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Taming the Beast of Corruption Holistically: Twin Propositions for the Ballot in the General Elections

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--

By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published March 10th, 2011

Let me state from the outset that the word “Taming” appearing in the heading of these proceedings has been advisedly and deliberately used to indicate that the affliction of corruption, much like every other incurable human affliction cannot be totally eliminated in any human society. It can only be tamed and managed as it were through a cocktail of prescriptions and that would, of course include legal, moral and ethical remedies, which readily lend themselves to enforcement, for no human conduct can be amenable to prohibition or sanction, that which cannot be readily enforced by the society or community in which it is considered a moral or ethical hazard worthy of prohibition and sanction.

And this being in recognition of the fact that any untoward conduct indulged in by individuals or groups, such as for example, prostitution or unnatural sexual deviations practiced by the sexually depraved or mal-adjusted in the comfort of darkness far removed from the censorious eyes of the public cannot be totally eliminated without eliminating the individuals or groups concerned as the case may be. As such, our efforts as a nation should be directed not at the impossible for the total elimination of corruption and graft but at the possible for the reduction of corruption and graft to their barest minimum possible so far as our collective will and resources would permit since all are of the same mind that such a goal is noble and salutary and therefore much desirable even if some do so only by their lips rather than by their hearts. 

Even so the great task of moral rearmament is not made any simpler by the ey ther than their heartsn of corruption and graftlic domainlenge. rent the fabrics of our moral universe straintsitxtreme individualism imposed by the quartet of capitalism and democracy so much cherished and thus decreed by the Western world  at the expense of the collective; and pervasive urban anonymity and the information superhighway which has flung wide open the gates of hell in which communal and societal moral restraints have been loosened or deactivated by default allowing for unrestrained and unspeakable immoral indulgences that rent the very fabrics of our moral universe.

It, therefore, behooves men and women of goodwill to rise up to the challenge of our age and save civilization from self-destruction by redrawing in bold reliefs the boundaries of public if not private morality especially in third world nations like Nigeria, for no progress can be made by nations in the vice-grip of corruption. Dealing with corruption must therefore be seen as our first order of business that should and must take precedence over and above all things. This great challenge must be executed not only by defining what is permissible or not in the public domain but scrupulously enforcing it because left to his own devices man is as much an immoral as he is a moral being, having the capacities for both in roughly equal measures. And in the absence of deliberate restraints imposed on man immorality is apt to take a firm holdTaming the Beast of Corruption Holistically: Twin Propositions for the Ballot in the General Elections Ballot in the General Electionsion. 

The reader might ask: why should I concern myself with these matters not being in public service or in some position of authority to advise the nation in this manner. What is the benefit in this for me when men of religion and authority have given up on this or have otherwise joined the gravy train? My answer to such inquiry would be this: it is because I’m concerned with the utter desecration of public morality which is patently un-African and not worthy of bequests to our children and grandchildren that I have taken on these matters. It is the civic responsibility of good citizens to promote the public good by speaking out against any and all evil that might bring harm to the society in the hope that in the very act of speaking out some citizens laboring on the fringes of public immorality might turn away from it and find better and more wholesome directions to apply themselves for the common good.   

Perhaps it is fitting to acknowledge in passing in this connection also that this essay was in part inspired by a reader who had gone through one of my writings on corruption in the Judiciary titled: Nigerian Judiciary Reinvented as the Ultimate Rigging Machine, which he had described as an “eye opener” for revealing the rot in the judiciary with particular reference to the judicial malfeasances being perpetrated at the Court of Appeal headed by the embattled Justice Ayo Salami in relation to election petitions. Those steaming revelations bordering on corrupt and unprofessional practices on the part of certain Justices of the Court of Appeal in relation to questionable verdicts delivered on election petitions have since become public knowledge, laying bare to public odium the presumably unimpeachable temple of justice. Thus the hitherto unimaginable and unfathomable desecration of the House of Justice by the very judicial officers who had sworn to uphold and maintain the sanctity of the temple had come to this reader as a shocker and “opened” his eyes to the fact that no state or public institution in Nigeria is immune to the ravages of corruption in the body politic. As such, he advised a more holistic approach to the treatment of the malaise, which accordingly has informed the choice of the title of the present deliberations.       

