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Media trial as potent weapon against corruption

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For those who think that what has come to be known as media trial is an aberration in the fight against corruption, they should have a re-think because no weapon is spared in fighting a deadly enemy. Media trial is a potent weapon and should be used as being canvassed by the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, who visited The Guardian last week. There is clamour against media trial because of its effectiveness and deterrence. The only way to stop it is to stop corruption.

Imagine you are relaxing in your sitting room watching your favourite television programme and suddenly a giant snake shows up from nowhere, what would you do? Would you parley before deciding what to do when your life is in danger?

A snake that intrudes into a room will be confronted instantaneously with every available weapon. Cutlass, stick, bottle, indeed, every available weapon will be used on the snake. In fact, the attacker will not mind throwing even valuable items on the snake all in an attempt to kill it.

After killing it, it is often displayed for people to see. And depending on the size, it could end up as delicacy in pepper soup pot. That is the fate of a dangerous animal. Like snake, like corruption, the two are monsters that shouldn’t be spared.

That, indeed, is the way Magu sees the fight against corruption. Journalists are part of the combative forces confronting corruption. He acknowledged that media trial is a highly potent weapon which should be employed without hesitation.

The reasoning is that if you don’t want media trial, then, don’t be involved in corruption. Otherwise, there is no other way that journalists would be involved in the anti-corruption fight other than by exposing corruption allegations on the pages of the newspapers. Feelers are that corrupt people dread media trial more than the courts. For, while the courts are dilly-dallying, the media takes the matter up without wasting time.

Magu is right in his assertion. Corruption is our common enemy. The negative impacts are all over us. Looting by unscrupulous individuals has ruined our society. Poverty reeks everywhere. Infrastructures are decrepit. Social services like schools, healthcare and security are a sham.

Unemployment has become monstrous. It has led to so many anti-social activities like kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killing and Internet fraud, among others. The country has little to show for its huge oil wealth. Is there anyone who is not affected in one way or the other by corruption? Nobody is spared the fangs of corruption, which is why every hand must be on deck to confront it.

The forces engaged in the anti-corruption battle are overwhelmed. The EFCC, of course, is the arrowhead in the anti-corruption fight. Established in 2003 to investigate financial crimes including advance fee fraud (419) and money laundering, the magnitude of these crimes has overwhelmed the agency.

So far, the EFCC has been able to arrest some high-profile individuals cutting across the rank and file of former governors, bank CEOs, politicians, businessmen, etc, and has secured convictions in some cases. The huge amount usually looted and the large number of individuals involved in corruption coupled with a weak judiciary make the job of EFCC most daunting. But the agency is not relenting. It seems to be more determined now than ever.

The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) is there to prescribe punishment for corrupt practices and other related offences. Section 6 (a-f) of the ICPC Act 2000, sets out the duties of the Commission, which includes receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public on allegations of corruption. This clause, particularly, mandates every Nigerian to be part of the anti-corruption fight from wherever they are. People are expected to report cases of corruption to the appropriate quarters for action.

This responsibility has further been strengthened by the Whistle Blower Policy of the Federal Government. The policy has sensitised members of the public which is why cases of corrupt enrichment are now being freely reported. State governments are also involved since it is within their power to designate judges that would determine all cases arising from the ICPC Act.

The Nigeria police are the traditional anti-corruption agents since it has the duty to arrest and prosecute cases of corruption brought to it. It is interesting that the EFCC is an offshoot of the police. The police are deeply involved in anti-corruption, which is why the police are practically everywhere nosing around.

The Department of State Security (DSS), which is one of the successor organisations of the defunct National Security Organisation (NSO) that was dissolved in 1986, is responsible for domestic intelligence gathering and protection of the president and state governors.

Looting of the treasury could constitute a security threat if the looter is tempted to use the money to confront the state. This is where the DSS, which is the same as State Security Service (SSS), comes in. There is no doubt that huge money in wrong hands could be a threat. The DSS is there to monitor how such illegal monies are being deployed in the public interest. The DSS is interested in knowing who funds a terrorist organization like Boko Haram that has waged war against the state.

While all these organisations are involved in one way or the other in combating corruption using the instruments at their disposal such as gun, arrests, detention, prosecution/trials, etc, journalists, as patriotic citizens have no choice than to use what they have, in this case pen and paper, to confront the same corruption in their own way. How else would a journalist confront corruption other than to expose, analyse, project and even covertly indict corrupt people on the pages of newspapers?

Magu thinks that every weapon is needed just as he encourages journalists to step up the fight. There is only one way to stop media trial which is to stop corruption. Anybody who does not want to face media trial should shun corruption. The Igbo say if you expose a sickness it goes.

If corruption is exposed everywhere, in the church, business dealings, politics, appointments, contracts, etc, it will have no choice than to go. When all the hiding places of corruption are torn open, it goes.

It is from that angel that Magu said that with what has been done so far, the days of corruption are numbered as looters are now hiding their ill-gotten wealth and even distancing themselves from their ill-acquired properties.


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