- President will not influence anti-corruption agencies, says Osinbajo
By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja inaugurated a National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting high profile criminal cases in the country.
The committee is headed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami.
The vice president who inaugurated the committee on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari gave an assurance that the president would not tele-guide anti-corruption agencies in the course of their operation.
The Vice President said: “When you look at the way the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies have acted in recent times, you will notice that they are not under any kind of direction or influence of the President.
“They are given the independence to act; they are given the authority and backing to act on their own and to use their own discretion appropriately at all times. You don’t get any situation where the president says go get that person or back off that person.”
Osinbajo who stood in for Buhari at the inauguration said both the president and himself expected the agencies to use their powers with fairness, devoid of any prejudice.
He said the same responsibility had been given to the newly formed NPCC to bring justice to the people.
Addressing the 20-member committee, the Vice President said: “This is the sort of responsibility placed on your own shoulders; the responsibility to exercise prosecutorial power independently and without any direction except of course from the learned Attorney-General who is the constitutional and prosecutorial authority in the country.
“It is a very serious responsibility. It involves making sure that people are treated fairly or that people are not pursued by reason of bias or any other such consideration.”
He also cautioned the committee to make sure that those being prosecuted were not embarrassed needlessly by the prosecutors.
According to him, it is important that everybody observes that the system is fair and that the system works in the interest of the Nigerian people.
“When the system is fair, everybody buys into it and it is not difficult for people to relate with it and support it.”
While stating that every prosecuting organ or agent had the responsibility to put in place a system that “we ourselves would not be afraid to be subjected to,” the Vice President said that the selection of the committee members took into consideration not only their legal skills and learning, but also their integrity and strength of character in order to chart a new course in the nation’s criminal justice system.
Osinbajo said: “Given the nature of economic crimes and the enormity sometimes of the money that is involved and the influence of those who may have to be prosecuted, you need more than legal skills. You need men and women of strong character and courage who will not only be able to turn down inducements of any kind but also act without consideration for tribe, friendship, religion or any other parochial considerations.
“This is a very important committee because the administration itself is committed to ensuring that we are able to deal with not only question of corruption which is a big item on our agenda but also other economic crimes. Terrorism has assumed different shapes and proportions of late, and the vandalism that we see in parts of the Niger Delta, which has affected so many different things including oil production, power supply.
“We are in a very crucial time in our social development and a committee such as this is very necessary and historic because I do not know of any other of such committee in the history of this country.’’
Earlier in his remarks, the Attorney General and Justice Minister said that the committee comprised 12 ex-officio and eight external members of proven integrity and competence.
He said that to fast-rack the work of the committee, the ministry had created 20 prosecution teams with four members each and had requested all agencies exercising police powers to recommend five experienced investigators to support the committee’s work.
“The aim is to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of high profile criminal cases in Nigeria,’’ the minister said, adding that the committee was not a duplication of the existing anti-corruption agencies but would collaborate with such agencies for effective service delivery.