Kehinde Kolawole Eleja is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria practising in Ilorin, Kwara State capital. His contributions to legal matters have carved a unique fort for him in the profession. In this interview, he shares with KAYODE ADEOTI his positions over the proposed special court for corruption related offences in the country among other germane issues. Excerpts:
Would you subscribe to the establishment of special courts to try corruption related cases?
There have been arguments both for and against on the issue of special court to try fraud related and corruption cases and maybe some other special crimes like terrorism, kidnapping and the rest. But, I think the correct approach to this is for us to have designated judges that will be saddled with the responsibility of attending to these categories of cases. By asking for special court, there will be duplicity of court duties. The ones we already have are not well funded; we have shortage of court rooms, facilities and infrastructures for the court to operate at optimal level. If eventually, we create special courts, we may still be having same problems we are having now. I will rather suggest that we should approach some of the judges in the courts we are have now and assign them to handle these special cases. In many state High Courts in the country today, the workload is still not as expected, if those judges there are not fully utilised, the idea of special court would not be significant. Like the CJN said, we should make do of special judges assigned from existing courts to handle corruption related cases. We shouldn’t forget that court is just one in the delay of justice, there are many other issues like slow pace of investigation and inability to do thorough investigations of cases, even if we have large number of courts and cases are not properly investigated or completed in good time, we will still be faced with the same problem. The Federal Government should increase funding in addition to improving welfare of the judges; our court should be upgraded to meet the 21st century standard in terms of provision of recordings aides and power supply, among others. This will make courts perform optimally.
Do you think credence given to the advocacy against hate speech deserves it, even now that government itself is been accused of being liable.
We should concentrate more on the message not the messenger. Hate speech globally has done great harm to humanity. Going by what happened in Rwanda and several other countries where we have experienced civil wars, we discovered that hate speech has contributed a great deal in instigating the crisis. I will want to welcome the development of making a law that will regularise it. We should concentrate effort on what eventually will be the content of the law, because now, it is speculative on what law is or will be as far as hate speeches are concerned. It is a good idea and we expect the legislature to start something in that regards and Nigerians too should make their own input.
What do you want to make out of Prof. Sagay’s position that Senate should rather apologise to him over issues that has brought face off between them in the past?
The professor is an elder in every respect and as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he is a senior member of the inner bar and biologically he is qualified to be called a statesman. Unfortunately, some of his pronouncements have brought about confusion. I’m not comfortable when he talks most times on national issues, especially on those ones relating to corruption because he always takes things too far. This is a democratic society where people are at liberty to express their views on any matter, it will therefore not polite for somebody to believe that it is only his opinion that is right at all times, whatever was the driving force, some measures of caution ought to be exercised by the SAN.
Going by the recent agitations against the presidency’s insistence over the choice of Magu as EFCC boss, it shows that Nigerians haven’t forgotten the issue, for how long can he remain in acting capacity?
I’m aware that there is litigation in court now in which the Federal Government is seeking judicial interpretation of extent and scope and the power of the National Assembly, especially the Senate, regarding the screening and confirmation of persons to be appointed chairman of EFCC. For now, I think, both parties should just keep their gun powder dry until court makes definite pronouncement on the matter. If the case had not been in court, somebody in acting capacity, is not expected to be in perpetuity. It’s supposed to be for a very reasonable period of time after which the needful ought to be done.
In the fight against corruption of the present government, what will you fault, what will you commend?
On the positive side, there is more awareness, people are getting careful about their deeds, and going by what they recovered, lots of benefits have been accrued to the country. On the other hand, this idea of media trial is something very condemnable. The constitution is very clear that whoever commits an offence; he is assumed innocent until court proved such a person otherwise, but this appears not to be the situation with EFCC and some other agencies. EFCC should always be able to come out and tell us how far they have gone in terms of recovery they have made. The fight should also be fought within the principle of the rule of law. The EFCC doesn’t have the power to pronounce anybody guilty except the court. Corruption is a global thing; we should look for ways of tackling it without unnecessarily damaging the image of the country.