MAKE PUBLIC YOUR ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENDA, JONATHAN TASKED
President Goodluck Jonathan has been challenged to make public his anti-corruption agenda, so that his commitment to the anti-graft war can be assessed. The Human rights Watch (HRW) gave the challenge in its report on the state of corruption issued in Lagos yesterday.
The report reads in part: 'The President should publicly state his commitment to break with the bad practices of past administrations in dealing with corruption, including Executive branch interference with the EFCC's operations; sponsor specific legislation to improve the independence of the EFCC; begin the long-term process of repairing and reinforcing Nigeria's battered Federal Court system and take specific steps to improve the work of the ICPC and CCB.
'Corruption is at the heart of many of Nigeria 's most serious human rights problems and Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called upon the Nigerian government to do more to fight corruption and bolster the capacity and independence of key anti-corruption institutions.' 'In a purely structural sense, the EFCC is deeply vulnerable to the whims of the presidency. The commission's chairman enjoys no security of tenure and can be removed by the President at will without any form of consultation or approval from the National Assembly.
'And the political pressures brought to bear on the EFCC have at times been enormous.
'At a fundamental level, Nigeria 's political system continues to reward rather than punish corruption.
'When ruling party chieftain Olabode George emerged from prison in 2011 after serving a two -and-a half year sentence following a landmark EFCC prosecution, he was treated to a rapturous welcome by members of Nigeria's political elite including former President Obasanjo and then-Defence Minister, Adetokunbo Kayode.
'The message was unmistakable-proven that criminality is no bar to the highest echelons of politics in Nigeria.'
The group blamed Judiciary for delaying the trial of nationally prominent political figures.
'The courts can also be an obstacle to accountability. Most of the EFCC cases against nationally prominent political figures have been stalled in the courts for years without the trials even commencing. Nigeria 's weak and overburdened judiciary offers seemingly endless opportunities for skilled defence lawyers to secure interminable and sometimes frivolous delays.
'These delays are not all inevitable. Section 40 of the EFCC Act purports to foster speedier trials in EFCC cases by barring judges from stopping trials to wait for appeals to be decided. 'In theory, this provision is one of the most potent procedural weapons the EFCC has at its disposal. But the EFCC officials say that many judges have simply refused to adhere to Section 40, viewing their wide discretion to decide such matters as a constitutional guarantee that cannot be curtailed by legislation.'
On the performance of the EFCC, the HRW said the performance of the current Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri was comparable to her predecessor.'Most analysis has focused on the commission's two different leaders. Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC's first head, built the institution into what it is. The media-savvy and dynamic Ribadu regularly and publicly declared war on corrupt politicians. But his legacy was tarnished by evidence that his anti-corruption agenda was selective, dictated at least in part by the political whims of then-President, Olusegun Obasanjo.