By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
In the wake of the pervasiveness of corruption experienced in Nigeria, and its adverse effect on the country and its citizens, campaign and reforms have been undertaken by every arm of government to subdue the trend.
Against this backdrop, the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, on the inception of office, elucidated the total commitment to aggressively tackle the menace which has eaten deep into the fabrics of the nation.
The campaign against corruption becomes the peoples’ campaign in the interest of Nigerians. As the country progressively deteriorates in infrastructure and standard of living, a few amass unthinkable wealth and luxury.
Political watchers are of the opinion that the anti-graft fight has not held enough water, a statement which President Buhari, corroborated when he said that corruption is fighting back vigorously.
The President maintained that corrupt people had accumulated a formidable arsenal of illicit wealth, which they were now deploying against the government on diverse fronts.
He however, reassured that the ongoing anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria will be won in spite of the fact that “the anti-corruption war is tough and grueling. But it is a war we are determined to win, and which we will win.
“People of goodwill are behind us, countries like America and many others are with us, and we will surely win,’’ the president said.
In view of this, the three arms of the government are resolute to tackle the twin concept of the campaign against corruption and the reform of the justice sector, collaborate with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Justice, organized a National Dialogue of Organs of Government on Reform of Justice Sector and Campaign Against Corruption.
This dialogue is coming just days after Nigeria was revealed as having slipped down 12 places in the global Corruption Perception Index. With a score of 27, the nation is deemed to have performed poorer than her 136th position in the 2016 rankings to 148th in 2017, according to Transparency International.
The unique event is a worthy initiative to aggregate the input and contributions of the three arms of government in reforming the Justice Sector and promotion of the fight against corruption.
Highlighting the landmarks moves in a bid to quell corruption, the executive arm of government has initiated programmes like, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Whistle Blower Programmes, elimination of ghost workers from payroll, aggressive investigation and prosecution of indicted persons and a robust asset recovery.
Others include, Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) as well as greater transparency and security in the expenditure of public funds.
In the same vein, the legislative arm of government, demonstrating its political will to tackle corruption, underlined its landmark Bills passed to strengthen the graft fight. The Bills include the Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters Bill, the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill and the Whistleblowers’ Bill.
On the part of the Judiciary, the National Judicial Council (NJC) under the leadership of Justice Walter Onnoghen SAN, has constituted the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) to checkmate the excesses of some bad eggs in the sector.
Designation of Special Courts to handle corruption cases, Judges of lower courts to submit returns of cases quarterly to the federal judicial service commission (FJSC) for assessment.
Speaking at the event, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was represented by David Umaru, expressed dissatisfaction on the recent rating of Nigeria in the global corruption perception.
According to Saraki, the news is no doubt a matter of some concern which will make the country more determined to further strengthen corruption-fighting institutions and processes to enable it fight the good fight without let or hindrance, and without any bias.
“We as Lawmakers in the 8th National Assembly take very seriously the fight against corruption to sanitise our polity and instill greater probity, openness and accountability in the system.
“The national assembly ensures the accountability of public organization as well as maintains its scrutiny of the national budget.
We make bold to say that we are matching our words with action, to compliment the Executive’s fight against corruption with some of our landmark Bills we have passed.” Saraki assured.
On his part, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, represented by the Director Legal Drafting, Jide Akinley, informed that the executive arm of the government has put in place diverse processes and mechanisms to ensure the national commonwealth never again frittered away again.
According to Malami, graft fight will have a clear chance of success if it actively involves all stakeholders as well as enjoys ownership by all the arms of government.
He maintained that the dialogue among the arms of government represents a determined effort to promote synergy and cooperation among the three arms of government.
“No matter the urgency in our methods as an executive branch, the application of Rule of Law by the Judiciary and the expeditious consideration of supporting laws by the legislature are equally critical to the overall success we hope to achieve in order to promote greater prosperity and stability in our country.
“This move represents a determined effort to promote synergy and cooperation among the three arms of government. This approach without doubt, will assist us all in developing a more rigorous and sustainable architecture to combat corruption and strengthen our justice sector in the days to come.
Also speaking at the event is the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen SAN, who was represented by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Z. A Bulkachuwa, reiterated that the Nigeria Judiciary, like every other human institution, needs transformation every now and then to improve the functionality of the institution towards a speedy delivery of justice.
Onnoghen revealed that his administration has authorized issuance of a set of reforms which according to him requires the cooperation of the three arms of the government and other relevant stakeholders to achieve its objective.
“The reforms I introduced cover a wide range of issues, from establishing new modalities for appointment of judicial officers, to tightening judicial discipline regulations, and fashioning out a speedy way to clear backlog of cases, among others.
“Any delay of justice is equally an act of corruption. Corruption or any other form of injustice thrives in a culture of impunity.
Earlier, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Prof. Itse Sagay SAN, in his welcome address submitted that for justice sector to be sustained, the stakeholders should put heads together.
“We have the same objective, so we will work together. No arm of government no matter how important should fight corruption on their own. An act of corruption in any arm of government undermines its aim.
There is too much lip service in the fight against corruption.
“The legislature should pass all pending anti-corruption bills. The judiciary should bring to justice any of their colleagues who take bribe they should adhere strictly on the provisions of ACJA to speedily dispense justice in any corruption case,” Sagay concluded.
Corruption has caused a lot of inequalities in Nigeria; we are at the point where there is no turning back on the graft fight.