Justice Akanbi's verdict on corruption in the land - National Mirror

By The Citizen

Retired Justice Mustapha Akanbi's recent observation that government functionaries at all levels in Nigeria are corrupt did not come as a surprise. Speaking on corruption in the country at a public event in Ilorin, Kwara State about a fortnight ago, the former President of the Court of Appeal and later chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said: '…Does it mean all the governors in Nigeria are corruption-free; does it mean all the legislators are corruption-free; does it mean the judiciary is corruption free… We know that it (corruption) is happening. But people are not being arrested; no action is being taken and the end result is that people accept bribe with impunity now. At least if they had taken few people to court, we would have known that something is being done…the fight against corruption has gone down completely…'

Indeed, following his appointment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the pioneer chairman of ICPC in 2000 and the very poor performance of the anti-graft agency four years after it commenced operations, Akanbi had publicly questioned the essence of government setting up the ICPC and frustrating it by starving it of funds. By July 2005, for example, the ICPC arraigned 85 suspects in court, but only succeeded in securing two convictions.

Former President Obasanjo is yet another eminent person that has been vociferous in his condemnation of the outrageous level of corruption in the nation's public life. Not too long ago, he accused the National Assembly of being a gathering of looters and thieves. 'Apart from shrouding the remunerations of the National Assembly in opaqueness and without transparency, they indulge in extorting money from departments, contractors and ministries in two ways… Corruption in the National Assembly also includes what they call constituency projects; which they give to their agents to execute but invariably, full payment is made with little or no job done. In all this, if the executive is not absolutely above board, the offending members of the National Assembly resort to subtle or open threat, intimidation and blackmail. When the executive pay the huge money, normally in millions of dollars, all is quiet in form of whitewashed reports that fail to deal effectively with the issues investigated', the former president said. Even Professor Pat Utomi, who scarcely agrees with Obasanjo on any issue, in 2012, alleged being duped by a man who was then serving as a senator.

About June 2007, reports had it that the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua 'temporarily' halted the trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of most of the former governors who served between 1999 and 2007 indicted for looting their states' treasuries. Some of the governors, who fled the country, were asked to return home. A lot of them constitute the greatest nuisance to the nation's polity presently; while some are still calling the shots.

On the judiciary, the erosion of public confidence in the Bench, perhaps with a little difference during the era of retired Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and head of the National Judicial Council (NJC), said it all. Many judges were suspended for professional misconduct or had other forms of punishment meted out to them. Indeed, as at July last year, the Nigerian Bar Association implored the NJC to refer corrupt judges to the anti-graft agencies for prosecution. But early last December, the new CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said some senior lawyers were responsible for the increased level of corruption in the nation's judiciary, a verdict that vindicated former EFCC boss, Mrs. Farida Waziri's claim that some crooks among senior members of the Bar were in the habit of erecting legal technicalities to shield corrupt public officials facing trial from the wrath of the law.

Therefore, it is not as if the preeminence of the cankerworm has not been acknowledged before now. But who among the high profiled but corrupt public official is being arrested? What action is being taken against the impunity and those that accept bribe to cover it up? How many of the big shots have been taken to court and what verdicts were returned? The deafening negatives these questions attract are some of the thorny issues that will stretch the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration to the limit for explanation, especially during this campaign period. Indeed, we agree with Justice Akanbi that there is a general lull in the fight against corruption. The fight appears to have receded irretrievably. And the fault may not strictly be that of the anti-graft agencies.