A former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, has warned against the practice of engaging private legal practitioners in the prosecution of corruption-related cases by the federal government.
Salami said that whereas lawyers from the government chambers show more commitment because of their career and other factors, private lawyers are more concerned about the legal fees.
He spoke at a seminar organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in conjunction with Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS).
The former Court of Appeal President, who noted that when it is inevitable for government to engage private lawyers in such cases, the government should ensure that the lawyer is not from the same state or region as the defendant to avoid compromise.
“The practice of appointing private practitioners to handle corruption-related cases should be discouraged as the standard of proof in civil matters is on the ‘balance of probability’ while in criminal cases, the standard is ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’.
“The Supreme Court recently held that at trial, where evidence is readily available but not called, a prima facie case would not have been made out against the accused.
“Consequently, the Attorney General of the Federation should be meticulous in the selection of prosecuting lawyers and only professionals who have garnered experience over the years with specialty in criminal litigation should be assigned corruption related cases,” he said.
Speaking further, Salami recommended that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) through its Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) should be “exclusively saddled with the responsibility of handling corruption related cases as they have their careers at stake as against appointing private practitioners who have nothing to lose and whose interest is simply the earning of their fees”.
“However, where it becomes inevitable to appoint private practitioners to prosecute serving and past public office holders, particularly governors, the prosecutor retained to handle the case should not come from the same state as the accused,” he said.
Salami further advocated the removal of the office of the DPP from under the AGF and guarantee the security of their tenure if the war on corruption must produce result.