By Momhammed Adamu
In 2001 after the Presidential Adviser’s Office on NASS had nudged the Ghali Assembly to pass the controversial Anti-Corruption Bill, it’s House Committee wrote the Special Adviser, Aminu Wali requesting him to, in recognition of his S. A.’s ‘commendable’ liaison role, release me to join its members to attend that year’s 10th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Prague Czechs Republic.
And “why not”, said my boss! Or “The hell why?” countered some smart bureaucrat in the SGF’s office; knowing since I was specifically requested for -and on ‘merit’, the trip was bureaucratically un-hijack-able. Thus for not being hijack-able, the letter was faulted on grounds of non-transparency.
And although in the end I did get to go, it was, nonetheless, not yet Uhuru even in Prague! Because no one had told me I was going to pay $800 conference fees before participating; -nearly half my whole estacode. So I asked the Accreditation Team to ‘check the NASS-Nigeria Group account’, ‘I came on that I.V.’
There was none! And Transparency International was transparent enough to download for me the entire list of Nigeria’s profile of participation! Which by the way back in my security-conscious country and under the need-to-know doctrine that would be taking transparency to a ridiculous facon de paler!
In any case of the almost 70 members of the NASS Joint Anti-corruption Committee billed to attend, none was on the Conference list! I was even given the world-wide list and guess what?: all members of Parliament of tiny Vanuatu -a minuscule South West Pacific volcanic-formed archipelago island republic, the kind you only make out on a map with a magnifier, were in attendance; -to learn avant-garde ways of tackling corruption and enhancing transparency among their 150,000-strong-population. Later when I introduced myself to the late Justice Minister, Bola Ige in company of Ayo Obe and Obi Ezekwesili at Plenary, the Cicero asked: “where are the legislators?”
Before I could joke ‘legislative transparency may have gotten the better of their travel plans,’ Obi chuckled ‘Sir I have a flight to catch’ and left. She had arrived Prague the previous night; just made a beautiful presentation on Nigeria’s loot-recovery efforts, and had her roller bag right with her, ready to return home –to work! Shopping? No! That bag was itself another metaphor for ‘transparency.’ It couldn’t contain more than an undie, a brush and a tooth paste!
Yet I had more to learn on ‘transparency.’ That same day I was put off provisional and now properly accredited because T.I. had resolved to ‘pay’ the conference fees of a circumstantial appendage-invitee from oil-rich Nigeria. I was receipted as though I had paid. Call it ‘transparent charity’, or ‘charitable transparency’! And then the Spanish Children Transparency magazine, ‘Secodam’ distributed at the conference taught me even more.
It quoted Plato’s ‘The Duty’, in which the author narrates the tragic story of his Teacher, Socrates. Then on death row for irreligion and for corruption of youth, Socrates had vehemently rebuffed his disciples’ offer of escape even after they had successfully bribed the Athenian guards to look the other way. Reasons: it was fraudulent, nontransparent and it was corruptive of the judicial process! Socrates believed that a citizen is “bound by conscience to obey the laws of the state”. And he gave his life to practically demonstrate that!
Which is what we must get EFCC’s Farida Waziri to understand: that if it makes moral sense Socratic-ally that even those unconscionably convicted, should not ease themselves off the grip of the law except by the due process of law, it then follows, conscionably, that no one presumed innocent should be put in the grip of the law except in a manner prescribed by the due process of law! And that is that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be INNOCENT until he is proved guilty ” (Sec 36(5) of Nigeria’s Constitution). Reason Nigeria operates an adversarial rather than accusatorial system of justice administration because the onus probandi (onus of proof) rests squarely with the party that asserts!
Thus the expression that ‘it is better to err on the side of mercy’ finds locus in the logic that when judges ever make judicial mistakes –especially in criminal justice administration- it is more desirable that guilty persons profit than that innocents undeservedly pay. Thus making judicial sense that whereas in civil proceedings, proof is merely on preponderance of evidence, in criminal proceedings it is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
Farida’s ‘Advisory List’ to political parties, on politicians it deems electorally ineligible for election on account either of their being currently prosecuted or under investigation, is a dangerous usurpation of judicial powers.
The implication of political parties baring politicians from contest on account of this ‘advisory’ lies in the erroneous presumption that anyone alleged to have committed an offence by EFCC deserves the same surfeit of the law as though they have been judicially convicted. The irony of this is that what the fountain of justice has given with the right hand, a non judicial body (clearly with vested political interest) is deploying extrajudicial avenues to snatch with the left.
It also means that at a time when the human rights world is critical of the archaic principle that an accused is GUILTY until he proves himself innocent, such presumptive, judgmental, extrajudicial action by EFCC that invites political parties to act punitively outside of the courts, is arbitrary, barbaric and a mockery of the time-honored Socratic: ‘follow the law in all circumstances.’
Farida has insisted she never sent any advisory list to any political party and indeed, the PDP – Editor