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Ibori’s Conviction Shamed Nigerian Judiciary – Debo Adeniran

April 23, 2012

Debo Adeniran, human rights activist and Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, tells FEMI AYODELE the lessons in James Ibori’s imprisonment and how to cage corruption in Nigeria. James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, was recently sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in the UK; what is your reaction?

I see it as a good omen for the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It also reflects the extent to which the Nigerian government has mortgaged its credibility. It is a slap on the face of the Nigerian judiciary and it is a collective shame to the Nigerian government who knew the prosecution process was manipulated. If somebody like Ibori was allowed to manipulate the judicial process and contest election in 1999, despite his criminal records both home and abroad, it shows that our judiciary does not have an effective record-keeping system, nor does it cross-check information provided by candidates before being allowed to contest. INEC has an arrangement where prospective candidates who are to contest are expected to indicate if they have been convicted at anytime. Despite the fact that the forms are usually filled under oath, quite a lot of politicians do provide false information, maybe because those who flouted the rule have not been charged with perjury. Ibori’s imprisonment is an eye-opener. If the Nigerian government is conscious of its integrity, it should start to do things right. It should ensure that people with criminal records are no longer allowed to contest for such noble offices. The judgment also suggests that the judicial system and the process of criminal justice must be reviewed. If you look at the cases of those convicted for corruption in Nigeria, most of the penalties have been slaps on the wrist. For instance, Tafa Balogun who didn’t really serve a jail term because the period of detention was considered enough; Lucky Igbinedion; and Cecilia Ibru who was given six months which was served in a five-star hotel called hospital. Even the case of Bode George who was given a glamorous reception after he left the prison. It shows the extent to which the Nigerian government tolerates corruption and manipulates the judicial process so that criminals escape justice or are given unwarranted soft landing. We have bastardised what we call plea bargaining in Nigeria because when somebody enters into plea bargaining, they don’t usually ask for the proceeds of corruption. The accused often goes away with the proceeds of his crime. This judgment shows that the Nigerian government has been deceiving Nigerians with its so-called fight against corruption.

So why do you think the war against corruption seems unproductive?

The fight against corruption has been based on the efforts of individual officers in the anti-graft institutions rather than an institutional effort. The EFCC and the ICPC seem to have been created to bamboozle people that there is an intention to fight corruption, but it appears government intended it to fail, that is why they put such institutions under the supervision of some public servants who have, or have at one time or the other had issues with such institutions. This accounts for the reason EFCC and ICPC’s efforts seem fruitless. The authorities of these agencies are subsumed under the Attorney-General, a politician who is clearly answerable to his party and the president who appointed him. The president has the power to hire and fire those who head these institutions, and so he cannot be investigated for any corruption allegation. Many corrupt politicians have been evading justice because the Attorney-General has turned the blind eye. For instance, if (Michael) Aondoaka (former Attorney-General) had remained the Minister of Justice, Ibori’s judgment wouldn’t have seen the light of day because he did a lot to thwart the prosecution process. Another instance is the current Attorney-General, Mohammed Adoke frivolously withdrawing corruption charges like the case of the Anosike brothers, the Vaswani brothers among others. For as long as the anti-graft agencies are subject to the whims of political appointees, they will remain toothless bulldogs.

So what’s the way forward to winning the war against corruption in Nigeria?

The anti-graft agencies must be allowed to do their job without any interference from any quarters. I will also recommend that a career officer should not head these agencies. Credible members of the civil populace who have a honest means of livelihood and are successful career persons or professionals should head the anti-graft agencies so that no government agency is able to harass them to submission. Though people have advocated the merging of the EFCC AND ICPC for efficiency, I feel there are different phases to curbing corruption and different institutions have to take different aspects so that those who escape justice from the prosecution of one agency would not escape the other. The budget of any anti-corruption agency should not come from any government ministry so that they won’t be going cap-in-hand to those that are to be investigated. They should be well-equipped in terms of personnel and modern gadgets to do forensic investigation because Nigerians don’t keep record, hence, the anti-graft agency labours to fish out evidences. The EFCC claims it has 1,500 officers and administrative staff. This is grossly inadequate for the job of fighting the huge level of corruption in our system. I also advocate creating special courts. That way, the judge can concentrate his energies on the proceedings of the corruption cases before him. The hollowness of the charges is another factor. Some of these prosecution teams do not have integrity, hence these loopholes create serious setbacks. A task force should also be constituted to monitor the prosecution in court so that they report on daily basis the excesses of lawyers and judges or court. If this had been done in the Ibori case that was struck out at an Asaba court by Justice Marcel Awokulehin, Ibori would probably not have escaped jail in Nigeria.

Culled from TheNews of Monday 23rd April 2012

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2012 17:51

    I luv u comment. Wat u side about our law is very right, our law is corrupt,our leaders are not doing there job. Pls i am on my kneel pleading on the behalf of my fellow youth that our leaders should change the system of governance in our country. Thanks and God bless.

  2. anonymous permalink
    April 25, 2012 10:59

    No wonder my Dad disallowed me to read law!LAWYERS!LAWYERS!LAWYERS are at it again.They are the only learned brothers and sisters entrusted with the judicial arm of government.Yet some people go scotfree no matter the gravity of their offence.We o, we no sabi anytin as such anyhow we una drive us to.

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