Now, if we dare to examine the anatomical features of corruption in Nigeria, what we will find is a body whose major organs have been deeply infested with the corruption virus. Metaphorically, the Nigerian nation is a walking corpse kept alive with breathing machines provided with petro-dollar. Cut off the supply lines and the body will be headed for the morgue the next seconds, not next minutes. So long as oil flows in the pipelines from Niger Delta so long will corruption find a warm and comfortable home in Nigeria unless and until such a time that the people themselves rise up as is presently happening in the Arab world and the Middle East to deal with the situation squarely. It is past time for the people to do it themselves rather than waiting for state agencies charged with the responsibility of dealing with the malaise when they themselves are wallowing in corruption. Who is going to probe who? Who among them would be the first to cast the stone?

Is it wise and prudent for the people to wait on the Nigerian Police to fight corruption when the police establishment itself is the very definition of corruption? It’s like waiting on the Devil to do battle with evil. Those who are waiting or counting on the police to do the job are part of the problem itself because such expectation smacks of sheer ignorance and naivety. Pray, is the Nigerian police force capable of policing itself let alone others? Is it capable of professionalism in the first place like their counterparts in other parts of the world? Do Nigerian police officers see themselves as professionals or as extortionists or unofficial tax collectors? Do the words “honor” and “selfless service” apply to them in their duties?  I doubt they do. Send a Nigerian police officer to investigate a case of graft or fraudulent misappropriation and he winds up aggressively looking for his own cut with his boss expecting his own “returns” on his investment rather than bringing the culprit to book and make a name for himself and his agency, because as they say in Nigeria in Pidgin English “Nobi name I go chop,” meaning he would not serve a good name on his dinner table for his family to eat when he comes back home. Therefore he must bring some bacon home to his family. And you wonder whether our policemen and women are volunteers without paychecks or fulltime public workers with full pay, life insurance and pension benefits along with other perquisites, including several allowances not otherwise available to other cadres of public servants. Are they getting enough? You bet they are not. But who is getting enough in the public service?

Nobody is getting enough. Should that be reason enough to engage in corruption and graft as our policemen and women do as their second nature? The answer is absolutely no. It shouldn’t and must not be. Corruption must never be justified on the basis of poor salaries because there are millions of fellow citizens without jobs. Should they be justified then for taking to crime of robbery and kidnapping because of joblessness? That would be dangerous logic. Are police officers giving off their best in equal work for equal pay in the first place as their counterparts elsewhere? In other words, do their overall performance and productivity justify their paychecks and the other pecks in the first place? You bet it is not. Yet they want to take extra bacon home to their families through criminal activities of extortion and other means.

What about anti-graft agencies specifically set up to sidestep the notoriously underperforming police establishment? Not much of a difference either because its hands have been tied with judicial ropes. Petition the anti-corruption agency in Nigeria and the next thing you hear is a court injunction served on the agency forbidding it from howsoever investigating, arresting, prosecuting or in any way, shape or form interfering with the free movement of the suspect pending the determination of the substantive matter before it.

With such an order the table is turned against the anti-graft agency and the suspect’s suit becomes the “substantive matter” while the petition before the agency becomes a secondary or if you like “un-substantive matter” overnight. Need I add that the “substantive matter” is never determined but adjourned endlessly through all manners of frivolous motions calculated to defeat the cause of justice thereby leaving the suspect to enjoy his loot ad infinitum while the agency is eventually frustrated out of the performance of its statutory duties? When you hear the EFCC chairperson, Mrs. Farida Waziri, crying out about her frustrations by the judiciary, that is precisely what she is crying about.

 But who would listen to her when the courts are supposed to be doing their job in our constitutional order? Who would ask judges not to perform their duties when approached by individuals accused of corruption to intervene on their behalf on grounds of alleged improprieties or illegalities supposedly perpetrated by the anti-graft agency in seeking their arrest and prosecution? The courts have a duty to intervene when these allegations are made before them by suspects or accused persons and it doesn’t matter whether the allegations are calculated to defeat the cause of justice or not as is indeed the case. That would be determined by the courts in the end, which in our case, could mean eternity, long enough for the suspects to contest another election and become a governor of a state, or president of the nation legally and constitutionally fortified with immunity from prosecution. And that’s reason why corruption trials in Nigeria drag on from one election cycle to another until the suspect either dies, flees, or contests and wins election to another office making it practically impossible to prosecute him and bring him to justice. Such is the pathetic state our judiciary has been reduced by the power of corruption in Africa’s largest democracy. 

While this judicial roller coaster is going on, however, somebody is smiling his way to the banks in the in meantime. All that a public officer accused of corruption needs do is to reach out to the judge handling his case either through his lawyers or some third parties, which I would describe as professional “judicial lobbyists” and settle him and the lower officers below him. Chikena! All would be well with him and his house.

And you want to know, is the bribing of judicial officers not a very serious crime? You bet it is. Why would a man accused of one crime of corruption proceed to commit another more serious crime of bribery and perversion of the course of justice on top of the first one? Well it takes crime to cover up crime! Does it make sense to you? But why would a judicial officer sworn on oath to administer justice without fear or favor be complicit in the desperate actions of a felon to get him off the hook through the commission another crime? Well the answer is, no one is really interested in the abstract notion of justice in Nigeria but interested in what they can get out of the system for themselves, their families and friends using their privileged positions in government. For the most part public service is in reality private service in Nigeria.

And you want to know more: Why would such a judicial officer be allowed to remain on the bench till retirement to make complete mockery of the administration of justice in any nation that some are even resisting promotions to higher offices for fear of losing control of their prosperous judicial empires? Well this is not any nation. This is Nigeria where corruption could be described as a way of life regardless of Nigerians’ profession of religion. It’s a nation seemingly aspiring to become the world’s corruption super power with no equal on the globe. And each time some other nation tries to test its power it violently reasserts itself as the numero uno of global corruption. If in doubt please check out Transparency International’s CPI for more details.

What is even more galling is the fact that 99.99% of all judicial officers and politicians in Nigeria belong to the two dominant Christian and Islamic faiths that absolutely abhor corruption in their teachings. It is interesting to note that both religions came to our shores to talk about the evils of sinning and eternal damnations and succeeded in destroying our traditional religious, moral and ethical heritage only for them to become breeding grounds of public immorality. Anti-graft religious injunctions means absolutely nothing to the adherents of these religions in public service even as they go about plastering their religions on their foreheads for men to see in public while they proceed actively in the dark of night to undermine the very basis of their faiths. Like the Pharisees who went to great lengths to exhibit publicly forms of religious piety while neglecting its substance, so are Nigerian politicians belonging to the two faiths mentioned above. Such is the pitiable state of the anti-graft war that it has barely made a dent.

In a sense the profusion of corruption and its several outgrowths has been aided and abetted by foreign religious implants that do not seem to have any effective sanctions against the vice at least in the now rather than in the hereafter. Before the advent of these religions the stealing of public funds was anathema in what later became Nigeria, from the village to the national level. There was hardly any community in Nigeria that celebrated corruption the way it has become since then. No one entrusted with the public purse ever dipped his hands into it and got away with it because traditional sanctions were not only potent but self-executing.  All the huge undertakings involved in investigating, apprehending and prosecuting culprits with the elaborate judicial rituals did not apply. The thief himself or herself was compelled by forces beyond him or her to confess his/her misdeeds and bring him or herself forward for sanctions. Apart from paying dearly for it his and his family’s name would forever live in infamy from generation to generation.

Today, however, the reverse is the case. Corrupt individuals are now social celebrities and have become role models for the youths and upcoming generations. Now even our people have lost their moral compass and have joined in the celebration of corruption such that good people who take up public service and return without much loot to display before them are regarded with disdain. It’s a tragedy of monumental proportions that young generations of Nigerians know nothing virtuous, noble and honorable than being bred in the pit of corruption by public office holders who flaunt their ill-gotten wealth in their faces. Public service has been turned into a huge corruption mill churning out its pestilential products to contaminate both old and young and lay to absolute waste our traditional values. How is it that one man out of over 150 million Nigerians would appropriate what belongs to the collective in billions of naira and be allowed to have it for keeps to enjoy while the man who steals a chicken to feed his hungry family is allowed to rot in jail with his family condemned to eternal misery? What manner of society is that? Is that where our moral compass leads us? Such a society had better not exist than exist to promote and perpetrate this grave injustice on the weak and defenseless amongst us while the rogues and the strong go scot free.

