- Buhari’s Anti-corruption Panel Lambasts Presidency, Judiciary
Two prominent members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption in Abuja on Saturday picked holes in government’s handling of the anti-corruption war.
Speaking in Abuja at a programme organised by the National Association of Seadogs (the Pyrates Confraternity), the Chairman of the panel, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), and member, Professor Femi Odekunle, attributed recent setbacks suffered by the administration in the prosecution of corruption cases to the fraudulent activities of compromised elements in the judiciary and legislature, and a lack of diligence on the part of some senior government officials.
The Chairman of the committee, Prof. Itse Sagay, said the President and his team must come up with new ideas to fight corruption.
He said the judiciary was concentrating more on technicalities rather than the spirit of the law and justice.
Sagay said, “The Federal Government, particularly the President and Vice-President, who were elected into office principally to eliminate corruption, must go back to their drawing board, search and scan the constitution and other laws to draw the requisite irresistible power to deal firmly with this terrible scourge of our times – otherwise we are all dead.”
The senior advocate said the National Judicial Council was not equipped to look into corruption cases against judges. He said the primary duty of the NJC was to address judicial misdemeanour.
The PACAC chairman said before 1999, Nigeria had many incorruptible judges like Justice Kayode Eso, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Justice Mohammed Bello, Justice Chike Idigbe, Justice Adetunji Adefarasin, Justice Mason Begho and others
Sagay, however, said corruption pervaded the judicial system after the return to democracy in 1999, when judges started hearing election petition cases.
He noted that many senior advocates had corrupted and compromised judges to the extent that some of the advocates now pay the school fees of children of judges.
Sagay added, “Today, some judges actually solicit for money. They don’t even wait to be offered money. One of the judges that has been asked by the NJC to go back to work is a constant solicitor of money. He writes to counsel, ‘my mother died yesterday, I need money to bury her.’
“Two months later, ‘my daughter is getting married next month, I need money to organise a wedding: Another month, the same judge will write, ‘my uncle has just been made a chief and I need to make a contribution, send money.’
“This is written to lawyers and the lawyers gladly contribute. In fact, there is a long list of lawyers now who have to go to the EFCC at least once a month to explain why they had to send so much money to the account of one judge or the other who demanded money.
“Some lawyers do it out of a sense of obligation while some lawyers do it for consideration of future favours. It just shows you how (low) our judges have sunk.”
Sagay said his committee had drafted a bill for the ‘Forfeiture of Assets and Properties, procured by unlawful activity (proceeds of crimes)’ which will empower courts to order forfeiture of properties by a person without the person being convicted.
The senior advocate said he had advised anti-graft agencies to use non-conviction based assets recovery system to fight graft in some peculiar cases.
He said in such a situation, anybody who was found in possession of huge sums of money, whose source he or she could not explain, would be made to explain themselves in court.
Sagay said this approach was used by the EFCC in the case against Patience, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose $15m has been forfeited to the Federal Government and is now battling to save the $5m found in her bank account.
The PACAC chairman added, “If you are seen to be living beyond your means of livelihood, the anti-graft agencies could apply for temporary forfeiture of funds and properties and you would then be made to appear in court to explain yourself.
“That bill is already before the National Assembly but we are not even waiting for it to be passed. A part of the EFCC Act empowers the agency to do this and it is already being done in the case of Patience Jonathan’s $15m.
“You will recall recently that when $5m which she owns was frozen in her account but was later unfrozen due to technical issues, the EFCC went back to court to apply through this non-conviction based forfeiture and got it frozen again. Now she has to come to court to explain how she got it.”
Also speaking, Odekunle, in particular, questioned the commitment of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to the anti-graft war and also raised a doubt about the integrity of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, who discharged and acquitted Senate President Bukola Saraki of all 18 charges levelled against him, on Wednesday.
The professor of criminology also questioned the resolve of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to help the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.
The event titled, ‘Feast of Barracuda’, had ‘Critical Review of the Anti-Corruption War in Nigeria: Strategies, Challenges and Prospects’, as its theme.
While exploring the theme, Odekunle, raised eight salient questions which he said members of the public must answer in order to put the recent failures of the anti-graft war in proper perspective.
He asked, “Does the Presidency realise that routine crime prevention and methodology, instruments and processes are not adequate in fighting corruption in this country? That is, does the Presidency realise that fighting corruption must be a ‘rofo rofo’ fight? That it is not a question of due process, long process, fair hearing and all those that will give you technical justice instead of real justice?
“It is said that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. In this regard, I ask, what were the details and the resolution of the EFCC matter on Danladi Umar’s bribery case? I don’t know, I’m just asking. Does the DSS possess any information about Danladi Umar on the use or abuse of hard drugs?
“Is there any record that Danladi Umar had been driving and crashing his car under the influence? These are questions that I don’t know the answers to but I want you to investigate.
“Is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is to lead the anti-corruption fight, going by the way things have been going in the past two years, as committed as others who could have done the job better?
“I have no answers but I believe if they are answered, it will give us an insight into the cause of our current dilemma in the fight against corruption.”
Odekunle urged the Federal Government to use unconventional methods in the fight against corruption, saying it would never win if it continued to use what he described as conventional methods.
He said since the corrupt elite controlled the judiciary and the legislature, this group of people would continue to protect its own.
Odekunle added, “So, all this arrangee between the judiciary, the legislators, and people are saying, ‘We don’t want the APC to be destroyed, Saraki is our own, let us settle our own, party supremacy is better’, we must moderate that.”
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.
In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.
“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.
He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.
The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.
The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.
“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.
“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.
“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.
“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.
Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.
“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”
He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.
“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.
“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.
“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.
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