Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Stakeholders deplore slow pace of anti-corruption cases, blame judiciary

Razaq Bamidele

When the invited stakeholders thronged the venue of a discussion in Ikeja, Lagos, on Thursday, December 9, on why the fight against corruption was not achieving much success since 2015, agony, sadness and disbelief were written all over their faces, signifying that things are not well with the country about the monster on which huge resources are being expended.

The occasion was the public presentation of the 5th edition of the ‘Compendium of 100 high profile corruption cases in Nigeria,’ by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resources Centre), under its Executive Chairman, Comrade Olanrewaju Suraju, supported by Mac Arthur Foundation.

It was attended by erudite scholars, legal luminaries, veteran journalists, die-hard pro-democracy groups and human right activists.

The participants, both physical and virtual were the Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Sadiq Isah Radda, Director, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Comrade Debo Adeniran, former National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Muiz Banire (SAN) and another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Rotimi Jacob,  MrRotimi Jacob (SAN), Mr Femi Falana (SAN), Mr Olumide Fusika (SAN),, and HEDA’s Legal Officer, Barrister David Ogungbesan among others.

Welcoming the guests to the event, HEDA Executive Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, in his opening remarks said the motivation for the compendium to be officially presented was derived in 2017 from the major concern for the deteriorating morality in the society with the assorted nauseating manifestations.

He lamented the attitude of the people that have made it a perpetual habit of celebrating those notorious for corruption and financial offences in the country such that those accused are not only revered and elevated by social and religious institutions, but societies also elect them into otherwise respectable offices.

According to him, the 2019 general election still saw the election of suspects in corruption and financial crimes elected as governors in some of the states, lamenting that obviously, “the proceeds of crimes are used by suspected politically exposed persons to purchase immunity from prosecution and delay trials to escape public attention and possible justice.”

Suraju expressed satisfaction with his organisation’s ability to research, document and publish the latest compendium in the face of threats and harassment, expressing the delight that his group got impressive and remarkable accolades for the unprecedented and bold move inherent in the publication.

Spearheading the discussion on the subject matter, Olumide Fusika,  SAN,  blamed the delay in justice delivery in cases of corruption partially on the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), saying the outfit is to be blamed for overwhelming itself and overwhelming the court.

He reminded that, the Commission should concentrate on its duties within its brief and should not usurp the power of the police.

While regretting that there was nothing to write home about the performance of the outfit, the learned legal practitioner said, other cog in the wheel of prompt justice delivery include nepotism, tribal sentiment, religious consideration and ‘man know man’ syndrome, asserting that the duty of EFCC is not political at all and should, therefore, be separated from politics.

The respected senior advocate, therefore, charged the Commission to go all out to pursue its object and be blind to sentiment, insisting that whoever wants to serve the nation should do so without minding whose ox is gored in the process even if it would involve capital sacrifice.

“Follow due process, pursue cases to logical conclusions, be neutral, be ready to save Nigeria and be ready to sacrifice your life in the process,” Fusika urged the EFCC, adding, “do what you are supposed to do without fear or favour because if you do it, you will die one day and if you don’t do it, you will die one day.”

The legal guru urged the EFCC to do what they are supposed to do so they can be remembered after they had passed on as some people who did what they were supposed to do while alive and in office.

In his opening remarks, the chairman on the occasion, who is the Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Sadiq Isah Radda, was of the belif that whille we are alive, we are supposed to do all the needful for posterity to judge us. He wondered anybody should be afraid of the ultimate and because of that refuse to do the right thing for the society to be better.

According to him, corruption is human problem created by human beings and should be addressed by human beings. He insisted that nobody would solve the problem for us except for ourselves by ourselves.

The academician was vehement in his belief that to eradicate corruption from the land, “we must get it right with the judiciary,” emphasising that without getting it right with the judiciary, there is no other way to curb corruption.”

Appearing visibly worried, he lamented that, “our senior lawyers are our major problem” and pointed out that raising the so-called ‘preliminary objection’ can delay an important case for ages, positing that nothing is right now and to get it right, the judiciary must be right.

He cited an instance when the immediate past President of America, Donald Trump, wanted to scatter the whole country, it was the judiciary that said no and the country moved on.

“To kill corruption in Nigeria, everybody must take responsibility and get involved because the fight is not the sole responsibility of the anti-corruption agencies alone,” he asserted.

He regretted that despite the efforts put in the fight, “Nigeria has done very little, meaning we have achieved but there is more to be done,” urging the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to rise up strongly to assist in the fight against corruption because their ability to make a great difference has never been in doubt.

Since the judiciary is slow in justice delivery, Professor Radda disclosed that the anti-corruption agencies are now going after properties of suspected corrupt Nigerians.

“When your property is confiscated, the onus would be on you to convince the agency beyond a reasonable doubt, how you acquired such properties with your meagre annual income.”

The erudite professor, therefore, tasked all Nigerians across the board from individuals, all tiers of the government, National and State Assemblies not to relent in the war against graft, urging them to do the right things and be courageous till the monster is uprooted from the country.

Dr. Muiz Banire harped on fair hearing, even if the judgement is to be accelerated. He added humorously that the issue of fair hearing is the oldest in law because it started from God during the crisis of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

According to him the Almighty God, who knew what happened as Omnipresent and omniscient still asked the duo to explain what happened to them.

Ngozi Iwere of the Country Life Project said the importance of the Civil Society Organisations can never be emphasised. She submitted that “they are pivotal to the growth of any country,” asserting that they have a role to play in filling the gap for peace and stability to reign supreme in any society.”

To fast-track judgement, the discussants also called for witnesses’ protection and transport fares to clear logistic bottleneck