When you hear of serving governors, senators, congressmen and women, celebrities, business moguls and money men being aggressively prosecuted, convicted and sent to prison in the countries like Britain, Japan, Germany and the United States for example it is to send a clear message that the law is no respecter of persons and the guilty would be dealt with no matter his or her status in society whether he is a Madoff, Congressman Charles Rangel, Senator Stevens of Alaska, Jefferson or whoever happens to cross the path of the laws of the land because everyone is equal before the law not in theory but in practice such that even sitting president Bill Jefferson Clinton was not spared. But he was not investigated and prosecuted by his own AG but by an Independent Counsel, Kenneth Starr. I shall deal with more of this later in my propositions.

A curse has been placed on the nation that must be exorcised if only for the sake of our children whose moral upbringing must be made whole again. Nigeria must deal with official corruption the same way it would deal with a health epidemic that is killing and maiming her citizens. But I’m afraid the conventional tools that have been applied so far will not suffice to do the job of fumigating the field of this national pestilence. Everywhere you turn in Nigeria one is greeted with the long arms of corruption stretched out and itching for financial and other forms of gratification; from the airports to the seaports; from the classrooms to the courtrooms; and from the courtrooms to the boardrooms; from hospital labor rooms to consulting rooms; from police stations to gas stations; right down to the office messenger who wouldn’t lift a finger to move a file unless and until his palms have been sufficiently greased.

Pray, where would I start and where would I end? Do I start from the rotten lawmakers in all the nation’s parliaments, state and federal, who pad their budgets with systemic loots in the name of appropriation bills? Should we start with university teachers who sell grades to the highest bidders or for sexual gratification? Do I begin with the executive where presidents, governors, ministers, local government chairmen and their advisers indulge in unbridled waste and contract padding to rob the nation blind in the name of budget implementations, which, more often than not never see the light of day? What about our houses of worship with Pastors and Imams joining the millionaire clubs? Only the other day I read in the papers (The Sun) about a Pentecostal church in Nigeria now charging elaborate fees in thousands of naira for all forms of spiritual service rendered to its members with tithe pegged at 10% of net income. So-called men and women of God defrauding their own church members in the name of rendering “spiritual service” which is nothing but prayers! How much did Jesus Himself charge for rendering spiritual services to his flock while he was alive? Pray, how are they different from babalawos that they spend their lives denouncing?  

We have seen in Nigeria appropriated but unutilized funds which ought to be returned to the treasury to be ploughed back and re-budgeted for the next fiscal year disappearing into thin air. People are indicted, but as usual, none is ever held accountable. A case in point is the billions of naira recovered from the former IGP, Tafa Balogun, by EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu now a presidential candidate that the National Assembly committee on EFCC has reportedly been unable to trace to any federal account till date, prompting the committee to invite Ribadu for questioning. And that is the EFCC that is purportedly prosecuting the nation’s anti-graft war!  How could a nation with even a rudimentary accounting system be unable to account for billions of naira recovered from a corrupt Inspector General of Police? Is there no paper trail or the whole transaction was done under the table with Ghana-must go outside the regulatory or accounting framework? How is that possible?

Perhaps I should begin with the judiciary that has been turned in a bazaar with justice put on sale and going to the highest bidder. When judges and lawmakers begin to join the billionaire club and aiming to make the Forbes’ List of world’s richest men and women as is obviously the case in Nigeria, then it is time to step back and say, “Enough is enough.” When a supposed anti-corruption agency like the EFCC that ought to lead by example could not account for billions recovered from corrupt individuals then it is time to do a fundamental rethink of the modus operandi of the anti-graft war that the nation claims to be waging. How could we claim to be fighting corruption when corrupt and indicted rogues are walking freely in the streets and picking up INEC forms to get back to power and steal some more? How could we claim to have zero tolerance for corruption when our people organize grand receptions for the likes of Bode George, Joshua Dariye, Alami Alamiesegha and James Ibori, who had been convicted or accused of corruption practices?  How could anyone take such a nation seriously? 

