Thursday 27th April, 2017
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Corruption: Greater diligence in prosecution needed

Corruption: Greater diligence in prosecution needed

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

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