By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North & Henry Umoru
ABUJA — The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Cofmmission (ICPC) disclosed, yesterday, it was prosecuting over 400 corruption-related cases in various courts across the country even as it blamed the judiciary for the drawbacks it suffered in the course of prosecuting the cases.
ICPC Chairman, Mr. Ekpo NTA, who disclosed this when he appeared before the Senator Chukwuka Utazi-led Senate committee on Anti Corruption and Financial Crimes, however, pleaded with the National Assembly to look into its funding, adding that if corruption was the main headache in the country, the government must invest to curb it.
According to the ICPC boss, 90 per cent of the agency’s budget was spent annually on prosecution, while only 10 per cent was expended on prevention, even as he stressed that the existing structure was unproductive and was not in consonance with the recommendations of the United Nations (UN).
Ekpo, who noted that 60 per cent ought to have been spent on prevention, as against the current practice, blamed the inability of anti-corruption agencies in the country to successfully carryout their functions on non-availability of adequate budgetary provisions by previous governments.
The ICPC Chairman, who acknowledged some of the modest reforms that have been initiated by the ICPC in recent times, said: “Most of the time, we talk about corruption. No one spends time to talk about anti-corruption. There is a clear distinction between corruption and other financial crimes. When we were sworn in, I was being abused on a daily basis on the pages of national newspapers because of my approach to fighting corruption.
“Our budgetary provisions every year have always been on fighting corruption. Only 10 per cent is budgeted for prevention. Corruption is a transnational issue. It goes beyond Nigeria. People did not know that we had about 400 cases going on at the beginning of the year. We had to place an advertisement for Nigerians to know what is happening.
EFCC boss seeks time frame for cases
In a related development, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has suggested a legislation that would fix a timeframe within which corruption cases should be heard and determined by the judiciary.
Magu, who spoke while receiving the chairman and members of the Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial crimes in his office, said that such legislation, like the one guiding electoral matters, would go a long way to assist the commission in tackling rising corruption in Nigeria.
The chairman said that Nigeria was in a better position now to end corruption given the political will that now exists and the determination by the legislature and the judiciary to back the EFCC against corrupt practices.
Magu said: “Some of our cases have dragged on for so long due to no fault of ours. It may not be out of place if the Committee looks at the possibility of adapting the provision of the Electoral Act which specifies time frame for determination of election petitions, to corruption matters.
“I believe that, if there is a time frame for the determination of corruption cases, it will speed up adjudication in court.
“There is not a better time than now to fight the war on corruption as we have the support from all angles: The political will of Mr. President is there; the judiciary is solidly behind us and the National Assembly is 100% in support of EFCC.”
He also drew the attention of the National Assembly Committee to the problem of accommodation facing the agency as a result of the delay in the completion of its national headquarters in Abuja, and pleaded with them to interven to get it done before long.
“I am sure that some of you are aware of the challenges which the commission face in the discharge of its mandate. One of the challenges is accommodation constraints. We operate from rented apartments scattered across Abuja.
“Without belabouring this fact, I wish to call on the committee to use its good offices to ensure speedy completion of our head office. I am delighted that you will be visiting the site to see for yourselves, the progress of work.
“The commission is rapidly expanding its operations with the opening of more offices. This will exact more pressure on available resources as provisions would have to be made for the effective running of these offices.
“We will need more vehicles for operation, furniture and other office equipment. I will also want the committee to assist in fast-tracking the Commission’s cases in court,” Magu pleaded.
Senate backs Buhari’s anti-corruption war
*All senators to hold flag on Tuesday to honour Buhari during budget presentation
Meanwhile, the Senate said, yesterday, that it would support President Muhammadu Buhari in his present anti-corruption war as part of moves to place Nigeria among one of the top nations in the world, just as it said that the crusade would help free Nigeria of all acts of indiscipline.
According to the Senate, given the economic recession confronting the country due to the fall of oil price in the international market, it has become imperative to give legislative support to the efforts of President Buhari in his drive towards nipping corruption in the bud and possibly to a zero level as part of moves to boost the economic profile of Nigeria.
As part of its support for the anti-graft war of President Buhari, the Senate agreed, yesterday, that all federal lawmakers should attend next Tuesday’s joint session with national flags in their hands during the 2016 budget presentation by the President.
These were sequel to resolutions of a motion titled, “The need for legislative support to government’s anti-corruption drive”, by the Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP Taraba South).
In his presentation, Senator Bwacha who called for Senate’s total support for the war in view of enormous damage corruption has done to the development of the nation, said: “Corruption has brought untold hardship to millions of Nigerians who are living below poverty level some of whom have been rushed to their early graves aside putting us as a people and as a nation, permanently at the backward position in terms of development in the comity of nations”.
The Senate also directed its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to review all laws relating to economic/financial crimes and corruption towards achieving speedy dispensation of justice as it relates to corruption cases, even as it directed its Committee on Information and National Orientation as well as Education, to embark on a deliberate civic education programme for the citizenry, the youths in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
In his remarks on the motion, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who noted that the Senate was fully in support of the war against corruption by President Buhari, described corruption as one of the major challenges facing the nation and stressed the need for government to make anti-corruption agencies truly independent and equipped to carry out their functions effectively.
He charged his colleagues on effective oversight functions which he said “is key to the fight against corruption.
Also yesterday, the senate summoned the Director General, Nigerian Law School over what it termed, excessive tuition fee charged by the school, just as it also urged the federal government to increase funding of the school and asked the committee on judiciary, human rights and legal matters to ensure that it carries out its oversight functions to work towards reducing the charges.
The Senate took these decisions following a motion by Senator Shehu Sani, APC, Kaduna Central and titled “the excessive tuition fee charged by the Nigerian Law School.”
Sani who complained that the school was becoming unaffordable, said that the central registration is put at N295,250 and N20,000 for other charges, leading to a cumulative amount of 315,000 Naira, adding, “The cumulative fees of 350,000 naira is excessively high including the cost of living for the period of the studies.
“In 2014, a 30 year-old prospective student of the Nigerian Law school committed suicide because he could not afford the tuition fees.”
Also, yesterday, the Senate urged the federal government to urgently take steps to check the trend of increasing population growth of Nigeria, just as it urged the federal government to sensitise Nigerians on the need for family planning to curtail the population explosion in the country.
It also mandated its Committee on National Identity and National Population to liaise with the National Population Commission, with a view to articulating a clear policy on population to check the increasing growth rate in the country.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion titled, “Global population increase and need to integrate the national policy on population with overall development planning in the country”and sponsored by Senator Isa Hamma Misau, APC Bauchi Central.
Presenting his motion, Senator Misau expressed concern that over time, government had not only failed to articulate clear policy on population, but also failed to integrate population policy with development planning.