Nigerian Judges Have A Lot To Learn From Military Courts – Falana

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Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), on Monday said civilian courts in Nigeria have a lot to learn from military courts in the area of speedy dispensation of justice.

Falana who appeared as a guest on Channels Television programme ‘Sunrise Daily’ was reacting to the conviction of Major-General Umaru Mohammed, a former Group Managing Director of Nigerian Army Properties Limited, NAPL, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by the Nigerian Army Special Court Martial.

The court also ordered the convicted senior officer to refund $2.17 million dollars and N1.06 billion, being amount of monies he stole, back to the company’s coffers.

According to Falana, the senior military officer wouldn’t have been convicted if the case was brought to a regular court as his lawyers will seek for frivolous adjournment and even request for bail so he could travel abroad for medical treatment.

” What has happened is a lesson for our courts, our lawyers and our judges. When you are charged before a military court, the lawyers and the defendants are not allowed to engage in dilatory tactics. For instance, no application for bail, no interlocutory appeals or stay of proceedings and so on”.

“Once the panel is constituted, it’s almost day by day. To have an adjournment, the reason must be very strong and convincing. For me, I think it is a very good development that you have this type of judicial system that works vis a vis the regular courts that have been hijacked by lawyers when it comes to trial for corruption, money laundering and criminal offences”.

“Today, accused person go to court to ask for permission to travel abroad for their businesses, granting bail is automatic no matter the gravity of the offence or the amount involved. It is only the poor whose cases are speedily conducted in the magistrate and area courts. But for those who can hire the services of highly placed lawyers, they walk to the court leisurely to subject your case to unending adjournment and because the courts are busy, you get away with it”.

Falana said there are cases that were filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the regular courts as far back as 2007 that are yet to be concluded owing to adjournment and other technicalities.

“I know cases filed by the ICPC in the year 2001; I know cases filed by the EFCC in the year 2007 that are still pending in our courts. This shouldn’t be so”.

“This doesn’t happen in military courts. They have assembled the judges from different military formations. They have to go back to their beats. So, you cannot go there and be asking for adjournment on flimsy grounds”.

“For instance, the General who was jailed said he was indisposed. He was brought in a wheelchai. The authorities tried to confirm whether truly he was fit and they said he was fit to stand trial and of course, he was tried. But in the regular courts, the man who is a ‘big man’ will even say he wants to go abroad for medical treatment and he will be allowed. It is only the poor that do not have such opportunities”.

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