“There are currently over five million cases pending in Nigerian courts. Some of these have been appealed and argued for more than 20 years…It has created broad political and economic implications and endangered Nigerian Society,” says Justice Fred Oho of Delta State High Court.
According to legal dictionary, special court are bodies within the judicial branch of government that generally address only one area of law or have specifically defined powers. Countries like Pakistan, Phillipines, Indonesia and Kenya have established courts of for corruption cases.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in his bid to recover looted government funds and arrest the scourge of corruption, has set up a Presidential Advisory Committee against corruption, chaired by Professor Itsejuwa Esanjumi Sagay (SAN) to advise the administration on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of reforms in justice system.
The president has also promised some ministries, like the women affairs, that some of the recovered funds would be used to further their objectives. This can only be interpreted to mean that time is of the essence in the recovery of the funds. It also begs the question: can the present congested courts system deliver in the time Nigerians want it to deliver?
What the country needs at the moment are special courts to handle corruption cases nationwide. Critics have argued that the establishment of special courts would bloat the judicial system, some fear that judges of these courts could be easily compromised by politicians facing trial, others express worry over the high cost of establishing such courts.
While I agree with the critics, I beg to disagree.
The president has been reported to have approved the establishment of special courts to handle tax evasion and corruption charges in the country and, in my humble opinion, the creation of such special courts would quicken and give a sharp bite to the prosecution of corruption cases.
How then do we overcome the challenges of establishing them? To this young wig, in order to successfully win the fight against corruption and recover funds in due time, the society should be given the opportunity to play a role in deciding these cases. A jury system could be introduced into the special courts whereby twelve (12) citizens of the country, from all works and station of life would be responsible for examining the evidence of both parties and give a verdict.
The judge conducts the preliminary hearing to entertain applications from both parties, dispose of all non-contentious issues and decide if there is probable cause to go into trial. At trial, the judge should solely oversee the conduct of proceedings and make rulings on legal argument.
Jurors can be only required for the trial stages of any case after the preliminary hearing has been concluded, this would go a long way in dousing the fear that a judge might be compromised since the jury would be selected from the public for the period of the trial.
The introduction of the high court multi door system came to reduce congestion in our court system and provide alternative dispute resolution to reduce delay, settling simple disputes. Same can apply to special courts if established.
It would help lighten the burden of the court system and also provide an avenue for accelerated trials to last between six and eight 8 months from commencement.
Appeals from this court would go to the Court of Appeal. Only the judges of these special courts would be robbed, lawyers in suit and tie. The fear of high cost of establishing the courts can be solved if the courts are established in the six geo-political zones, at least, for a start.
Nigerians agree that stealing of public funds should come to an end and those already taken returned back to government coffers within reasonable time.
Do send your comment (s), observation (s) and recommendation (s) to: