An Abuja based Lawyer Mr. Merga Lennox Kachina

The Slow dispensation of justice in the nation’s justice system meant to be the last hope of the common man is gradually becoming a norm. Most Nigerians are gradu­ally losing hope with the trend where cases linger for a long period of time. An Abuja based Lawyer Mr. Merga Lennox Kachina in this interview with DOOSUUR IWAMBE examines some of the factors responsible for the slow dispensation of justice.

What is responsible for delay in prosecuting of corrupt public officers?

A lot of factors are responsible, on the one hand; it is the issue of prosecution itself. In most cases, the ac­cused persons are arraigned in court even when the prosecution is still at the stage of investigation; or in­vestigation not been properly done. That is why you see instances where prosecutions keep applying to amend and re-amend charges. On the other hand, even the court themselves sometimes will transfer a judge who has gone far in handling a particular case and once that is done, it affect proceedings because the new judge that is expected to take over will start afresh by studying the case file. Some cases have already reached advanced stage before the judge is transfer and in such cases the case will have to begin afresh.

Do you think that corrupt rich politicians use stolen funds to delay trials?

The accused persons alleged to have corruptly en­riched themselves have so much money that to secure a conviction against them is not an easy task. They go for the best lawyers in the land; they hire these lawyers who are very intelligent and they implore all manner of technicalities to frustrate the prosecution of those cas­es. They do it in so many ways; at the arraignment, they might raise objections to the competent of the charges, issues of Prima facie case against the accused person or no nexus between the charges and the accused person to warrant him standing trial, issues of Jurisdiction and so on. Even if they are overrule at that stage, they might still go ahead to the other stage of making a no case sub­mission. For instance, if the person standing trial is accused of stealing public funds, they will say that the element that constitute theft were not established by the witnesses and then they make a no case submission. If all these facts are overruled, they go on Appeal and then bring motions to stay proceedings at the trial court. If the motion is granted, the matter will not go on until the issues raised at the Appeal are determined; and these issues taken to the Appeal takes a long time, they could sometimes last for 2, 3 to 4 years. They could even go to the Supreme Court because all the prosecution is inter­ested in is to frustrate the hearing and determination of the case. They don’t want the matter to be heard so they bring all manner of technicalities to frustrate the trail.

What do you think the judiciary should do to curb the trend?

The Judiciary too is very worried about this develop­ment. All the critical stakeholders in the administration of criminal justices are concern including even the Leg­islature. That is why the 7th National Assembly passed a law known as the administration of criminal Justice Act. The law has so many reforms aimed at reforming the administration of criminal justice act in the coun­try by curtailing all the areas that lead to delay. The new act seeks to abolish all these issues of interlocutory ap­plications, questioning of jurisdiction when an accused person is charged before the court. With this new act, if you raised an objection and you are overruled, you cannot go on appeal until after the determination of the case. The Judiciary itself has done a self soul searching by coming out with rules that will avoid all the unnec­essary delays. Judges according to the new Act cannot grant more than two adjournment so as not to encour­age lawyers seek unnecessary adjournment.

What is the role of the Anti graft agencies in ensuring a speedy trial?

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions , EFCC and all the other anti corruption agencies respon­sible for combating crimes need to do better by training their operators on how to carry out thorough investiga­tion so that by the time they investigate a case and it is brought to the court, they may have done a thorough investigation that can sustain a conviction in other to avoid seeking motions to amend and re-amend charges.

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