The Gains Of Resolving High Profile Hibernating Corruption Cases
If the policy of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight and end corruption in Nigeria will yield any meaningful result, it has to begin to address and not ignore high profile corruption court cases that his regime inherited.
This was the called made at the National Stakeholders Quarterly Roundtable on Anti-Corruption Agenda organized by Justice for All (J4A), Department for International Development, DFID and Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights in Enugu.
The strategy meeting was aimed at reactivating high profile corruption court cases that are either stalled for political reasons, executive interference and possibly judicial collusion. Specific objectives of the meeting included refocusing attention on seemingly hibernating high profile corruption cases, reducing cost of fighting corruption by ensuring that cases are concluded timely, reviewing strategies to ensure that adequate citizens attention through CSOs and Media publicity is put on high profile cases until they are properly determined and to identify impediments to the effective adjudication of high profile corruption cases, key corruption vulnerabilities in the process and proffer recommendations/strategies of quick disposals of these cases.
The roundtable meeting also ended by evaluating the critical role of the Media and CSOs in mobilizing citizens and unearthing unresolved high profile corruption cases in Nigeria, and advocated for collaboration between the media and CSOs to keep the momentum high on the cases (high profile corruption cases that have been charged to various courts but have gone to hibernation).
It identified the need of developing a platform for sensitizing and creating awareness on the evil of corruption in our societies. The meeting agreed to harness already existing local platforms while creating new one(s) where none exists. The meeting commended the policy of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight and end corruption in Nigeria and called on him not to ignore high profile cases that his regime inherited.
They noted that such effort will generate maximum citizens support if the fight to end corruption and reposition Nigeria does not include quick conclusion of outstanding corruption court cases that have lingered so long and are now part of what the present regime inherited. One of the ways of demonstrating how bad the past was, is to conclude those high profile cases that involved over 20 past governors, ex- legislators, and public officials, some of whom have found their way back to power.
The stakeholders promised to support any effort by the current regime to conclude lingering high profile corruption cases in Nigeria on or before the end of 2016.
Participants x-rayed the capacity of the Anti Corruption Agencies to conclude cases quickly and expressed dissatisfaction with the level of progress in the prosecution of high profile corruption cases. The meeting specifically called on EFCC and ICPC to use the new legal environment brought by the Administration of Criminal Justice Law as well as skills they have received from different development experts to conclude all pending high profile cases before the administration of President Mohammad Buhari, on or before the end of 2016.
The meeting also called on the regime of President Muhammad Buhari to make the conclusion of high profile cases, which his regime inherited, top priority and as a motivating foundation for his renewed anti corruption effort to mobilize citizens.
It advised participants to collaborate with other Media organizations, CSOs and professional associations in following up unresolved corruption cases in order to avoid their intervention being misconstrued as being taken as personal and to avoid being targets of attack.
Participants also agreed on the need for CSOs and Media to extend their partnership by approaching Anti Corruption Agencies for collaboration towards quick resolution of the high profile corruption cases.
It sued for engagement between CSOs, the Media and Anti Corruption Agencies for proper understanding, collaboration, information and knowledge sharing, and involvement in the administration of justice on the corrupt persons so that such cases should be monitored and followed through to a logical conclusion.
Participants agreed to develop feedback and support mechanism to enhance institutional performance of Anti Corruption Agencies and other state institutions responsible for the fight against corruption.
It expressed worry that Anti Corruption Agencies giving cases more media attention that they get conviction or judgments. They urged Anti corruption Agencies to publicized concluded cases than new cases as such publicity will serve as deterrent to public office holders. Keeping old cases in the cooler and sensationalizing new ones is not a convincing strategy that will propel Nigerians to provide them with all supports that are required.
To unearth new corruption cases, it is to conclude ongoing cases which will send a signal of a serious government not ready to pamper corrupt people during court processes.
Allowing corruption cases to linger for over 2 years (as some of the have lingered for over 10 years) is a motivation for corruption as prospective public resources looters are encouraged by the strategy of keeping corruption cases unending in Nigeria. As corruption cases linger, the cost of justice becomes unnecessarily exorbitant to both the nation and the accused persons.
The meeting identified the need to review the performance of prosecuting councils for Anti corruption Agencies as it was observed that majority of lingering cases are being handled by just one or two lawyers who may not put in adequate time and energy required to speedily conclude the cases. They therefore called on Anti Corruption Agencies to tell Nigerians how much they have spent in the last ten years on high profile cases and use the conviction generated to justify their expenditure. The participants concluded that everything must be done to bring Nigerians together to fight corruption instead of leaving it to the administration alone.
It was noticed that the issues of hibernation of high profile corruption cases was the problem of collective amnesia and fatalistic resignation, where citizens forget easily the events of the past and get swallowed in the present in the media blitz.
In the words of Newton Omatseye of J4A, he called on the participants, especially the media and civil society organizations who he described as the conscience of the society, to continue to talk about the lingering cases of corruption with the view of bringing them to conclusion.
The systemic failure has also been identified as major reasons why high profile cases corruption cases linger.
In his comment, Emeka Ononamadu of Citizens Center for Integrated Development and Social Rights, who spoke on the topic: ‘Resolving the Unresolved High Profile Corruption Cases in Nigeria, their Impact on Current Anti corruption Efforts’ noted that waste, fraud and abuse of public resources which he described as the tripod upon which corruption stands has eaten deep into the fabrics of the country.
‘It is difficult to absolve past Nigeria leaders from the mundane governance style of self aggrandizement, cheating and lying. The combination of this tripod of corruption manifestation has severely impoverished Nigerians and rendered Nigerian economy and its people as the most profitable poaching field of western economies that are better managed and organized’, he submitted.
Ononamadu posited that it is envisaged that while leaders and public officers observe and apply the provision of chapter two of Nigeria constitution, good governance will be assured but to make it crystal clear, the constitution went further to direct the extermination of corruption.
See Chapter two, section 15 (5). “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power” Corruption and abuse of power are intertwined. Corruption lead to abuse of power and abuse of power also fuels corruption. In the name of leadership or governance, leaders have seriously violated Nigeria constitution by engaging in corruption and abuse of power.
The recovery of even 50% of the looted funds will help Nigeria to recover from the cash crunch occasioned by dwindling global oil price
The fight against corruption by PMB administration will be taken more serious and citizens will invest in anti corruption programs if this done.
Selective justice is no justice. Justice for all is true justice, a justice that know no bounds, that traverses all manner of people, big and small, high and mighty, rich and poor, powerful and powerless. This is the time to test the resolve of Nigeria media and CSOs to take on government on corruption cases, reclaim the anti corruption war and domicile it within Nigeria citizens.
Olarinwaju Suraju of Civil Society Network against Corruption (CSNAC) defined corruption according to Transparency International as the ‘abuse of public office for private gains’, while grand corruption is ‘act’ committed at high level governments that distort policies or central functioning of the state.
Corruption has cost the citizens lack basic social amenities, lower average standard of living, poor inaccessible and expensive education. It has also cost the country high cost of investment, nepotism and incompetent service. International indignation and low labour productivity and miscarriage of justice are not left out.
Therefore, there is need to monitor and engage the anti-corruption agencies for effective administration of criminal justice system. We must have ownership of the anti-corruption fight, by sustaining the on-going anti-corruption ethos and ensuring institutionalization of the anti-corruption crusade. There is also need to forge stakeholders’ partnership to achieving systemic reforms.
Once this is done, Nigeria’s resources would have been prudently utilized, especially in the face of the dwindling of oil prices. All hands must be on deck to save Nigeria from the scourge of corruption, while we individually behave to take the country to promise land for the next generation to be proud of. There is no better time than NOW!!!.
Chigozie Uzosike (JP), Development Journalist writes from Owerri, 07037723606, [email protected]