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No court has power to stay criminal trials again – Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has validated the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and section 40 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, both of which prohibit courts from granting an order of stay of proceedings in an ongoing criminal trial.

A five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammed, unanimously held in its ruling delivered on Friday that by virtue of the provisions of both laws, no Nigerian court including the Supreme Court, had the power to stay proceedings in a criminal case.

Some senior lawyers, particularly those defending high profile accused persons, often argue that the provisions of section 306 of ACJA and section 40 of the EFCC Act prohibiting courts from staying proceedings in a criminal trial contravened the constitutional right to appeal of persons charged with an offence.

But Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, in her lead ruling of the apex court delivered on Friday, held that the provisions of both laws were in agreement with section 36(4) of the Constitution which provided that any person charged with a criminal offence “shall be…entitled to fair hearing in public within a reasonable time.”

“It is only logical to interpret the spirit of the foregoing constitutional provision to translate that, where the grant of an application for stay will unnecessarily delay and prolong the proceedings, it will not be granted,” Justice Ogunbiyi held.

According to her, it is the application for stay of proceedings in a criminal case that “violently” violates the Constitution as well as the provisions of ACJA and the EFCC Act, while the two statutes are in agreement with the Constitution.

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