Govt policy on prosecution of the corrupt

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By John AMODA
THE Guardian Tuesday May 22 2012 interview of Yele Delano (SAN) made explicit the government policy on corruption. Government has defined corruption as a crime and set up the process of prosecuting those accused of corruption with the aim of having the accused convicted and punished.

The criminalisation of corruption is to institute deterrence or prevention of the crime. Prosecution in the Nigerian judicial system is undertaken by the EFCC and ICPC.

According to Delano: “This system requires that a case would commence at the magistrate court, in line with the appellate tradition, move to the High Court, from there to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. It is for the aggrieved party, in this case the government, to secure conviction, to appeal and have judicial review of the case. That would be a matter for the Attorney-General to look at”.

The procedure to procure evidence that could secure conviction and the process of prosecution seem straight forward. Given that this is the case, why are there few convictions? Why did it take the UK judicial system to convict former Governor James Ibori? The SAN answered this question in the following:

“Clearly, some of the things I have said earlier, you can see them playing out in the Ibori case. I doubt if there was the political will in the prosecution of Ibori by the Nigerian authorities… I am someone who believes that even the Police must be policed. In essence, what I am saying is that the anti-graft agencies too must be investigated before they either slip away or get carried away by self-appreciation.

Again I  will recommend this model, which I earlier suggested, random investigation, they should also in addition examine the memos, the evidence, statements of accused persons, investigation in the bank. I am sure after all these, eminent people would be able to say independently whether or not a particular case has been dealt with properly or not. Right now, nobody does that; nobody knows why these cases are not doing well.

Even the Committee has to be random, the people it used have to be random, the people it uses this year may not necessarily be used next year, so that they cannot be pre-approached. When an investigator knows that at anytime his own case may be reviewed, at all times he would be up and doing”.

The SAN suggestions are designed to make the process effective in securing convictions and efficient in increasing the number of convictions. But even after the loopholes in the investigation and prosecutorial process have been sealed, corruption will only be marginally curtailed.

The reason for this is the fact that the judicial system deals only with individual conducts but not with the political structuring of office holding that provide the opportunity for selfish use of power and authority. The incidents of reported cases of accused persons show the link between opportunity for abuse of power and the lack of effective checks and controls to prevent the abuse or corrupt use of power.

Although it is important to distinguish for policy purposes individual from institutional corruption, but when the focus is on the conduct of office-holders, it becomes more useful to source corruption in the ideological structure of the political system.

The Sunday July 18, 2010 Thisday carried the story titled: EFCC Widens Corruption Probe in Ogun State– Allegation not true, says Information Commissioner. The story covered the other face of corruption in Nigeria, namely: Executive Brigandage Institutional Corruption, EBIC.

“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has widened its ongoing probe of corruption in Ogun State as it is presently looking into over 40 different cases of fraud involving some top government officials in the state. But the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Sina Kawonise said there is nothing in the allegations as it follows the regular pattern by the opposition, especially when it is an election year. He also said the allegation were designed by the opposition to the government from Abuja.

EFCC officials told ThisDay the new set of case is different from the previous case of N30 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by certain top officials of the government in connection with sale of land and diversion of local government funds. They voted that the latest twist in the investigation may warrant that the Commissioner invites more officials of the government in connection with the different cases. The new cases involved acts perpetrated by the officials between 2003 and last year.

According to EFCC officials, some of the new charges against the state government official include the N1billion unremitted pension deduction from the state workers salaries, fraudulent and illegal payment of over N1billion purportedly as counterpart funding for water project even when there is a standing order to the Federal Ministry of Finance for deduction from the state’s allocation in respect of the same projects.

There is also the alleged case of fraudulent and illegal fund expended on debt servicing to the tune of N5.2 billion as against the appropriation of N350 million for the same purpose in the 2009 budget by the State House of Assembly; fraudulent payment of N300 million electricity charges despite direct deduction of same from various ministry departments and agencies.

EFCC also alleges cases of N500 million agricultural loan diversion to cronies and associates of an amount totaling over N5 billion in the name of salaries and allowances in the governor’s office; illegal transfer and disposal of government-owned enterprise totalling over N15 billion by Gateway Holdings.

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