The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad on Tuesday has fired back at Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, over his claim that the judiciary is to blame for delays in prosecuting high-profile cases.
Malami, while appearing on Channels TV’s ‘Politics Today’ on Monday, had said the Judiciary, not the Executive arm of government, is responsible for delayed criminal justice administration in the country.
The AGF had cited the case of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, whose trial at the Federal Capital Territory High Court over alleged abuse of office has suffered delay.
“You cannot by any stretch of the imagination, place blame associated with the conclusion and determination of the case on the doorsteps of the executive (arm of government). It is exclusively a judicial affair,” Malami had said.
But responding on Tuesday, CJN Tanko faulted the AGF’s claim and went ahead to accuse the prosecuting arm of the Executive of pursuing cases it knows it cannot win in court.
The CNJ’s response is contained in a statement issued by his senior special assistant on media, Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, reports Channels TV.
“The judiciary by its connotational provision does not have a criminal investigative 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,” said Tanko.
The CJN further responded to Malami’s statement that despite provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015), corrupt persons who are highly placed have not been successfully prosecuted.
He said, “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) under reference 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.”
The CJN added that “…when the political and economic conditions under which it (the Judiciary) is operating is compared with its counterparts in other climes, it would be adjudged a prized model.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Similarly, by virtue of Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly carries out oversight visits to the Judiciary to monitor the implementation of its budget.
“Section 88(2)(b) also mandates the National Assembly to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
“The Executive also put in place some mechanism to monitor budget implementation and accountability in the Judiciary through its organs like the office of Accountant General of the Federation and Auditor General of the Federation and other agencies where the need arises.
“Apart from the internal audit units of the Judiciary, the Federal Audit Department maintains offices in all the courts and judicial bodies that monitor spending in the Judiciary.
“If the Federal Audit raises a query on any transaction and it is not well defended, it sends such to the Public Account Committees of the National Assembly. Officials of the Judiciary would be invited to explain themselves.
“The question to ask is who else should the Judiciary open its account books to, and who among these organs had raised exceptions which were not defended by the Third Arm? The answer is none.
“One only hopes that these allegations against the judiciary by the Federal Government is not just a way of giving a dog a bad name so as to then hang it,” he said.