Hon. Justice Agwadza William Atedze of the Code of Conduct Tribunal has queried the use of public funds to buy vehicles for politicians, and counselled Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project to research the issues “to see how best we can reconcile our social and cultural values viz-a-viz the entire war against corruption and advise our policymakers accordingly.”
Justice Atedze said this on Thursday at the launch of SERAP’s latest report titled: “Combating Grand Corruption and Immunity in Nigeria: An Agenda for Institutional Reforms in Anti-Corruption Strategies.”
The report is published under a project to promote justice sector and anti-corruption oversight mechanism reform, which SERAP is undertaking in collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy, USA.
Apart from Justice Atedze, who represented the Chairman of the CCT, Hon. Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, at the report launch, other anti-corruption agencies that attended the event were the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and Code of Conduct Bureau.
Dauda Joki-Lasisi, Head of Procurement and Fraud Section of the EFCC, who represented the agency at the report launch, said: “The fight against corruption can be likened to an allegory of a giant in the midst of ants, as little as an ant is, it may not be able to wear the trouser of a giant, but will remove it.”
The Head of ICPC Lagos Office Olufemi Nofiu; and T. Collins, who represented the Chairman of the CCB, Sam Saba, echoed similar sentiments, promising to “do anything and everything within their powers to curb corruption in the country in its entirety”.
All the anti-graft agencies renewed their commitment to work even harder to end the problem of grand corruption in the country, and end its devastating consequences.
The Chairman of the report launch, Barrister Babatunde Ogala, said: “Corruption is simply a way of life for us all, it is deep, when you steal as a religious institution, you are as corrupt as any Nigerian. In my opinion, corruption is both cultural and religious, corruption is as big as this country, the way of curbing it is by changing our national orientation.”
Barrister Ogala, who was former Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Judiciary, also said: “The EFCC ought to have offices even at the local government level. The society itself encourages and invests in corruption. As a legislator, I was constantly measured by what I did for individuals and not by the amount of law making I engaged in.”
The report contains several recommendations among which is the call to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen, to “ensure that all judges fully utilise the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in the hearing of grand corruption cases before them”.
Among other key recommendations, the report urges Justice Onnoghen to “ensure that judges, in situations where the ACJA rules apply, are made to follow the dictates of these innovative statutory interventions or face disciplinary action, and to incorporate into ongoing judicial trainings these crucial statutes and procedures as well as include the ACJA as part of the mandatory continuing legal education for all judges in Nigeria.”
The report also recommends that “The Chief Justice and all other judges should also periodically disclose and publish their assets. The Chief Justice should promote full independence for the National Judicial Council including by allowing retired judges of proven integrity to lead the council.”
The Executive summary of the report reads in part: “Corruption is a threat to democracy. It erodes confidence in and respect for democratic institutions and emerges as an obstacle to social, economic and human development. The fight against corruption is therefore crucial to achieve economic development and stability.
“Anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria generally have not met widespread expectations mainly because of lack of political will of those in government to fight grand corruption; absence of an over-all national anti-graft strategy; inadequate legal framework and resources and/or lack of full and effective implementation of new initiatives; limited independence and public trust; lack of an enabling climate and necessary know-how, and lack of basic ethical values.
“Anti-graft agencies should seek stiffer penalties for convicted corrupt officials and minimise the use of plea bargaining, to serve as deterrence; and the judiciary at all levels should assume leadership in this regard.
“The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo should instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN to urgently ensure the full and effective implementation and enforcement of the Practice Directions on Serious Crimes, 2013, and the ACJA Act 2015 in all courts and tribunals handling cases of grand corruption to ensure that stalling of prosecution by defence lawyers becomes history.
“The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo should reform the anti-graft agencies in Nigeria with a view to granting them independence, freedom of action and adequate resources, so that they can carry out their mandates effectively.
“The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo should instruct anti-corruption agencies to urgently publish reports of their investigations into the allegations of budget padding by the leadership of the National Assembly and to prosecute anyone suspected to be involved in grand corruption. President Buhari and Acting President Osinbajo should also ensure adequate protection for the Whistle-blower Abdulmumin Jibrin.
“The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo should prioritise and give sufficient political and operational attention to the coordination of anti-corruption efforts, with coordination issues considered from the design stage of anti-corruption policy making, as many coordination efforts in the operations of anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria have failed because of their original design flaws.
“The EFCC and ICPC should urgently come up with strategies for prioritising corruption cases within states and local government levels. Corruption should not only be fought at the Federal level but also at the state and local government levels.
“The EFCC and ICPC should intensify processes to investigate and effectively prosecute state officials involved in diverting bailout funds meant for payment of salaries and pensions but which the ICPC has disclosed have been diverted. The ICPC should publish the bailout report and name and shame all of those suspected to be involved.”