By AHAM NJOKU
The recent release of the fuel subsidy probe report by the Honourable Farouk Lawan adhoc committee of the House of Representatives has ignited calls across the nation for the prosecution of those individuals and companies that are culpable.

A twist to the call came penultimate week from the conveners of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and their associates who gave the federal government and anti-graft agencies two weeks to commence prosecution of the indicted persons or face a public protest similar to the one held in January over removal of fuel subsidy otherwise referred to as “Occupy Nigeria”. They even went ahead to suggest the appointment of a private or special prosecutor for this purpose.

However, the Chief Law Officer of Nigeria, the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has canvassed that the report of the Lawan Committee needs to be filtered before prosecution can start.

This view of the Attorney-General is believed to be unpopular because of the anger of many Nigerians who are frustrated over the nature of the different scams in Nigeria which Transparency International, the world-wide corruption watch-dog has described as “gargantuan”.

There are several cogent reasons which despite the above agitation makesAdoke’s view the correct and best position to adopt. The truth remains that the Lawan committee is not absolutely an investigative panel perse but a fact-finding one.

In addition it is very possible that some level of review ought to be carried out by the anti-graft agencies on the report to remove the wheat from the chaff so that any criminal prosecution in court would be almost fool-proof.

In this wise, the question arises, is two weeks from the time the Lawan Committee report was adopted by the National Assembly enough time for the anti-graft agencies to have invited, interviewed and investigated those indicted?

The answer of course is no. Even when the ICPC and EFCC have concluded their investigations and taken a decision to charge the indicted persons to court the prosecuting counsel will still need time to review the charges and prepare adequately to commence the battle in court.

For example since the report came out about seventeen firms have argued on the pages of newspapers that they were never invited to the probe panel sitting thereby alleging lack of fair hearing. This has led the National Assembly to extend the committee’s work to about two weeks.

Even one of the accounting firms Indicted has been shouting to high heavens to prove its innocence. This is not to absolve anybody from guilt but to point to some grey areas that may need to be tidied up to avoid embarrassment at the court when prosecution commences.

The Lawan committee itself had suggested that all those found culpable by their report should not only pay back the monies they collected but also should be prosecuted by the Independent Corruption Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In the concluding part of its report which is often ignored by angry Nigerians, it suggested that ICPC and EFCC may need some time to digest its report before commencing prosecution.

One may recall that recently most cases being prosecuted in court by ICPC and EFCC have suffered one set back or the other and even faced outright dismissal due to the tardiness with which they were handled. For example the case against the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was thrown out because the ICPC rushed to court without obtaining the primary evidence (bank statement) needed to commence prosecution or indict him.

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