It is clear that we have not even begun to tackle this monster, seriously. Tackling this beast of corruption requires not just the EFCC fanning out from the center to the periphery chasing down rogues in power who know every escape route in the system particularly through the equally corrupt judiciary and could laugh EFCC to scorn but through a complete set of tools.  As things stand today EFCC is systemically castrated by the judiciary, which corruptly procured interlocutory orders it’s bound to obey in consonance with the rule of law, regardless. That is the debilitating bind EFCC has found itself and it’s a no-win situation. And that’s reason enough why the anti-graft war cannot be won with corrupt judicial officers superintending over it.

But the frustrating factors go even beyond the judiciary to the executive itself where politicians hold sway. Politicians cannot effectively police politicians because they are all in the game and have similar considerations to make when reviewing cases involving one of their own except when they’re on a vengeful mission. Other than that nothing much can be expected from them when dealing with fellow politicians. This was amply demonstrated by the former AGF Akaase Aondoakaa whose tenure witnessed the utter castration of the EFCC through his office having oversight over EFCC.  An AGF who is in bed with corrupt officials could easily use his office to frustrate the anti-graft war. But for Aondoakaa James Ibori and other corrupt ex-governors marked down for prosecution under Ribadu would have been cooling their heels in jail.  But Aondoakaa was not acting alone as his own master. He had a master in the man who appointed him into the office and that’s the president. He was carrying out his master’s brief with strict instructions not to touch certain individuals no matter what, and if those individuals had been touched before he assumed office, he owed it to his boss and to himself to enter a plea of nolle prosecui on their prosecution. And so Aondoakaa proceeded to do just that against ex-Governors Orji Uzor Kalu and James Onanefe Ibori. Where he could not due to public outcry, corrupt judges took over from there to attain the same goal while the government was busy proclaiming from the rooftops its “zero tolerance for corruption”. And so it was that an Asaba High Court Judge had no compunction discharging James Onanefe Ibori of all charges! Yes, a Nigerian judge gave an unrepentant rogue whose accomplices and wife had been convicted by London court and shielded by a corrupt administration from extradition to face trial a clean bill of health. A corollary of this is the unhelpful attitude of the opposition members who rise to protect and fence off their own members caught with their hands dripping with the oil of corruption. Whenever and wherever a member of the opposition party is indicted by the EFCC on corruption allegation it is quickly put down as political victimization and persecution of the opposition by the president without ever addressing the charges involved which are conveniently swept under the carpet. The case of the indictment of the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu for allegedly maintaining several accounts abroad while he was governor contrary to the code of conduct law exemplifies the propensity of the opposition crying wolf where there is none. The prosecution of Tinubu for allegedly maintaining foreign accounts while he was governor contrary to the laws of the land is being put down and deliberately misrepresented as “political persecution” by the ACN. Yet the same ACN would be foaming at the mouth with joy at the prosecution and conviction of its political opponents, such as happened to Bode George of the PDP, who was a thorn in its flesh in Lagos state. The ACN is doing the same with the allegation against Justice Ayo Salami, moving aggressively to shield him from investigation and possible prosecution. Such double standards are not helpful to the anti-graft war and show ACN operatives as hypocrites. Thus the opposition has been complicit in undermining the effectiveness of the anti-graft war for political reason.

Coupled with these debilities is the Nigerian press that has not been very proactive in exposing corruption in high places which it has conveniently blamed on non passage of the FOI Bill as a cover. You don’t need FOI to carry out each and every investigation to expose corruption in official circles. No, you don’t and its non passage cannot be used as an eternal or permanent excuse for sleeping on duty in the face of the high level corruption and other forms of malpractices going on in the polity. I’m not here to lecture anyone but suffice it to state that once serious allegations have been made publicly a window has been opened for the press to get its foot in the door and expand that opening with discreet investigation to get to the bottom of it as a public service. For example, it shouldn’t have taken this long for the press expose Justice Ayo Salami for using a special squad in the Court of Appeal to do his dirty work. The pattern of the judgments delivered by that special squad and the complaints from its victims should have been enough to have raised a red flag to warrant discreet investigation on the part the press. But no, not the Nigerian press that was more interested in celebrating the contrived misfortunes of the PDP than doing its professional job of holding the balance and getting to the truth of allegations made by the victims.  The corrupt elements in society have succeeded in exploiting to the hilt the very notion of the rule of law with its concomitant demand for obedience to court orders. Should we advise the anti-graft agencies to ignore court orders because they are corruptly procured by thieving public office holders under the pursuit of the law? No, for that would be open invitation to anarchy. What should we to then as a society to bring the corrupt to justice? It’s by putting our thinking caps on and devising some other means of tackling the problem without undermining the rule of law but enhancing it. With such in-built systemic obstacles on the way of the anti-graft agencies, how in the world would the anti-graft war be won? Let’s not deceive ourselves. We are not fighting corruption. We are massaging it.

