The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Muhammad, has said that one of the reasons for the delay in the discharge of justice in high-profile cases in the country is because the federal government files more charges than it can prove or provide witnesses for in court.
The CJN said this in a statement issued by his media aide, Isah Ahuraka. The statement was in reaction to the claim by Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, that the judiciary is to blame for delays in prosecuting high-profile cases.
Malami was a guest on Channels TV on Monday, February 7, where he said the federal government has employed measures to ensure speedy dispensation of cases, and that once a matter is brought before the court, it becomes a judiciary affair.
“As far as the present administration is concerned, delay of cases does not arise. If you are looking at it from the perspective of the legislative framework, we are enforcing provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), as in day-in-day-out prosecution of cases.
You cannot, by any stretch of imagination, place blame associated with the conclusion and determination of the case on the doorsteps of the executive. It is exclusively a judicial affair.
We have taken steps to provide the legislative framework. We have taken steps in due diligence of prosecution of cases, which as a result of multiple convictions within a span of a year, is a clear pointer that we have indeed promised and delivered.”he said
In a swift reaction, the CJN in the state faulted Malami’s position, describing it as “one-sided”.
“The judiciary by its constitutional position does not have criminal investigation unit or ‘fraud detective squad’ to detect and investigate criminal involvement of any person, neither does it have a garrison command to fight its cause or enforce its orders and decisions.
More often than not, the federal government’s prosecution sector files more charges than it can prove or provide witnesses to prove, ostensibly at times for the prosecution to even fail.”
He said the ACJA referred to by the minister “is infected with sores in some parts, making speeding adjudications improbable in some instances, in addition to high volume of cases, limited number of judges, poor infrastructure or archaic equipment”.
Muhammad added that Malami’s allegation that the judiciary has not been transparent in its budget spending is untrue.
“Although judiciary has refrained from joining issues all this while but to state the facts, in line with the budget call circular and ceiling the federal government sent to the judiciary before the commencement of the fiscal year, the judiciary prepares its budget estimates for capital, overhead cost and personnel cost according to the ceiling, needs and priority,” he said.
The judiciary defends its budget before the senate and the house of representatives committees on judiciary at the national assembly, besides the initial vetting by the executive.
The judiciary has an internal mechanism for budget control and implementation. Each court and judicial body has a budget unit, the account department, internal audit, due process unit, as well as departmental tenders board. There is also a due process committee at the NJC and the judicial tenders board that award contracts on expenditure above the approval limit of the accounting officers of the courts and judicial bodies.
These layers of control were established by the judiciary to ensure transparency, accountability and effective budget implementation. The type of transparency that the federal government has stressed.”the CJN said.