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Itse Sagay Buhari's advisor says SANs frustrating corruption cases should be barred from courts

Sagay said lawyers, especially SANs have "turned obstruction and frustration of proceedings on high-profile corruption cases into an art."

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Prof. Itse Sagay play

Prof. Itse Sagay


As high-profile corruption cases become more and more difficult to crack, Itse Sagay, one of President Muhammadu Buhari's advisors says senior lawyers backing the 'crooks' should be tamed.

Sagay, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), advised that the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) in question should be barred from the court hearing of such cases.

He stated this at a media round-table held in Lagos on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

The programme was organised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

According to him, counsels, particularly SANs have "turned obstruction and frustration of proceedings on high-profile corruption cases into an art."

Sagay urged prosecuting counsels in high-profile corruption cases to always apply to reinstate any case struck out for want of prosecution.

He said, "In cases requiring appeal, the authorities must apply for leave to appeal out of time, and prepare evidence and legal arguments thoroughly, including by inviting consultants to advise.

"Prosecuting authorities must insist on full application of sections 306 and 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, namely: No stay of proceedings under any circumstances – S. 306. Any preliminary objection must be taken together with the substantive issue – S. 396(2), and hearings shall be on a daily basis, but in exceptional cases, adjournments not to be in excess of 14 working days, may be granted. Such adjournments not to exceed five in any proceedings – S. 396 (3) and (4).

"A high court judge who is elevated whilst presiding over a criminal case should be allowed to conclude the case without any effect on his new status.

"The heads of various courts in the country should be sensitised about the very critical nature of the fight against high-level official corruption to Nigeria’s development and the welfare of its peoples.

"Pending the establishment of a special crimes court for the whole country, criminal divisions should be created in the federal and state high courts. Specially vetted and selected judges, known for integrity and self-discipline should be posted to man such courts.

"All suspected proceeds of crime should be placed under temporary forfeiture during the trial of a high-profile person. Prosecuting authorities should resort to non-conviction based asset forfeiture, where proof beyond reasonable doubt is difficult to achieve because of technicalities."

ALSO READ: Sagay slams Senate for threatening Presidency

Also speaking at the event, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said it will take collective efforts to achieve success in the anti-corruption war.

"I admire what SERAP is doing. It is not Buhari's work to fight corruption alone, it is all our fight. It is corruption that is fuelling this agitation by the different groups," Malami, who was representative by Okoi Obolo-Obla, said.

In his comment, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), clarified that the agency's work does not conflict with that of the Ministry of Justice.

"We are cooperating with them. We have a wide range of corruption cases in concert with state agencies. The attorney-general office has the right to initiate new high-profile corruption cases and investigate it themselves without waiting for cases initiated by the EFCC," the EFCC boss said.

Meanwhile, the fate of Magu regarding his confirmation as the substantive chairman of the Commission will be determined by the Supreme Court.

The Presidency took the case to the apex court after the Senate on two occasions rejected Magu based on a report by the Department of State Service (DSS) which declared the man unfit for the job.

But many believe the Senate is witch-hunting Magu because of the corruption cases initiated by the EFCC against some of the lawmakers.

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