Two prominent members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in Abuja, last weekend, picked holes in government’s handling of the anti-corruption war.
Speaking in Abuja at a programme organised by the National Association of Seadogs (the Pirates Confraternity), the Chairman of the panel, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), and member, Prof Femi Odekunle, attributed recent setbacks suffered by the administration in the prosecution of corruption cases to the fraudulent activities of compromised elements in the judiciary and legislature, and a lack of diligence on the part of some senior government officials.
The event titled, ‘Feast of Barracuda’, had ‘Critical Review of the Anti-Corruption War in Nigeria: Strategies, Challenges and Prospects’, as its theme.
The Chairman of the committee, Prof. Itse Sagay, said the president and his team must come up with new ideas to fight corruption.
He said the judiciary was concentrating more on technicalities rather than the spirit of the law and justice.
Sagay said, “The Federal Government, particularly the president and vice president, who were elected into office principally to eliminate corruption, must go back to their drawing board, search and scan the constitution and other laws to draw the requisite irresistible power to deal firmly with this terrible scourge of our times – otherwise, we are all dead.”
The senior advocate said the National Judicial Council (NJC) was not equipped to look into corruption cases against judges.
He said the primary duty of the NJC was to address judicial misdemeanour.
The PACAC chairman said before 1999, Nigeria had many incorruptible judges like Justice Kayode Eso, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Justice Mohammed Bello, Justice Chike Idigbe, Justice Adetunji Adefarasin, Justice Mason Begho, and others
Sagay, however, said corruption pervaded the judicial system after the return to democracy in 1999, when judges started hearing election petition cases.
He noted that many senior advocates had corrupted and compromised judges to the extent that some of the advocates now pay the school fees of children of judges.
Sagay added, “Today, some judges actually solicit for money. They don’t even wait to be offered money. One of the judges that have been asked by the NJC to go back to work is a constant solicitor of money. He writes to counsel, ‘my mother died, yesterday, I need money to bury her.’
“Two months later, ‘my daughter is getting married next month, I need money to organise a wedding’. Another month, the same judge will write, ‘my uncle has just been made a chief and I need to make a contribution, send money.’
“This is written to lawyers and the lawyers gladly contribute. In fact, there is a long list of lawyers now who have to go to the EFCC, at least, once a month to explain why they had to send so much money to the account of one judge or the other who demanded money.
“Some lawyers do it out of a sense of obligation while some lawyers do it for consideration of future favours. It just shows you how (low) our judges have sunk.”
Sagay said his committee had drafted a bill for the ‘Forfeiture of Assets and Properties, procured by unlawful activity (proceeds of crimes)’ which will empower courts to order forfeiture of properties by a person without the person being convicted.
The senior advocate said he had advised anti-graft agencies to use non-conviction based assets recovery system to fight graft in some peculiar cases.
He said in such a situation, anybody who was found in possession of huge sums of money, whose source he or she could not explain, would be made to explain themselves in court.
The PACAC chairman added, “If you are seen to be living beyond your means of livelihood, the anti-graft agencies could apply for temporary forfeiture of funds and properties and you would then be made to appear in court to explain yourself.
“That bill is already before the National Assembly but we are not even waiting for it to be passed. A part of the EFCC Act empowers the agency to do this.
Also speaking, Odekunle, in particular, questioned the commitment of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to the anti-graft war and also raised a doubt about the integrity of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, who discharged and acquitted Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki of all 18 charges levelled against him, last Wednesday.
The professor of criminology also questioned the resolve of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to help the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.
While exploring the theme of the event, Odekunle, raised eight salient questions which he said members of the public must answer in order to put the recent failures of the anti-graft war in proper perspective.
He asked, “Does the Presidency realise that routine crime prevention and methodology, instruments and processes are not adequate in fighting corruption in this country? That is, does the Presidency realise that fighting corruption must be a ‘rofo rofo’ fight? That it is not a question of due process, long process, fair hearing and all those that will give you technical justice instead of real justice?
“It is said that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. In this regard, I ask, what were the details and the resolution of the EFCC matter on Danladi Umar’s bribery case? I don’t know, I’m just asking. Does the DSS possess any information about Danladi Umar on the use or abuse of hard drugs?
“Is there any record that Danladi Umar had been driving and crashing his car under the influence? These are questions that I don’t know the answers to but I want you to investigate.
“Is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is to lead the anti-corruption fight, going by the way things have been going in the past two years, as committed as others who could have done the job better?
“I have no answers but I believe if they are answered, it will give us an insight into the cause of our current dilemma in the fight against corruption.”
Odekunle urged the Federal Government to use unconventional methods in the fight against corruption, saying it would never win if it continued to use what he described as conventional methods.
He said since the corrupt elite controlled the judiciary and the legislature, this group of people would continue to protect its own.
Odekunle added, “So, all this ‘arrangee’ between the judiciary, the legislators, and people are saying, ‘We don’t want the APC to be destroyed, Saraki is our own, let us settle our own, party supremacy is better’, we must moderate that.”
Insecurity Hasn’t Hindered Projects’ Execution In Rivers, Wike Affirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says that his administration has fearlessly tackled insecurity headlong and created an enabling climate for smooth delivery of quality development projects.
Wike made the assertion at the inauguration of 16.2-kilometre long Omueze-Umuogba-Umuokpurukpu-Umueke-Umunju-Eberi Road project in Omuma Local Government Area of the state, yesterday.
