Innovative Anti-Corruption Reforms in Judiciary: Best Practices,” the Lawmaker observed that corruption is one of the major problems facing the country and something drastic must be done to curb its continual spread. He recommended the amendment of the Constitution to set a time frame within which trials and appeals against corruption-related cases can be concluded just like in election matters.
He argued that setting of a time frame would eliminate delay in the prosecution of corruption cases and ensure that such cases were concluded and judgment delivered expeditiously.
He also made a case for the creation of special courts to try corruption cases and deployment of more judges to handle such cases since our regular courts are already over-inundated with cases and added that, “there should be a total overhaul of both the physical and technical at such designated courts and installation of modern gadgets to aid judges in quick justice delivery,” as well as judges being provided with adequate legal and research assistants to make their work easier.
Luke also suggested the limitation of certain corruption appeals only to the Courts of Appeal to expedite in concluding corruption-related appeals.
Luke in the same vein drew a comparison with appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States where not all appeals are entertained by the court but hands down precedents in major cases which lower courts use them to settle similar cases.
“The Supreme Court review cases to determine whether they have merits and far-reaching implications before they are heard. Such reviewing mechanism needs to be introduced into our legal system which will expedite determination of corruption-related appeals,” he posited.
The lawmaker pushed for better remuneration and welfare packages for judicial officers to aid them in effective discharge of their duties without fear or favour as corruption may thrive in the judiciary where there are no adequate incentives while suggesting that “only persons of impeccable character and proven integrity should be appointed as judicial officers.” This he believes will strengthen the fight against corruption.
Speaking further, he used that medium to call for the preservation of the sanctity of the court, decrying a situation where court premises are invaded by security agencies.
He commended the Judiciary for its good works stating that and the executive for its fight against corruption which would not have yielded fruits without the steadfastness of the Judiciary.
The dialogue was put together by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Nigeria in conjunction with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
Other panelists who spoke were Justice Joseph Oyewole of the Court of Appeal, Mr Olarenwaju Suraj of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Mrs Chinwe Ndubueze, Asst. Director Legal, EFCC and others who contributed to the discourse.