Defense lawyers are the reasons why criminal cases suffer frustrating delays in most courts in the country.
Nasarawa State attorney-general and commissioner for justice Barrister Labaran Shuiabu Magaji, stated this when he hosted the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nasarawa State chapter in his office in Lafia yesterday.
Magaji said the delay in dispensation of cases is a disturbing issue in Nigeria’s criminal justice system which forces suspects to spend years in correctional centres even before judgement is passed.
He said such delays were from the side of defense lawyers who would come up with unwarranted motions to stall proceedings.
“Defense counsels will almost every day bring motions for bails or to quash the charges. Sometimes they will say the judge is biased and apply to transfer the case to another judge. All these procedures resulted in the delays we experienced in our criminal justice system,” he explained.
He gave an example of the case involving the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, which has been pending in court for many years.
Kanu who has been fighting to restore the defunct separatist state of Biafra since 2014, was arrested on treason charges in Lagos, on 14 October 2015.
On 28 April 2017, Kanu was released from prison on bail but fled abroad. In June 2021, he was re-arrested by Interpol and handed over to the Nigeria government, and the case has been in court since then.
Magaji said at some point, Kanu’s lawyer came up with an application asking the judge to disqualify him as a prosecutor in the case on the allegation that he (Magaji) is an official of the Department of the State Security Service (DSS).
“We had to take an adjournment to enable me come up with a counter affidavit which I attached to my identity card to prove to them that I’m not a DSS official,” he explained.
He said the move by Kanu’s counsel on the development further delayed the proceeding for a length of time.
He said defense lawyers caused such unnecessary delays through frivolous applications to fester their nests without recourse to what their clients are going through.
Magaji promised to ensure speedy trials of criminal cases to decongest the Correctional centres in the state.