The governor noted that while other states of the country were still struggling with issues of insecurity, Rivers State was witnessing harvest of development projects with the non-stop inauguration and flag-off ceremonies to their amazement.
“Don’t fight anybody that God has blessed. Don’t fight the state that God has blessed. People are talking about insecurity. We are talking about commissioning and flagging-off of projects. Is it easy? If it is easy, let them try it.”
Wike asserted that it is only states controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) like Rivers that has created a peaceful climate for the citizens while the government delivers democratic dividends.
“Those who say they don’t like what PDP is doing, they have no choice but to like it. You can see what the party (PDP) is doing. We are flagging-off and commissioning projects. Whether they like it or not, we are in charge.”
The governor said it is obvious that Rivers State is no longer on the same level with states that cannot provide dividend of democracy to their people.
Wike said the performance of his administration has restored confidence in Rivers people and they can walk with their heads raised high.
“Rivers people, are you not proud of your state? If you’re a Rivers man, anywhere you go, raise your shoulder high and say that you’re a Rivers man and woman. “They (other parties) can only jealous us, but they cannot do anything. We are of different class. We are not on the same level with them.”
Speaking further, Wike commended the member representing Omuma State Constituency, Hon. KelechiNwogufor his loyalty to PDP.
He also extolled him for his commitment to the welfare of Omuma people and being a trusted ally to him.
At the behest of Nwogu, Wike promised Omuma people that his administration would reconstruct the Umuakali-Eberi Road in appreciation of their support to the PDP.
Inaugurating the project, former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara, noted how Wike has redefined governance and broken the jinx of non-performance associated with second tenure governors.
According to him, the approach to development that the governor has adopted stands him out as a much sought-after leader who should be consulted in solving critical national issues related to governance.
“With my experience in elective politics, second terms of most governors are dull; some governors will just go to sleep because they don’t have anything to offer. But you are still commissioning projects, as if you’re not even going to leave.
“Your developmental approach, your developmental plans, and formula should make you an international consultant to the failing government. Because, quite frankly, the magic, I mean, nobody knows except you. You do it with ease, you do it with happiness.”
Providing the description of the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, EllokaTasie-Amadi said the Omueze-Umuogba-Umuokpurukpu-Umueke-Umunju-Eberi link road in Omuma Local Government Area was another genuine efforts of the Wike administration to ease the transportation difficulties experienced by rural dwellers in the Omuma.
“Many of these rural projects go unsung probably because the residents are not social media savvy, as in the case of Omuma, who are predominantly farmers, or probably because SM activities are not a part of their past times as it is with city dwellers.
“It may shock you to know that for every kilometre of road we have built in the city we have built 12kms or more in the rural areas. This is a conservative estimate I would like you to ponder upon when you get home.”
He further stated, “This project is a 16.2km long, 10.3m wide road project which has 4.3km of drains. The roads are marked and have a total of 27 road signs to aid driving and enhance public safety.”
Wike Flags Off Abonnema/ Obonoma Sandfilling Project, Today
All is now set for the flag-off of the Abonnema/Obonoma Sandfilling project in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.
A statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, yesterday, said that, “the project will sandfill 42 hectares of land that will help expand Abonnema and Obonoma Towns.
“It is in fulfilment of the promise made by Governor Nyesom Wike during the commissioning of the Abonnema Ring Road”.
The statement further added that, “The rich culture and tradition of the Kalabaris will be fully on display at the event.
“Please, note that all Covid-19 protocols will be observed at the event”, it stressed.
Wike, Building Strong Foundation For Rivers Transformation, SSG Confirms
The Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, has re-emphasised that Governor Nyesom Wike’s resolution in the delivery of meaningful projects was to establish a strong foundation for the transformation of the state.
Danagogo observed that the ceaseless commissioning of projects and the commencement of the Phase 1 of Trans-Kalabari Link Road construction, as well as the Abonnema/Obonoma Sandsfilling/ Land Reclamation were clear demonstration of the governor’s doggedness to ensure that all sectors of the state and the LGAs were positively affected by the new economic windows that such infrastructures would deliver.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Danagogo lauded Wike for always fulfilling his promises to the people, and positively taking on policies that were beneficial to the development of the state.
The SSG maintained that the construction of the Trans-Kalabari Link Road further underscores the governor’s love for the people of Kalabari Kingdom and the demonstration of his character as a promise keeper.
“As a landmark project, the governor is aware of the diverse economic windows the development of the Trans-Kalabari Link Road will create for the people, and as well enhance the rural-urban interconnection that this government is promoting.
“The potential benefits of sandfilling Abonnema/Obonoma, and the Trans Kalabari Road construction is enormous. The various links and proximity to the state capital, Port Harcourt, is unique as more economic windows can be explored in the areas of housing, agriculture, transportation and other businesses.”
He added that the segmentation policy of the construction was good for the quick completion and delivery of the projects.
“I urge the Kalabari people to always work with the NEW Rivers Vision administration. The governor means well for the economic prosperity of all Rivers people.
“We can recall that the previous government abandoned the project for unexplainable reasons. Now, irrespective of the present economic challenges bedevilling the federation, the governor has embarked on the construction of the phase one of Trans-Kalabari Link Road.
“I encourage the Kalabari people to be open-minded, receptive of this historic development, and enjoy its benefits,” he further added.
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