OKAYS SPECIAL ANTI-CORRUPTION COURTS
The National Conference sitting in Abuja has resolved that henceforth attorney generals at both the state and federal level should serve a single term of six years as against the present practice of unfixed tenure.
Such an appointment would be by the President and confirmed by the Senate in the case of the Attorney General of the Federation; while the state governor would make the appointment subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly in the case of states.
It was also resolved on Tuesday that such an appointee who must be someone of unquestionable integrity must have qualified as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and must have been so qualified for a period not less than 15 years.
Conference said any appointee to the office of AGF shall be removed from office by the President acting on a two-third majority vote of the Senate for failure to discharge the functions of his office whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause or for misconduct.
It was equally agreed that the Offices of the Attorney General of the Federation and the states, be separated from that of the Minister and Commissioner for Justice.
The conference also resolved that the concept of plea bargain be completely abolished. This will enable criminal and corruption cases to run their full course in contrast to the present situation where people accused of corruption are set free after parting with a fraction of their looted public funds.
These were parts of the resolutions adopted by the Conference on Monday when it considered recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee on Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reforms headed by retired Justice George A. Oguntade and Professor Auwalu Yadudu who served as deputy chairman.
Delegates to the Conference who decided unanimously on these said the resolutions if well implemented, would offer the needed solutions to the teething thematic problems experienced in the Nigerian Legal System.
Conference also agreed that every state of the federation should have a State Court of Appeal that would serve as a terminal court for states on state matters except in cases of weighty constitutional issues, civil, liberties and matters of overriding public interest with the leave of the Supreme Court.
When established, the headship of the State Judiciary would immediately shift from the Chief Judge of the State to the President of the State Court of Appeal, according to the Conference.
The Federal Government is expected to, through the Consolidated Revenue Fund, provide the take-off grant for the establishment of the State Court of Appeal while Section 121 of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to make non-release of funds to the Judiciary a gross misconduct.
Establishment of special courts, for instance anti-corruption courts to handle cases involving corrupt practices was approved by the Conference.
It said such courts would be devoid of the niceties and technicalities of the conventional courts such as preliminary objections, injunctions, interlocutory matters, among others.
Such courts when established would be have full powers of the high courts and are to be manned by retired high court judges of proven integrity.
It was also resolved that henceforth, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, shall, on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, be appointed to head the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
Conference asked for the amendment of the Section 291(3)(a) of the 1999 Constitution to read: “Any person who has held office as judicial officer of Superior Court of Record for a period of not less than 10 years shall, if he retires at or after the age of 70 years, be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to salaries and all allowances of serving judicial officers of equivalent rank.”
It said the system that requires judges to turn in a certain number of cases or judgments quarterly without regard to the quality of the judgments should be discouraged while the working conditions of judges should be improved.
Delegates agreed that appeals from the National Industrial Court should terminate at the Federal Court of Appeal except for matters of weighty constitutional significance, civil liberties, and matters of overriding public interest with the leave of the court.
While recommending building of more prisons across the country, Conference voted against the removal of Prisons from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; against the advice of the Committee.
It was also resolved that convicted pregnant women or nursing should be allowed to deliver and nurse their babies for two years before serving their sentences in prison.
In addition, no awaiting trial prisoner shall be detained for longer than the period he or she would have served if convicted of the crime he is charged with.
Cases of extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses are to be dispensed with within 12 months; according a decision adopted by the Conference.
Conference also asked for a provision for the conclusion of cases commenced before a judge before transfer of such a judge to prevent such matters starting all over again except in cases of death or retirement of such a judge.