Nigerians knew when the nation was serious about fighting corruption. That was some three years ago under the Obasanjo administration when Nuhu Ridadu was in charge of the ground operations. He may have been brash and rash as charged by the opposition but he was effective and the name EFCC sent shivers down the spines of corrupt elements in society and Ribadu was their nemesis. Not so anymore with Farida Waziri whose very looks and carriage show her more as a nun in prayer moods than a war general gearing for battle. One of President Jonathan’s greatest mistakes was not to bring Ribadu on board to complete the job he had begun even if somewhat tempered by the strictures of democracy and the rule of law. He has no business being in the presidential race with the ACN of all parties. Waziri is as harmless as a dove and that is the image she conveys to the public domain. She does not instill fear in the minds of would-be kleptomaniacs as was Ribadu. But then this is beyond EFCC and to that which must be done I must now turn for more detailed deliberations. 

Proposition One

When Nigeria is ready to fight corruption here is what she should do to win the war and win it, not temporarily but permanently. Here is how: The anti-graft war should be run on a parallel institutional track outside of the present institutional structures. What does that mean? It means in practice that the present judiciary as constituted should have absolutely nothing to do with it.  How so? It should be run on parallel judicial track whose judges should not be appointed by the government but elected by the people directly at periodic intervals. Judges sitting over corrupt cases must not be appointed but elected directly by the people and directly answerable to the people with their funding being first line items on budgetary estimates and entirely controlled by their secretariat or bureaucracy as the case may be. The goal is to secure their absolute independence from any of the three arms of government, namely the executive, legislature and the regular judiciary. If you like, call it the fourth arm of government.

But how do we insulate such judicial officers running on parallel tracks from politics and corruption? Here is how: It’s by making any proven affiliation with existing or past political parties or their chieftains a ground for disqualification of any candidate putting himself forward for the position during elections. No connection whatsoever must exist between existing or past political parties and their chieftains and candidates running for the position of judicial officers on this parallel track. This is essential in completely isolating such judicial officers from pursuing political agenda or being otherwise sympathetic to the fortunes of political parties in the course of their duties.

Would that in and of itself insulate them from corruption? Not being beholden to political parties whether ruling or in opposition would significantly insulate them from partisan considerations but not necessarily from graft. While self accounting and financial independence will go a long way in reducing incidence of financial inducements the ultimate check is the people themselves who would have to judge at election time whether the judicial officer concerned coming for re-election has performed satisfactorily or not and therefore deserve to have a second term or voted out of office. And the fact of their lack of political affiliation makes that determination extremely easy on the part of the electorate, for the people would not have to give sympathetic party line votes to retain an underperforming judicial officer seeking re-election. Besides, the secretariat must be made to periodically furnish the public with information regarding its activities for public assessment of same.

To this end, a special law enforcement unit must be trained and deployed for the service different from the regular police. The overarching objective is to completely insulate the anti-graft war from the frustrations and inefficiencies associated with the regular law enforcement institutions such as the police, EFCC and the courts. Jurisdiction of the courts should be limited to graft and corruption involving huge sums of money by public office holders as may be prescribed in its enabling laws and its decisions shall be appealable not to the Court of Appeal but directly to the Supreme Court for final determination. 

Proposition Two

To complement this parallel judicial track it is proposed to create the office of “Ministers of Justice” at both federal and state levels that should be separate and distinct from the present set up of Attorneys General and Ministers of Justice who are totally beholden to the executive branch. This would be more like the Independent Counsel in the United States but made permanent and fully fledged rather than having it in an ad- hoc manner on as-needed basis as it is in the US. What I’m recommending is a permanent institution not only at the federal but at the state level to deal with matters of corruption and graft which is different from the Independent Counsel in the US called in to investigate particular matters against the executive and then disbanded when it’s done never to be seen again until something else turns up.

