‘How to fix Nigeria’s worsening corruption stain’
• Former NBA Boss Urges Lawyers To Resist, Report Corruption
• Contemplating Mosaic Law Failure Of Extant Laws, Judiciary – Lawan
• Independent, Incorruptible Judiciary Required To Win Anti-graft War – Dim
The Federal Government’s criticism of Transparency International (TI) over the country’s poor ranking in the latest Corruption Perception Index notwithstanding, some legal practitioners are worried by the country’s worsening anti-corruption credentials, an ugly development, which they want all and sundry to join forces to tackle.
In the latest ranking, Nigeria dropped three places, and also garnered lower scores in a number of areas than the 2019 record. This indicates that corruption is perceived to have worsened in the country within the period under review. Consequently, a jolted Federal Government accused the Berlin, Germany-based outfit of releasing “sensational and baseless rating on Nigeria and the fight against corruption.”
While the legal practitioners charged their colleagues to close ranks to resist and report corruption, others maintained that corruption has continued to thrive as a result of the failure of both extant laws and the judiciary, adding that the legal system, as it is, cannot cure corruption. Even at that, some of them still insist that once investigation and prosecution are skewed, the judiciary as the last leg in the tripod of justice delivery, can do nothing.
On whether the enactment of Mosaic Law, which Senator Smart Adeyemi, canvassed could serve as a way out of the reproach, the lawyers insisted that while the scope, magnitude and effect of corruption in the country was gargantuan hence the need for drastic actions, the country must be scientific and fact-based in it’s approach to ending the scourge.
Also, as a way of tackling corruption, a group of eminent Yoruba leaders, Yoruba Global Alliance (YG), led by Emeritus Pro-Chancellor/Chairman, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Dr. Amos Akingba, has called on Yoruba people to hold their elected officials accountable and demand more action and representation from them.
YESTERDAY, the Convener of the Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary (FIACIJ), Mr. Bayo Akinlade, specifically called on lawyers to contribute their quota to the elimination of corruption in the justice sector by resisting and reporting the vice.
Akinlade, who spoke in Lagos, stressed that lawyers had a responsibility to portray the sector in good light through their actions, adding that the battle against corruption will be won with lawyers’ commitment to anti-corruption crusade.
“FIACIJ is a group that seeks to bring back confidence in our justice system, we cannot over-remphasise the importance of fighting corruption to a standstill.
“Lawyers have the responsibility of making sure that the judiciary is purged of all negative perceptions. Our successes in the fight against corruption in the judiciary has largely depended on the resolve by lawyers to resist, and report acts of corruption,” Akinlade, a former chairman of the Ikorodu Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association said, adding that “we had much successes in Lagos under the retired Chief Judge Opeyemi Oke, who had anti-corruption as a focal point. That helped to boost our visibility and achievements in Lagos State.” He said that lawyers that have demonstrated the willingness to fight corruption, by exposing corrupt tendencies should be encouraged, especially by chief judges of their states.
IT was this sign that corruption was not abating that compelled Senator Adeyemi to offer to sponsor a bill that recommends amputation of those found culpable as a way of curbing the intractable vice.
Adeyemi, who spoke at a retreat for the Senate Press Corps in Lokoja, Kogi State, said: “Like I said on the floor of the Senate, if we want this country to be great, we must look at some acts of parliament; more so, the ones that have to do with anti-graft agencies. I want my children to be happier than I am in Nigeria, and to do that, there must be enough money to meet the needs and aspirations of the people.
“What am I talking about? Let us confront corruption. Very soon I’m coming back to the chamber to bring bills on ICPC and EFCC. I want us to introduce Mosaic Law, what you call Sharia Law. By the time you cut the hands of 10, 20 persons in this country, nobody will want to steal again.
“By the time you say two, three persons should face serious punishment; if you say that is too harsh, let us have mechanised agriculture of about 200, 250 acres, once you are involved in corruption, you will spend your life farming for us.”
HOWEVER, the former president of the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, said while Adeyemi as a citizen has the right to be disturbed about the ills of corruption in the country, the challenges have always been lack of implementation and enforcement of existing laws.
“A resort or campaign for Mosaic Law will amount to throwing overboard, all the advantages that came with legislative reforms over the decades. Considering that I have respectfully disagreed with the senator over the notion that extant laws are unable to tackle corruption in Nigeria, it falls back to the attitude and firm disposition of the government to uphold the rule of law and enforce judgments of court pursuant to Section 287(1) (2) (3) of the constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended),” he said.
According to Ugwummadu, verifiable researches have shown that “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for a tooth,” which closely approximate capital punishment as a retributive justice system, have not succeeded as an effective deterrent in criminal justice system anywhere in the world.
“I recognise the magnitude and effect of corruption in Nigeria, and the need for drastic actions, but we must be scientific and fact-based in our approach,” he said, just as he warned that Nigeria, like other jurisdictions, should desist from retrogressing back to Mosaic Law, which only has relevance in a handful of countries that are religious in nature.
“Our justice system is already inundated with legislations and agencies that deal with anti-graft matters all in a bid to eschew graft practices. Legislations such as the ICPC Act and EFCC Act for instance, made copious anti-graft provisions. The problem, however, remains that these laws have not been fully implemented or administered,” he added.
A former second vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani is of the view that the country is not short of good laws to address graft issues.
“We are not short of good laws, but the plague is the inability to implement them. So, people like Adeyemi should save their energies and redirect their attention to presenting bills that will address the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry.
“He should stop provoking Nigerians with such empty emotions and words. We all know where our problems lie when it comes to the issue of laws; it is at the implementation stage, not the enactment stage,” he stated.
