CORRUPTION: NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT FINDS IT DIFFICULT TO SECURE CONVICTIONS

Why FG May Not Secure Conviction In Graft Cases – Judges

As the trial of some public and former public officers continue to drag in courts, some judges have revealed why the federal government will find it difficult to secure convictions in most of the cases . . .

Some of the judges that spoke to Daily Sun on the issue disclosed that unless some sections of the Constitution and the Evidence Act 2011 are amended, most of the cases will be dismissed without achieving conviction.

Speaking anonymously, the judges mentioned an aspect of Section 36 of the 1999 constitution (as amended), which has to do with “the presumption of innocence of an accused person” and Section 139 of the Evidence Act 2011, which places the burden of proof on the shoulders of the prosecution.

The section specifically provides that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law.”

A fundamental element of the right to a fair trial is that every person should be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty following a fair trial. This is why the responsibility falls on the state to prove guilt and to discharge the presumption of innocence.

Corruption

Due to the presumption of innocence, a person cannot be compelled to confess guilt or give evidence against him/herself. It is for the state to produce evidence of guilt, not for the defendant to prove innocence. In general, therefore, a suspect’s silence should not be used as evidence of guilt.

Because of the serious consequences of conviction, the state must prove guilt to a high standard. If doubt remains, the defendant must be given the benefit of the doubt and cleared because the state’s “burden of proof” has not been met.

Given the massive human impact of criminal proceedings on defendants, and the presumption of innocence, trials should take place without undue delay. It would be unfair to allow states numerous attempts to try to secure a conviction. If a case goes to trial and guilt is not proved, unless exceptional circumstances exist, the person should not be tried again. This requires the state to do the job of prosecution properly in the first instance..

The presumption of innocence is why, before conviction, any restrictions on a suspect’s basic rights, for example the right to liberty, should only be imposed where absolutely necessary. People awaiting trial have not been convicted of any offence and many will ultimately be cleared.

Speaking separately on the issue, the jurist identified these provisions of the law as well as shoddy investigation as constituting a stumbling block in the prosecution of criminal cases involving corruption.

“If the Executive arm of government is ready to successfully execute the fight against corruption, these two provisions must be amended, because as it stands, they constitute a stumbling block in the war against corruption.

“Beyond this, the investigation agencies must also carry out thorough investigation of cases before rushing to court so that they have water tight evidence before charging someone to court.

“If you confront somebody with hard facts, he will not have any defence but quietly resigned or beg for negotiations. But if you don’t gather your facts before confronting him, he will easily deny even if he or she had committed the alleged crime.

“In criminal trial, the standard is prove beyond reasonable doubts, anything to the contrary is for the advantage of the defendant. That is why investigation has to be thorough before charging someone to court.

The Sun

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© 2017 Legal Report

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