Sagay: Judgments in Corruption Cases against Judges Show There’s Espirit de Corps

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Akinwale Akntunde
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itself Sagay (SAN), has said the outcome of corruption trials against some judges clearly showed that there is es spirit de corps among the judges.

He disclosed this yesterday at a symposium organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch Human Rights Committee in collaboration with The Jury Justice and Rectitude Advocacy Initiative.

The theme of the event was: ‘Salvaging Nigeria’s Criminal Justice System: The Jury Option’
In his opening remarks as chairman of the event, Sagay said he came to this conclusion after coming out of the shock that enveloped him following judgments of the courts on corruption charges against some judges.

“After my recovery from the shock, it dawned on me that legal knowledge could make judges prone to legal technicalities, creating a barrier between technical law and justice,” he noted.
The Professor of Law however suggested the re-introduction of the jury trial system as a better way to fight corruption in the country.

He noted that in recent years, a lot of evidence has established that some judges cannot be relied upon to uphold the integrity of the judicial system.
According to him, the usual excuses for huge deposits in judges’ account are marriage of judges daughters, death of judges relations like father, mother, auntie, uncle among others.

Sagay said he supported the abolition of the jury system in 1976 by the military because he believed that laymen could easily be influenced or subjected to other people’s interest and instructions and that a judge, more likely would uphold the integrity of the judicial system among other reasons.

Citing the judgment in case of a judicial officer charged with corruption, he said judgment in the matter showed that there is es spirit de corps among the judges.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, gave a detailed explanation of the jury trial system and how it operates in some countries around the world, suggested that it should first be introduced in relation to capital offences in selected economically viable states.

Osipitan also suggested introduction of special bar and special bench for the system to work in the country.
According to him, the jury trial system can only be effective in a country with a mostly efficient and up to date data of its citizens.

“Foremost, Nigeria must first update its database system. The National Identity Card database and INEC database might be very helpful if the decision is to introduce jury trial in criminal cases,” he stressed.
Magu who was represented by Seidu Atteh, said the commission would accept any trial system that would assist it in fighting corruption cases successfully.

Earlier in her welcome address, the chairman of human rights committee of NBA Ikeja, Mrs. Carol Ibharuneafe, said the theme of the symposium was  necessitated by the fact that society has not been aware of the inadequacy  of the criminal justice system.
Ibharuneafe pointed out that with high profile cases amongst public officers, the lapses in the law has been exposed and necessitated review to make it work for our society.

Although there have been suggestions from various stakeholders, she said  the facts remain that whether special or more courts, they will still be presided by only one person, the judge.
“Given the high propensity of some of our judicial officers to be compromised, those suggestion may achieve little or nothing, hence jury option,” she said.