Friday, October 30, 2015

The Many Dangers of “Tarry Awhile” Stay of Criminal Proceedings in a Democratic Republic

I write this piece as a criminal defense attorney with more than 20 years criminal trial experience in 2 continents, Africa and North America. I am also writing out of my desire to see the development of criminal judicature that can stand the test of time in a developing country like Nigeria. It is my hope that the Chief Justice of Nigeria will take another look at the recent decision by Justice Fabiyi in the Saraki v CCT case with a view of righting the procedural wrong and the inevitable floodgates it opens soon after we join other commonwealth countries in outlawing mindless interlocutory  stay of proceedings in criminal trials.
Very few common law countries permit a criminal defendant to scuttle their criminal trials through a labyrinth of jejune and inconsequential interlocutory appeals as we used to have before the ACJA 2015. The gains we made with the combined provisions of Sections 306 & 396 (2) of that Act is effectively lost through the “tarry awhile” decisions of the highest court in the land. The decision becomes more baffling when the court refused to set an exact date for review of its decisions. What is more, the Supreme Court justice who read the lead judgment effectively retires in 2 weeks.
The ludicrous excuse that lead prosecuting attorney acquiesce in the order is “non sequitor”. What was he supposed to do? A curious reading of the entire proceedings clearly shows that the court has made up its mind to grant the wishes of the rich senior advocate representing the very rich senate president.
This is one moment where I sorely miss the activism of the late Alao Aka-Bashorun era as NBA president. What if every criminal defense attorney in Nigeria sought a stay of proceedings in each and every pending cases where they are challenging the jurisdiction of the court? Or is that right only available to senior advocate of Nigeria an afluent senate president.
What is more baffling is how some severely compromised legal practitioners in Nigeria are criticizing the well informed opinion of the Femi Falana SAN and Professor Itse Sagay. It got so ludicrous that one of them went as far as minimizing the “raison detre” for the existence of the Code of Conduct Tribunal. They say it was a vehicle to punish politicians for mistakes made in completion of forms! And yet these are people that want us to take our laws seriously. If the CCT is not important why do we go as far as enshrining it in our constitution?

One thing is certain we now know the senior advocate of the Nigerian masses and those who are SANs for filthy lucre. The latter are the reasons why we may never be able to conquer the hydra headed monster of corruption in our land. They are gunslinger for hire. They never do any “probono” work to help the poor in our courts but they are always available to help launder politician’s ill gotten wealth through huge legal bills. They will always win in court and when we call them out on their shenanigans we will be accused of slandering the integrity of the courts. They may have won but we have hope on our side.

No comments: