Itse Sagay panel re-opens Halliburton case
• Seeks special crimes court, probe of Jibrin’s allegation
• Wants NJC to suspend judicial officers accused of graft
With the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) yesterday presenting its report, the anti-graft campaign is set to be deepened.
Among cases the panel headed by Prof. Itse Sagay advised President Muhammadu Buhari to re-open is the Halliburton scandal. The seven-member panel which endorsed the move against graft in the judiciary, and defended the arrest of judges by the Department of State Services (DSS) also noted that the allegation of corruption made by the suspended member of the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin, against his colleagues be investigated.
PACAC was the first to be set up by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration after inauguration on May 29, 2015 with the mandate to promote the anti-corruption crusade and to advise the administration in the prosecution of the war against graft and implementation of required reforms in the nation’s criminal justice system.
While presenting its report to the press yesterday in Abuja, the Sagay panel said it had received 50 petitions in the last one year.Sagay said: “The petitions cover a myriad of corruption-related issues including alleged cases of fraud, misappropriation of funds and unlawful dismissals. Some also allege that the ACAs (Anti-Corruption Agencies) are complicit or failed to act appropriately.”
Sagay announced that a draft bill and explanatory memorandum for establishment of special crimes court; plea bargain manual; as well as a framework for management and administration of recovered stolen assets is underway.
Other initiatives carried out by the panel include “review of some inherited controversial transactions with recommendation for re-opening them, viz OPL 245, Halliburton transactions, oil theft and maritime sector corruption.”
Sagay was flanked by other members of PACAC, including the Secretary, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Prof. Etannibi Alemika, Prof. Femi Odekunle and Prof. Sadiq Radda.
On the legality or otherwise of the arrest of judges by the DSS, the secretary said the security agency acted appropriately and within the laws of he land.
“The operatives of the DSS are empowered by the National SecurityAct to arrest, so they have the power to arrest anyone suspected to have committed a criminal offence.
“Can you effect an arrest without a warrant? Yes, it is permitted. On the question of who signed the warrant, even an appointed peace ambassador can sign a warrant of arrest and it is legitimised, let alone a magistrate. On the question of time, a warrant of arrest can be applied at anytime of the day, provided the enforcement officers are sure they can meet you at your place. And the use of reasonable force is also permitted in law, so the arguments against the DSS do not hold water,” Owasanoye said.
The committee said their recommendation before the National Judicial Council (NJC) is for the affected judges to be excused from performing any function and also ensuring that the judiciary returns to the old order, when money, political power or influence could not manipulate the true course of justice.
“The proper thing is for the judges to be suspended. This is because all over the world, if a judge is going to be appearing before the court on criminal charges, actually the judge should be given that chance to go and defend himself.
“We cannot win this war on the basis of law alone, it has to be on re-education and re-internalisation of values of the society. The state should not be lawless, but citizens also shouldn’t be lawless in order not to invoke the wrath of a lawless state agency,” he said.
On the allegations by Jibrin that the National Assembly stinks of corruption, Sagay said the committee met with him for more than five hours, asking questions and getting him to present his case as it is.
“It is important that Jibrin’s allegations be investigated. We engaged him and it was revealing, and there has not been any denial of the allegations. All that we have heard from the House of Representatives is that he has violated their rules and therefore stands suspended, but no one has come out to deny the allegations of corruption he complained about,” Sagay noted.
Meanwhile, Buhari will today open a two-day seminar aimed at formulating a legislative framework for the anti-corruption fight in the country. The seminar which is being organised by the Senate and House of Representatives committees on anti-corruption has as its theme, ‘The role of the legislature in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.’
Also yesterday, Shaarik Zafar, the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim communities, expressed optimism that the current fight against corruption in Nigeria would succeed.He made the remark while addressing a news conference in Kano.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Zafar was in Kano to offer opening remarks at an inaugural workshop on anti-corruption for religious leaders.
The event was organised by Zafar’s office under the U.S. Department of State.He said if corruption could effectively be tackled, Nigeria would witness fast socio-economic growth and development. “I am optimistic that if corruption is tackled, a lot of good things will follow; the trend is positive for Nigeria, based on the commitment.”