Saraki trial: When are we going to disrupt the judicial process?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

It is a language Nigerians are becoming very familiar with, the inability of prosecutors to “make a case” for their litigations sufficient to warrant a conviction. There are different variants of it; sometimes, it is “lack of merit’ or striking cases out on a “technicality”.

To the ordinary person, they virtually mean same. The Big Man Won.

Like many before him tried by other agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Senate President Bukola Saraki has been discharged and acquitted on a case of corruption. There was no pronouncement that he was un-corrupt; just the binding statement by the Trial Judge, Danladi Umar, that the evidence and arguments presented over the last 23 months have just not been good enough.

Besides the political costumes that may have played a role in this eventual outcome of Saraki’s trial, one must, in truth, acknowledge the sheer work that would be required to prove any case of corruption, especially against a man notably powerful as Saraki. Very connected and very influential, the mere sight of his agbada taking up the space in the dock, coupled with the presence of security details everywhere around the courtroom, give the entire process an undeniable level of a superiority complex.

The task of proving falsehood in an age where truth is at the mercy of technological manipulation presents the challenge of the adequacy of the trying bodies. Saraki, or any other big man, who is arraigned before a court of law, would have the savvy and resources to get the best possible team, combining the best brains with persons who binge on bits of code.

Professor Sagay, the lead in the Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption (PACAC) expressed shock at the fact that the Court’s judgment was that a prima facie case had not been made, despite the bulk of material submitted as proof. But has this not been the usual method of prosecuting corruption cases? Was there any approach substantially different in this case that in the other matters previous Governments have employed? There’s only so much you can do with old tricks in the new age.

Figuratively, making the case would require sizing up the content to be occupied in it. The composition and dynamics of this content must be specifically budgeted for in making this case. This may not sound illuminating for the ‘legal’ mind; the point here is innovation.

With the first case of the Buhari administration coming to a stumble – with the funds spent since September 2015 spent so far amounting to – nothing, the choice between going for an appeal, another big target or focusing on other matters will have to be made according to the perception of the people towards the result of this first endeavour. However, should the Government decide on the first two options, it just cannot afford to go about it the same way.

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