The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), has said the defunct jury system in Nigeria is the solution to the alleged corruption among judges.
Sagay said this during a one-day roundtable with the theme, ‘Jury Trials in Nigeria and the Review of the Proposed Jury Service Bill,’organised by PACAC in collaboration with the Jury Justice and Rectitude Advocacy Institute (The Jury Movement) in Abuja on Thursday.
The PACAC chairman, who explained that jury system originated in England, stated that previously he did not think that Nigeria needed a jury system after it was abolished in Lagos in 1976.
Sagay explained that a judge should be a good arbiter of facts and applier of law.
Sagay however noted that a few events in the last five to six years had changed his mind.
He said, “I think the most outstanding one was a case in which the defendant before the court was a judge. The judge was accused of looting, I would say — taking bribes of all sorts and appeared before another judge.
“N30m was paid by a counsel appearing before the judge into the judge’s wife’s account when the case was on. That same counsel, a senior advocate, bought a brand new car for the son of the judge.
“We had expected that the judge, who is a defendant, would explain how he acquired all these properties and why counsel appearing before him should pay N30m into his wife’s account and buy the car for his son.
“Shockingly, the judge said the N30m was paid into the wife’s account and not into the judge’s account, so there could be no conspiracy established.
“As for car bought for the son, the judge said, well, it was bought for the son and not the judge.”
According to Sagay, the judge became the chief defence counsel in his judgment.
“That turned me round completely on this issue because it was clear that judges, as knowledgeable as they are, could no longer be relied upon to be impartial or objective when the interests of those in their class are concerned.
“It then occurred to me; the idea of choosing 12 independent people who, using a random type of method, have no connection to the matter and represent the ordinary men in society, will come to the court, listen to the argument.”
However, the reviewer of the Jury Service Bill, Mrs Olufemi Fatunde, argued against the adoption of the jury system.
Fatunde, who is also a former Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, cited ethnic bias and the high cost of housing, feeding and paying the allowances of jurors in an already financially challenged judicial sector, among other factors militating against the jury system in the country.