Some of the recent legal fatalities suffered by the Federal Government in its war against corruption have brought to the fore the need for Government to fine-tune its strategies in the prosecution of suspected cases of corruption in order that the anti-corruption programme would remain on course. Unfortunately, in just one week alone, the Federal Government lost three critical cases of corruption in the courts. First, a High of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja last week, dismissed all the 18 charges preferred against Mr. Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife Olubowale and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Joe Agi by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The three were discharged over charges of corruption preferred against them, even as the court upheld their no-case submissions. The presiding judge, Mr. Justice Jude Okeke in his ruling held, among other things, that the prosecution (EFCC) was unable to establish a prima facie case showing that the total sum of N30 million paid by Agi into Olubuwale’s bank account in three tranches of N10 million each between March 11 and 26, 2015 was gratification meant to influence Justice Ademola in his official functions.
Also in the same week, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos vacated its earlier order freezing the Skye Bank account of the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, containing the total sum of $5.9 million. The presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, set aside the “No-Debit Order,” which the EFCC had earlier placed on the account on allegations that the $5.9 million found in it was proceeds of crime. Similarly too, another Federal High Court sitting in Lagos in the same week gave a ruling, lifting the temporary forfeiture order on the N75 million account belonging to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome. EFCC had alleged that the amount, which was paid Ozekhome by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose as legal fee was proceeds of corruption.
This streak of legal losses by the EFCC no doubt, are clear pointers to the fact that all is not going well with the prosecution of corruption suspects by the anti corruption agencies of the Federal Government. This development therefore, calls for the anti corruption agencies to be more thorough, more circumspect and more careful in their investigation processes before approaching the courts for prosecution of the cases. Needless reminding the anti corruption agencies that law is predicated on logic and scientific presentation, and as such must be approached with care and facts. A clear case of corruption can only be won if the prosecution embarks on thorough investigation and advances clear and convincing facts to support such a good case, if not, like pack of cards, the good case is bound to suffer unmitigated crash.
Moreover, our legal system upholds the time-tested dictum that a suspect remains innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. Nothing can be far from that truth. The resort by the anti corruption agencies to media trial of corruption suspects can hardly win them any corruption cases in court. Diligent prosecution remains the only key to such legal victories. It is wrong to expect corruption suspects and accused persons to be the ones to prove their innocence; that would amount to turning jurisprudence upside down. While keeping in focus the saying that corruption has the capacity to always fight back, Government must nevertheless, refrain from the practice of shopping for convenient courts where to lodge corruption cases as it is the practice with the present administration. We, in the AUTHORITY, have consistently made the point that there are various stages of appeals that the Government must take advantage of if it loses any case, no least corruption cases.
No doubt, corruption remains a very cancerous malaise that has frustrated and impeded Nigeria’s strive towards development and greatness and therefore requires very stringent approach to stem the evil. This is perhaps, why the Federal Government may need to revisit the agitation and call for the establishment of special courts to handle corruption cases, with the inherent disadvantages therein.
Unfortunately, recent revelations have demonstrated that we still have a very long way to go in fighting corruption. Most recent findings has revealed that huge and stupendous parts of our national resources meant for the betterment of the lives of the people are stashed away by some wicked Nigerians in private homes, soak-aways, abandoned buildings, overhead tanks, farmlands, deserts, cemeteries etc. Regrettably, serious and pervasive as corruption is to our lives, it has failed to receive the virulent attack and condemnation it deserves as some people choose instead to politicize the cankerworm.
Much as we insist that the judiciary must not allow itself to be stampeded by the executive in the fight against corruption, it is cheering that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has pledged the support of the judiciary to the Federal Government’s fight against corrup