Sagay, Ezekwesili, Aribisala Differ On Buhari’s Anti-graft War


SAN FRANCISCO, April 01, (THEWILL) – A discourse on the war against corruption being waged by President Muhammadu Buhari caused a serious disagreement among legal experts and pundits who gathered at a round table with the theme: ‘Winning the War Against Corruption’ organized by the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law of the University of Lagos on Thursday.

In a keynote address titled: “Rule of Law and Treatment of Politically Exposed Persons in Corruption Cases,” Mr. Femi Falana SAN, who was represented by Wahab Shittu, advocated the creation of special courts to handle corruption cases, adding thatpolitically-exposed persons facing corruption charges do not deserve bail.

“Since victims of grand corruption including armed robbery and kidnap suspects are not usually admitted to bail, those who are charged with looting the treasury should no longer be granted bail,” Falana said.

The verbal exchange started after popular pundit, Femi Aribisala took to the podium to discuss Falana's speech, insisting that “There is no fight against corruption in Nigeria. And if there's no fight against corruption, you can't even talk about war.”

He then delved into attacking the global definition of corruption given by erstwhile Minister of Solid Minerals and former World Bank Vice-President, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, who had earlier defined corruption as “the abuse of public space for private gains.”

According to Aribisala, “corruption cannot be narrowly defined the way Dr Ezekwesili defined it, only relating to public institutions. We are corrupt in Nigeria. The plumber, the tailor, the whole society is corrupt.

“If President Buhari was determined to fight corruption, my feeling is that he gave up after losing election three times.

“Because the fourth time, he formed an alliance with people who he despised before. They were not necessarily people who had a track record of being (sic) anti-corruption. So today, I don't know who is anti-corruption,” the public affairs analyst stated.

He added that if Nigerians wanted to deal with the question of corruption, they must insist on it, insisting that “we have to deal with it at the institutional level.”

Aribisala's speech was well received by the guests who were mostly students, causing the Chairman of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Committee, Professor Itse Sagay, who chaired the event, to quickly pointed out that: “we are not here to make students clap.”

“We are here on a very serious business. And students, don't behave like American electorates who are ignorant. Donald Trump. The appreciation of unserious people shows ignorance. How can someone come here and say there's no war against corruption and there is clapping? ‎”

Sagay continued that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC had a manifesto that spelt out its strategies to combat corruption and admonished Aribisala to stop making statements devoid of facts.

His words, “(Olusegun) Obasanjo created ICPC, EFCC, they are doing well we don't need to create new institutions. You do not win a war by just creating multiplicity of institutions everywhere, that's irresponsible. We will work with the institutions that we have.

“You don't dilute the meaning of corruption to a point that it is meaningless. This is a very serious discussion and I want us to be serious about it. If you are anti-government, please go and campaign against government and let your party win in 2019,” he said.

Ezekwesili, on her part, pleaded for another chance at the podium, ostensibly to further drive the case against Aribisala's argument, stressing that “The systemic nature of corruption as a cancer against a system of governance is demonstrated in the fact that the activity of corruption begins to happen at their different levels.”

The former Minister, while urging the students to desist‎ from applauding populist statements, said: “I wasn't surprised that some of you were clapping. The reason you were clapping is that you are a page in your own level of corruption.

“There are many whose exam malpractice is the basis upon which ‎they have come to school. So when you are talking about the need to wage a war against corruption, they are completely disconnected from it. There is a complete dissonance from it.

“You need to be driven by the evidence of the damage and the destruction ‎that corruption is doing to you, at the unit level. If you think you are doing well now, you will do exceedingly better if corruption is effectively tackled in this society.”

“There is no comedy session going on here. We are talking about something that can be destructive. You should be holding the gun to fight against corruption. The gun has to be intellectual, so I need you to intelligently process everything that is said,” she averred.