REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, SENATOR (DR) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, AT PUBLIC HEARING JOINTLY ORGANISED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY, HUMAN RIGHTS & LEGAL MATTERS, THE COMMITTEE ON ANTI-CORRUPTION & FINANCIAL CRIMES AND THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, ON 9TH FEBRUARY, 2017.
1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this public hearing jointly organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights & Legal Matters, the Committee on Anti-Corruption & Financial Crimes and the Committee on Foreign Affairs on two very significant Bills which are:-
• Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2016 (SB. 224); and
• Small Claims Courts (Establishment Bill, 2016(SB.44).
2. While it is generally admitted that as a nation our development and growth has stagnated as a result of the menace of corruption, it is also telling that the fight against corruption has been painstakingly cumbersome because of the inadequacies in some of our core anti-corruption laws. As a parliament, we fully understand our role in carrying the constitutional responsibilityand obligation of ensuring our laws are constantly reviewed and updated according to modern realities and exigencies.
3. It is also a known fact that crime is now established on an international scale and so therefore, there must be collaboration between various countries in the world in our quest to help reduce crime. The essence of The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill is to help facilitate and establish strong partnerships between Nigeria and foreign governments in combating criminal activities that transcend geographical borders and assume international dimensions, irrespective of whether they originate from Nigeria.
4. Distinguished Senators, ladies and gentlemen, I must thank the Executive for sponsoring this Bill. Fighting and extinguishing corrupt practices can only be successful where the appropriate framework exists. Too many times we have seen stalled cases and investigations because of legal technicalities and loopholes in existing laws.
This Bill is a positive step in bringing an end to the many setbacks we may have experienced and would go a long way in providing the legal framework to bring about clarity in gathering and transmission of evidence or any other information between Nigeria and foreign government agencies in investigations ofongoing criminal matters.
5. The Small Claims Court Establishment Bill is the Second Bill for deliberation. This Bill has the potential to address a very pertinent issue that has beleaguered the Judiciary for many years:incessant delays in adjudication of minor cases. Justice delayed is equivalent to justice denied and correcting this anomaly is at the very soul of the Small Claims Court Establishment Bill.
With the establishment of such courts, the burden on regular courts will be drastically reduced thereby creating a more efficient and effective adjudicative process across all cadres of courts in the country. As obtained in developed democracies like the USA where all States have small claims court, the rules that govern them emphasize informality and timely resolution of dispute.
6. Furthermore, it should be clearly emphasized that this Bill is one which targets the affairs of the working class citizenry. These are the people who cannot afford to waste their already limitedresources in long drawn out court cases. The National Assembly is very sensitive to the plight of every Nigerian and will continue to be forward thinking in ensuring that each, a single Naira can go a little further for our citizens.
7. I commend the Senate Joint Committee for the organization of this public hearing. With the calibre of legal juggernauts and concerned stakeholders present, I am very sure we have provided the right platform to make further inputs on the provisions of the proposed legislation.
8. In the light of the above, I sincerely thank you for coming and I wish you all a very fulfilling deliberation. I hereby declare today’s public hearing open.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE