President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced the process of identifying a few fearless and courageous judges who will be saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting persons who have been found to have stolen national resources, THE PUNCH has learnt.
Buhari had while granting audience to members of the National Peace Committee led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday disclosed that the prosecution of the indicted persons would commence in a matter of weeks.
“Those who have stolen the national wealth will be in court in a matter of weeks and Nigerians will know those who have short-changed them,” the President had told his guests.
Our correspondent however learnt on Sunday that the prosecution would not be open to “just any judge.”
It was learnt that the President was committed to ensuring that only judges who would expedite action on the cases and would be fearless in discharging their duties would be enlisted for the prosecution.
A source confided in our correspondent that that was one of the assignments Buhari gave to the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption which he set up on Monday.
The source said it would not be necessary to set up special courts to try corruption cases since efforts were already underway to identify judges that would key into the President’s dream of ensuring that no looter was left unpunished.
He said, “We do not need to entertain any fear that the prosecution of corruption-related cases will not be fast enough because many of our courts are already weighed down by many cases.
“The truth of the matter is that not all judges will be considered to take up the cases of those who have stolen our commonwealth.
“As a matter of fact, one of the assignments the President gave the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption led by Prof. Sagay is to identify fearless and courageous judges that will handle the cases.
“The idea is to ensure that the judges who will handle the cases will not be just any judges. They must be those who will expedite actions on the cases and discharge their duties with courage.
“You can see that with this development, the issue of special courts for corruption cases may not come. It is about special judges.”
Our correspondent also gathered that Buhari was already considering withdrawing national honours from any individual found to have looted the nation’s treasury.
It was learnt that the President’s position was that the nation should not be seen to be honouring any fruadulent person.
“The President will not hesitate to strip any corrupt person of national honour. Can you honour a person for milking the nation dry? It is irrelevant how long such persons have been bestowed with the national honours, they will be stripped of them,” the source said.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said it was reasonable that anybody found to be corrupt should be stripped of national honours.
Adesina however said such withdrawal of national honours would not be done until affected persons had been convicted by competent courts.
“Although it has not been considered, it is reasonable that those found guilty of corruption should be stripped of national honours bestowed on them. However, this will not be done before conviction,” the presidential spokesman said.
While announcing the establishment of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption on Monday, Adesina had said its brief was to advise the present administration on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.
He said the committee was also saddled with the responsibility of developing comprehensive interventions for achieving the recommended reforms.