By Henry Umoru, Joseph Erunke & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday in Abuja that his administration was not in a hurry to prosecute those suspected to have stolen from the public coffers until verifiable evidences were fully documented against them.
He said that everyone was presumed innocent until proven guilty by the law, noting that Nigeria was not under military rule where the law may be jettisoned.
According to him, the government was determined to follow due process to give recourse to democratic norms.
The president, who spoke when he granted audience to a delegation from the Foursquare Gospel Church, at the Presidential Villa, however, restated his commitment to recovering stolen funds.
“Under military rule, people could be arrested and held on the basis of suspicion, but in a true democracy, anyone accused of an offence must be presumed innocent until pronounced guilty by a court of law,” he said.
He congratulated the Foursquare Church in Nigeria on its 60th anniversary convention which was concluded on Sunday.
In his remarks, the General Overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church, Rev Felix Meduoye, commended the Buhari administration for initiating a full scale war against corruption and insurgency in the land, pledging that the church will continue to pray for the peace and prosperity of Nigeria.
Dogara on PIB
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, yesterday called on President Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, transmit a new Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to the National Assembly for early passage.
He also called for the strengthening of the independence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, for effective functioning.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the beginning of a two-day National Assembly dialogue on economy, security and development, organized by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), Dogara, who called for the strengthening of these agencies, said that the enduring fight against corruption must be waged through the instrumentality of law and legislation, stressing that people could only be accountable when the law was clear and enforced fairly and firmly.
He said, “While we await the decision of the President on whether to merge EFCC and ICPC, the urgent legislative undertaking now, is to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the Heads of these agencies by requiring the consent of the Senate to their appointment and removal from office.
This will ensure that they are not whimsically removed when they disagree with a sitting President.
Dogara, who noted that it was not possible to meaningfully discuss improvement of the national economy without discussing priority legislations in the polity, however observed that the PIB was one of the most important aspects of legislation that requires urgent attention by this administration.
According to him, it has become imperative to pass the PIB because oil and gas account for 70% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings as well as the rapid crash in oil prices, adding that harnessing the oil and gas sector for the benefit of the country was also very important. He said that investment decisions in the oil industry cannot continue to wait, as clarity on the legal framework for oil and gas in Nigeria was crucial to the economy.
He said: “We cannot meaningfully discuss the improvement of the national economy without discussing priority legislation in this field. Undoubtedly, one of the most important pieces of legislation is the Petroleum Industry Bill.
“This is necessary because Oil and Gas still accounts for over 70% of our foreign exchange earnings in spite of the rapid fall in oil prices. We therefore cannot afford not to organize the sector in such a manner as to benefit the nation.”