BUT for Prof. Mamman Lawan, a law lecturer at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), no law of any nature can cure the corruption disease in Nigeria as seen currently, as patently corrupt people go to insane limits to practice their trade.
According to him, there is a need for overhaul of the entire system (not just penal laws), but also attitudinal change before Nigeria can begin to tackle corruption.
Commenting on whether the proposed enactment of Mosaic Law was an indictment and failure of the judiciary, he said: “It is the failure of both extant laws and the judiciary. The legal system as it is cannot cure corruption.
“Efforts to amend laws on anti-graft agencies are inadequate. And we need to go beyond these laws. The constitutional framework must be checked. It must produce social justice for citizens and agencies to work effectively and efficiently,” Lawan said.
AND for Lagos-based advocate, Lotanna Dim, the introduction of a new system of law will in no way present a solution to the corruption in the country. This, she said, is because merely enacting new laws does not address the main cause of corruption.
Her words: “A nation is corrupt when its leaders and people are corrupt. Therefore, the problem can only be tackled by solutions that will bring about a complete change in our nation’s leadership. The main function of the judiciary as an arm of government is to enforce laws.”
Dim, who argued that where the judiciary has failed to effectively carry out its functions within existing laws, it was doubtful whether introducing a new set of laws would do much, adding that resorting to Mosaic Law was needlessly extreme.
“I believe that the introduction of Jewish traditional law will set our nation backward. Until Nigeria can boast of an independent, and incorruptible judiciary, nothing will deter people from stealing national resources,” she declared.
For legal scholar, Dr. Jerome Okoro, Nigeria already has a deluge of laws to tackle corruption. “But I think that for laws to be deterrent of corruption, there has to be greater awareness and orientation in public circles on, not just what constitutes corruption, but also the punishment for each item of corruption. Public officers should be better trained, informed from the beginning about what they stand to lose if caught on the erring side, and not just left with only their moral consciousness to guide their conduct.
“Again, there must be improvement in welfare, and ample reward for merit, discipline and diligence to motivate ideal values and curb corruption in our public lives. If these preliminaries were not minded, the mere addition of another law, even with stiffer punishment, would be an addition to the long list of failed, or failing anti-corruption laws.”
Dr. Okoro stressed that extant laws are neither weak, nor inadequate, adding that introducing Mosaic Law might be aiming at failure of the enforcement system and not just the judiciary.
The corruption detection system, Okoro said, is unelaborate and ineffective. “Forensic audit is of rare use here. In this circumstance, the fear of being caught and tried, let alone being punished, hardly exists. This miserable state of the investigation system also makes prosecution a difficult task because it is not the prosecutor that investigates, and then when the prosecutor fails, the judge’s hands are tied because it is not the judge that prosecutes.”
DR. Fassy Yusuf, a lawyer and lecturer at the University of Lagos, thinks differently. For him, in extreme cases, Mosaic Law is needed.
According to him, the systemic corruption plaguing the country will make the advent of a Mosaic Law to tackle corruption quite inevitable.
“If we do not kill corruption by whatever means, corruption would kill us. To this extent, I endorse Senator Adeyemi’s approach. Countries such as China, Singapore, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have radical and extreme approaches to tackling corruption. We need our homegrown approach including, but not limited to capital punishment and amputation,” he said.
He, however, argued that the clamour for Mosaic Law is not as a result of weak or inadequate existing laws, or a failure of the judiciary to play its role effectively.
The lecturer further argued that since the judiciary is the last leg in the tripod of justice delivery, there is nothing it can do if the other legs falter.
His words: “The first leg is investigation, while the second leg is the prosecution. If the first two legs are badly skewed, the third leg (the judiciary) cannot salvage the tripod.”
Dr. Yusuf stressed that although the judiciary has its problems, those problems do not affect it in the dispensation of justice, rather slow it down. He added that the judiciary cannot perform outside the constitution.
“Despite the ruthlessness of countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, they still relate with other countries. They are not pyrrhic states. No country can isolate us if we offer constructive and positive contributions to the world.
“For now, our relevance to the world in corporate governance, value creation, economic determinism and transparency is unenviable. The problem with us as a country is that, like Chinua Achebe put it, ‘wrong doing is a hill, everybody mounts his own, but decries that of another.’ We condemn most people caught in the web, or involved in corruption, whereas nearly every one of us is guilty of corruption.”
Insisting that “a desperate disease requires a desperate remedy,” Dr. Yusuf agreed that Nigeria has enough laws, but lacks the capacity to implement them. That, he explained, has been a monumental challenge. “To overcome this, we must build strong and enduring institutions,” he concluded.
THE Yoruba Global (YG) Alliance, in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Prof Anthony Kila, after its leaders council meeting, chaired by veteran journalist and leaders council chairman, Chief Tola Adeniyi, appealed to Yoruba at home and abroad to be conscious of the fact that in a democracy, the first port of call for issues regarding public affairs is the office of elected officials.
“Charity begins at home, and in all we endure, or disagree with in Nigeria, we must start by lodging our complaints, and comments with those elected in the name of, and on behalf of Yoruba people.
“There is no doubt that Yoruba people generally feel unsecured, unserved and shackled in Nigeria as it stands today, but rather than get just emotional, or desperate about things, YG calls for a deliberate approach, which starts from holding accountable, those elected, nominated, charged and paid to represent Yoruba people and interest.
“Our greatest danger does not come from outside, but from inside, and more specifically, it comes from those charged with protecting our people, land, interest and culture, but refuse to do their duty either out of fear, ignorance or collusion,” the statement read.
YG, therefore, urged the Yoruba at home and abroad, to ask themselves what those who went to Abuja to represent the Southwest are doing, or thinking when Abuja passes laws, proposes policies, and makes utterances that do not stand well with Yoruba people.
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