Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed on Tuesday in Abuja called for a collective effort to stop corruption from destroying the country.
He spoke at the presentation of a book on how to tackle corruption edited by Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN).
Mohammed said there was need to seek pragmatic strategies to advance the fight against corruption and improve the perception of potential foreign investors about Nigeria, especially concerning the ease of doing business as reflected in the World Bank indices, which have consistently scored Nigeria low, due in part to corruption.
The CJN said: “It is a known fact that like a cancer, corruption has metastasized into the fabric of the country and there is an urgent need for a conscious, concerted and coordinated effort to ensure that we do all that is necessary, to rid our dear country of this menace.”
He said the book came at a time when the whole country appeared to have developed a resolve to present a united front against the cankerworm of corruption.
Mohammed said: “Led by the government of the day and indeed the Chief Guest of Honour (the vice president) the collective determination to exterminate it from our country, has never been greater.
“Nigerians, for the first time in recent years, now have a common cause and reason to pursue the fight against corruption and have shown a commitment to publicly challenge same.
“The security agencies appear to be more proactive in tackling corrupt persons and cases are starting to come to our courts.
“Nevertheless, it is too early to pat ourselves on the back and too late to adopt a fire brigade approach.”
He said the pandora’s box of corruption had indeed been opened and become institutionalised, necessitating the radical surgery of reform and sanction to begin the slow recovery of the nation back to health.
Justice Mohammed noted that in the legal corruption was occasioned when our lawyers traded the years of sweat spent in attaining membership to the Bar, for the shortcut of being used as a conduit to solicit bribes for or on behalf of corrupt elements either within or outside the courts.
According to him, a number of lawyers within the profession no longer uphold the law but in fact devise ways of truncating the conduct of trials and the diligent dispensation of justice, through frivolous applications and baseless objections that owe more to personal, rather than professional, considerations.
He said: “Our prosecutors are overwhelmed, seemingly out of their depth in more complex financial crimes and therefore prone to delay.
“Given these shortcomings and deliberate ills, there is a veritable atmosphere which provides the avenues for corruption to thrive.”
Nevertheless, he warned that, “we must be mindful of the warning by the German philosopher, Frederick Nietzsche who stated that, ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”