On the contrary Ministers of Justice would be permanent conscience of the nation and serve as veritable custodians of our public morality and public accountability. That would be a role that is different and distinct from those of attorneys general. One should not be confused with the other. Attorneys general represent the government when sued and defend public institutions from private suits and they also prosecute criminal and civil matters as well in addition to being legal advisers to their respective governments and their agencies. Attorneys-General should remain what they are as part of their respective cabinets to defend the government or the public in court but Ministers of Justice should operate outside of the cabinets of sitting administrations to insulate them from executive influences and so be in a position to bring to justice both members of the executive, judicial and legislative branches who might run foul of laws relating to corruption and graft.

As things stand today the AGs both of the states and federation cannot bring their bosses to justice and in fact beholden to them and their political interests. That is not a level playing field and a great obstacle to the administration of justice. If the president or governor does not want to prosecute their AGs hands off! If they want to persecute their AGs get hands on and get themselves engaged in carrying out their dirty works. They engage and disengage at the whims of their bosses who could get away with murder literarily. That is not by any stretch of the imagination a healthy environment for the administration of justice in any nation. It’s a system weighted in favor of executives that effectively shield them from prosecution in addition to their immunity.

On no account therefore should the president, national or state assemblies and state governors be allowed or given a role in the making or unmaking of Ministers of Justice as herein proposed. Only the people in direct election should have and exercise the sovereign power of making and unmaking Ministers of Justice both at the Federal and state levels to do the people’s business of bringing crooks to book without looking over their shoulders.

 EFCC or these other interventionist outside bodies should be disbanded forthwith since they are beholden to and vulnerable to the schemes of corrupt political office holders who use them to dress windows. That no one is in prison for corruption in Nigeria in spite of our claim to fighting a war on corruption and in the face of billions of naira developing wings and taking to the air in broad daylight testifies to the fact that if ever there was a war on corruption it has indeed been lost a long time ago. No thanks to the present timid and complicit judicial system that is aiding and abetting corruption and graft and indeed part of the corruption cottage industry as recent developments have shown conclusively. That is why these recommendations for a parallel judicial system exclusively devoted to fighting graft and corruption deserve a serious look. While a federal Minister of Justice handles matters of corruption and graft relating to the federal government and its agencies, the state Ministers of Justice would be in charge of such matters at the state and local levels. What applies to judicial officers regarding political affiliation of candidates for that position equally applies to this position and need not be repeated here. This way these officials would be completely immune from the government of the day. This no doubt requires constitutional amendment to bring into effect including but not limited to the provisions that vest all criminal prosecutions and the power of discontinuing same on the office of the Attorney-General of the state or federation.

However, in the event that such Ministers of justice fail to discharge their duties as expected, they will have to face the electorate with records of their stewardship when they are due for re-election. And if the people put such non-performers back in power through their votes they have no-one but themselves to blame for rewarding indolence and non-performance. Nothing in these propositions should be interpreted as preventing or prohibiting either the National or State Houses of Assembly from inquiring into the activities of the Ministers of Justice in respect of general or particular matters for the purpose of getting clarifications in any material particular without being answerable to them in the discharge of their duties but for the purpose of disclosures only as may become necessary in the interest of the public in addition to public briefings.

A Parallel system of administration of justice has become critically important and necessary given the frustrations, inefficiencies, lack of specialization, sluggishness, undue politicization, political influence and, quite frankly, the avalanche of cases pending at the regular courts, all of which have conspired to render the anti-graft war a non-starter and will remain so unless and until something drastic is done to put a bite in the war.

We cannot claim to be fighting a war without taking prisoners or inflicting casualties on the enemies. Or we don’t have enemies to deal with? If yes, who and where are they? Are they in the streets or in the prisons? If no, then we should forthwith disband EFCC and ICPC now and get this present charade over with because we deceive nobody but ourselves. Pray, what manner of war is it we claim to be fighting—a war of words? That belongs to the realm of politics not administration of justice. Let’s get serious…and we will be taken seriously by the world including Transparency International (TI)—and posterity will be happy with us too!

From the stable of –Cutting-Edge Analytics—More than a blog—It’s a learning experience!

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst.


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