Anti-corruption War Can’t Succeed Without Special Courts, Says Falana

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Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta and Peace Obi in Lagos

The Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has said the anti-corruption war by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration cannot be won through regular courts.

He therefore called for the establishment of special courts to handle anti-corruption cases.
Falana noted that apart from the class solidarity usually extended to politically-exposed persons by judges, the issue if further compounded by the judicial corruption and professional misconduct on the part of senior lawyers involved in the defence of corruption cases, it would be unfortunate.

Delivering a keynote address at the countable convened by the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos said in spite of the overwhelming evidence of large scale looting being uncovered by the anti-graft agencies, the federal government was losing control of the war against corruption.

The keynote speaker who was represented by Wahab Shittu, noted that government had failed to counter the deliberate manipulation of the nation’s criminal justice system. “Owing to lack of coordination in the trial of politically-exposed persons, corruption is fighting back. Painfully, the FG is on the defensive as it has failed to counter the deliberate manipulation of the criminal justice system by the indicted looters of the public treasury.

Reaffirming Nigerians support to the renewed fight against corruption and impunity in the country, Falana said it was regrettable that the federal government was yet to appreciate the fact that anti-corruption battle cannot be won through the regular courts.”

According to the Lagos lawyer, despite the mind boggling revelation of criminal diversion of public funds, not a single case has been concluded by any of the courts.
According to him, given the usual manipulation of the criminal judicial system, “there is no indication that a substantial number of the cases will be concluded before 2019.”

Calling for a review of the criminal justice system, Falana said: “To avoid a situation whereby the trial of the looters is suspended indefinitely, the criminal justice system has to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.”

The Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Rahamon Bello, in his welcome address noted that corruption had become a topical issue in Nigeria especially in light of President Buhari’s change agenda, noting that the roundtable was aimed at benefiting the teeming number of Nigerians the suffer from the effects of corruption and corrupt practices.

According to Bello, it is hoped that “the roundtable will arouse the interest of Nigerians and our international partners on how to curb and limit this cankerworm which is capable of derailing the Nigerian project.”

The vice-chancellor who saluted the ingenuity and effort of the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law in organising the roundtable, said he was optimistic that the gathering would be able to proffer solutions to corruption and corrupt practices in Nigeria.

Challenging Nigerians to rise to the challenge of fighting corruption, the chairman of the event, Professor Itse Sagay, said whoever had fallen victim of the looters of the nation’s common heritage must be part of the consensus that corruption must be stamped out “for the rest of us to enjoy a modicum of social welfare, a minimum standard of living and the capacity to achieve our potentials as human beings in Nigeria.”

Charting the way out in the fight against corruption, Prof. Ayo Obe, who canvassed for structural change, also urged the government to make corruption less lucrative by consciously adopting transparency in all its system and making maximum use of technology in all its transactional dealings with its ministries, departments and agencies, among others.

According to Obe, “Helping one investor over another is not going to help the economy. Let us not open new doors and avenues for corruption. Wage the war against corruption as you started. “
At a different forum, Falana lamented that the value system of the country was corrupted, appealing to Nigerians to support the government in fighting the menace of corruption in the country.

Falana who spoke on ‘The Limits of Anti-corruption War’ at the special congress and public lecture of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) chapter in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, noted that the current anti-corruption war by President Buhari might not be successful if the president failed to address the root cause.

Falana, therefore, insisted that with the neo- colonial capitalist system of government, the country practice would negate the anti-corruption crusade, stressing “Nigeria practice a rickety capitalism.”

According to him, Nigerians must join him (president) and take advantage of their own declaration to fight corruption.
Falana said he believed in Buhari and his deputy, Osinbajo to fight the anti-corruption because “ I know their personalities.”
He urged the government to publish the name of lawyers handling corrupt cases in the country, saying that it will help people to ask questions.
He called on the federal government to ensure that no criminal goes free, challenging the national body of ASUU to help in the anti-corruption crusade of the federal government.
However, the National President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge, gave an assurance that the body would collaborate with the government in the fight against corruption.