Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) says the National Assembly (NASS) is not flexing enough legislative muscles to assist the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.
He also accused the NASS, led by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, of deliberately deflating the government anti-graft war meant to rid the country of biting sleaze.
Reacting to assertions by Saraki and Dogara that the anti-graft fight was is a mere melodrama, ineffective and doomed to failure, Sagay said chided the federal lawmakers for refusing to pass key anti-graft bills as well as non-confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to the PACAC boss, “In fact, the National Assembly has constituted itself into an opposition to the anti-corruption struggle. It has mounted a war against the anti-corruption struggle. It has decided to obstruct it at every stage.”
“For example, the bill for a special criminal court is not moving. And we saw the way they tried to stop Magu from being chairman of EFCC just because they found out he was effective, determined and incorruptible. So they really want to weaken it, destroy it and bring it to the level it was when Jonathan was in power. So, they’re enemies of the anti-corruption struggle, there’s no question about that,” he said.
Refuting Saraki’s claims that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is only interested in sending people to prison, the Professor of law stated, “No. What we are determined to do at any cost is to recover every stolen kobo, all the loot taken from Nigeria, 100 per cent. We will not allow any loot to remain with anybody. We need it for development. That is what we’re determined to do. And you will find instances in which we lose a criminal case, and still recover the assets from the person involved.”
He explained that, “Two things have happened that he (Saraki) is probably not aware of. In the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), there are very comprehensive provisions on plea bargaining and alternative means of sentencing.
“There are also provisions for reducing sentencing based on the admission of the defendant. So, it is not true that government is favouring punishment alone. We have a national anti-corruption policy document. Prevention is one of the major provisions there. Prevention by education, giving incentives, to make Nigerians realise it is better to be honest than to be corrupt through many means like television plays. We’re not just looking at punishment alone. In short, punishment is the last alternative.”
Sagay also took a swipe at Saraki’s allegation that anti-corruption agencies were not independent, saying: “We in PACAC are not consulted in most of the cases tried by EFCC and ICPC. We read about them in the newspapers just like everyone else. They are not influenced at all. They use their own independent judgment.
“All we do is to guide them on how they can successfully, effectively and efficiently do their job. We provide the services, training, workshops and we help them get resources like laboratory equipment. As for giving them instructions, no. they decide what to do.
He expressed regrets that the National Assembly leadership and members do not seem to have a fair idea of things that are happening differently in the polity, saying: “For example, PACAC has produced a manual on prosecution. It essentially recommends teams for prosecution rather than individuals. When a case arises for investigation, there is an investigator who looks for evidence. He works with lawyers and experts who will guide him on what constitutes the evidence required to prove the offence. The team of five or six meets to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to court.”
On claims of media trial and ‘five-minute sensationalism’ espouse by the Senate President, Prof Sagay said, “The showmanship might have existed before – I don’t believe it did – but not now. The idea is to do team work, conduct comprehensive and exhaustive investigation to establish a strong case in order to achieve efficient prosecution and speedy adjudication.”
Saraki and Dogara made their claims of an ineffective anti-graft war in Abuja at the public presentation of a book titled: ‘Antidotes for Corruption – The Nigerian Story’, written by Senator Dino Melaye.
For Senator Saraki, the anti-graft war should be focused on prevention rather than punishment with anti-corruption agents and agencies being truly independent, while Speaker Dogara insists that only strong institutions would effectively prosecute a successful fight against corruption.