Thursday, 4 June 2009

CACOL Opposes New Anti-corruption Commission(News Release)

The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), an aggregate of more than 40 anti-corruption grassroots organizations has expressed its concern over the plans of the Senate to legislate a new Commission to oversee the operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). The Coalition hinges its opposition to the Senate’s Initiative on the fact that Nigeria already has enough legislation in its statute books to take care of any excesses that the anti-graft agencies might get indulged in. This position was canvassed in a statement made available to the media by Mr Debo Adeniran the Chairman of CACOL wherein the group also complained that Nigeria is a country with too many standing and ad hoc redundant, duplicated and moribund Councils, Commissions, Panels and Agencies that gulp so much public funds but achieve nothing but ant-people results like rewarding a corrupt firm like Siemens that has aided the growth of corruption and systemic failure in Nigeria with fresh multi-billion naira contracts.

As examples of duplication of Commission CACOL listed the Council of State, National Defence Council, National Security Council, Police Service Commission, Nigeria Police Council that work to invent and supervise policies on security of the country, inhabitants and their property. All their pretences to know-how achieved nothing than the loss of Bakassi to Cammeroun, lost Niger Delta to militants, highways and homes to armed bandits as typified by burglars, robbers, assassins and other terrorists. Another one is the Federal Judicial Service Commission, National Judicial Council and the Judicial Service Committee of FCT that are all created to supervise judicial officers to ensure that what citizens get from the judiciary are not mere judgment but justice. Although the best performing arm of the Federal and State Governments, the Nigerian Judicial system has created more problems for the people than reliefs. Justices of the defunc First Election Petition Tribunal in Osun State led by Mr. Justice Thomas Naron are still in service of the Nigerian Judiciary even when the Federal Court of Appeal has indicted them of carrying out a miscarriage of justice while their sitting in Osun State lasted.

The group asserted it unthinkable that all the supervisory judicial bodies could watch with disinterest while a High Court grants the former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili perpetual injunction by a High Court against arrest, investigation, and therefore trial for his indictment by the EFCC of corrupt practices. They wonder what sort of justice system allows a suspected criminal wander the streets a free person, even when so many innocent suspects are wallowing in detention for want of charges against them. The anti-graft group equally wonders why all the judicial bodies allow 24 CACOL members arrested in Osun State, detained in police custody and remanded in prison custody twice for about five weeks after they were charged under non-existent laws for carrying placards condemning judicial corruption in the State. Their bail was once revoked even when they committed no offence to warrant the punishment. Yet all overseeing judicial bodies tolerated myriads of indicted criminals that are given slaps-on-the-wrist punishments in the name of the judicial fraud called plea-bargaining.

Furthermore, the Coalition cited examples of the Federal Character Commission that could be subsumed within the National and State Civil Service Commission or Council of State as well as that of the Code of Conduct Bureau and its Tribunal that are mere toothless bulldogs. All these are outside several ad-hoc reforms, investigation and probe Panels whose reports only serve as bases of setting up other panels that cost so much funds to run but achieve too little benefits for the people. The Coalition cited the recent Electoral Reforms Panel headed by retired Justice Mohammed Uwais upon which a phony Panel had to be constituted to review the white paper on its reports and recommendation as being instructive in this regard.

The anti-graft Coalition further expressed its disappointment in the slap on the face of Nigerians by the Federal Executive Council which on Wednesday was reported to have approved a N25.3bn worth contract to a German firm, Siemens, that has already indicted and blacklisted for corruption in Nigeria, found guilty and punished for corruption in Germany and the US. CACOL wonders if the National Assembly thinks that a government lacking in consistency that reverses itself on matters of integrity could take any recommendation from an overseer Commission any more seriously. CACOL queried if the members of the new Commission are to be saints and not humans like the ones that constitute their subordinating counterparts?

To CACOL, setting up Panels, Commissions etc are nothing but jobs-for-the-boys by the ruling elite. And this is done at the expense of the poor ordinary citizens whose lives could have been made more meaningful if the huge funds being expended to service the Commissions etc had been judiciously utilized. The group suggested mutual monitoring roles among different anti-graft agencies, several existing judicial bodies and the Ministry of Justice if there is any genuine fear of compromise of integrity on the part of any of them. Besides, CACOL complained that setting up a new Commission to supervise the existing anti-graft Commission would only increase the already cumbersome Bureaucracy that has made prosecution of corrupt suspects almost impossible prodigious task. According to CACOL, the intervention of Barrister Michael Aondoakoaa as the head of the Ministry of Justice that supervises EFCC and ICPC has already frustrated several cases of corruption both at home and abroad such as the ones of Halliburton, Siemens, Wilbross, Pentascope etc.

The Coalition agreed with the Chairperson of EFCC, Madam Farida Waziri that what the country requires is not duplicity in and duplication of roles of anti-graft agencies but a machinery to make their jobs less frustrating, less cumbersome and more rewarding. This, CACOL argues could only be achieved if specialised courts are established to try corruption cases that on daily basis keeps pouring into already overburdened inadequate courts and other judicial institutions in different parts of the country. This, CACOL asserts, will bust the cycle of delayed justice which gives criminal the leverage to evade justice and the people denied much needed justice against the plunderers of their collective patrimony, their national heritage.

Debo Adeniran