Lagos lawyer, Babatunde Fashanu (SAN), has thrown his weight behind the move by the Federal Government to establish special courts in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to try corruption cases.
Reacting to the development, Fashanu told journalists last week in Lagos that the move was welcome, addingthat it would help President Muhammadu Buhari in his anti-corruption fight.
He, however, advised that the government should select judges who are fearless and well associated with the judicial system by virtue of long law practice, noting that the following criteria be added to the screening process if not already.
He said: “It is heart-warming to learn that the anti corruption panel is planning with President Muhammadu Buhari to set up special anti corruption courts throughout the Federation and are screening judges for the courts.
“It is not surprising, however, to learn that many judges are failing the test. I humbly suggest as someone well associated with the judicial system by virtue of my long law practice that the following criteria be added to the screening process if not already:
“Judge must not be living beyond his means which can easily be checked against his salaries and entitlements and lifelong earnings, legacies benefits and investments along with that of his immediate family; avoid lazy Judges who find it difficult to sit in court promptly and are late in delivering judgments and rulings; Judge must be bold and fearless in his conduct of cases and delivery of judgments no matter whose ox is gored, however, not one sided and overbearing having regard to protective provisions as to fair hearing for the accused in the Nigerian Constitution and that a Judge should have some experience of handling criminal cases either on the bench or as counsel (for prosecution or defence) to ensure that he doesn’t have to start learning the practical aspects of criminal law and procedures in the special court which will open him to bamboozling by well oiled SANs or smart defence counsel”, he stated.
Fashanu also canvassed extra security arrangements for judges who will sit over such corruption cases.
“Having said that, extra arrangements should be made for the security of the judges and their families in terms of their safety and monetary convenience having regard to the potential danger and temptation they face trying very rich and powerful people.
“Arrangements must also be made to ensure that they are thoroughly independent of the executive arm of government by including provisions as to their safety, emoluments and security of tenure in the law setting up the courts, to draw their funds directly from a consolidated source”, Fashanu said.
He urged the anti-corruption committee to work on how to keep the judges in check without stepping on their space of independence adding: “it might be a tough one but I’m sure the committee is equal to the task having regard to its composition.”