The presiding judge of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Justice Mohammed Garba has absolved the judiciary of blame in the parade of suspects by prosecutorial agencies.
Justice Garba said a court could not make a pronouncement on the legality or otherwise of media trials generally, if the matter was not brought before it.
He spoke on ‘Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015: Innovations, challenges and the way forward’ at the annual Seminar/Workshop of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents which held in Lagos on Thursday.
Co-guest speaker and Managing Editor Online and Special Publications, The Nation Newspapers, Lekan Otunfodunrin, discussed ‘Journalism in the 21st century: Opportunities and challenges.’
The event was chaired by Professor of Law Egerton Uvieghara, who was represented by Prof Joseph Abugu, while Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) was guest of honour.
Garba, who was represented by Appeal Court judge, Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu, noted that media trial is now widespread among prosecuting agencies.
He said: “Sadly, most of the agencies we have now who have both investigative and prosecutorial powers, like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in particular, engage so much in media trial.
“But, if they don’t blow their trumpet, nobody will blow it for them and it’s only when they blow their trumpet as to what they are doing that we’ll know that they are actually working.
“What can the judiciary do? The judiciary only works on what is brought before it. Unless there is a case that has been brought for judicial pronouncement, the judiciary will not make any pronouncement on whether it is wrong or not.
“So, the judiciary is not self-activating, the jurisdiction of a court is only invoked when such a matter comes for judicial pronouncement and untill such matter comes, the judiciary cannot do anything.”
Garba described the ACJA 2015 as commendable, adding that it contained at least 27 innovative provisions that could revolutionise justice administration.
The judge lamented that Nigeria appears to have the highest number of confessional statements used as basis of findings during police investigation.
He urged the police to do more investigation rather than waiting for a confessional statements to unravel a crime.
Otunfodunrin reminded journalists of the constantly changing nature of their profession.
He urged them to keep up with technological innovations to improve their skills or risk losing their livelihoods to new media practitioners.
Otufodunrin said: “New media has disrupted the traditional journalism which most of us were trained in and have been practicing for years, there is the need to be alert to new developments in our profession to avoid becoming a relic.
“Not only has new technology demystified our age-long claim to being Gate Keepers and turned us into purveyors of stale information, the economic recession is gradually strangulating our operations.
“In the sense that there are massive layoffs and poor or non-payment of salaries, sales of newspapers and advertising are also low with what most media houses generate not being enough to meet many other obligations apart from salaries.
“Instead of living in denial about our precarious circumstance or dismissing the threat of the new media, it is important that journalists get themselves well acquainted with the new trend with technology.
“There is an urgent need by all to take our destiny in our hands, especially for those of us who don’t know any other thing to do than journalism.”