The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has expressed concern over the continuous trend of poor handling of high profile corruption cases in the country in the past and recent times.
Some notable cases cited by the non-governmental organisation included the â€œacquittal of former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe by the Court of Appeal, who was initially convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT); the recall of Justice Adeniyi Ademola by the National Judiciary Commission (NJC), even with pending allegations of corruption; and the recent acquittal of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki of all the 18 charges of false asset declaration and other related offences against him.â€
According to the NGO, in a statement issued and signed by its Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), â€œOver the years, Nigerians have seen a lot of political leaders go scot free on allegations of corruption levelled against them as a result of poor administration and inadequate capacity of our justice system. It is, therefore, without doubt that judicial corruption has been and still is one of the major problems in the fight against corruption.
â€œCISLAC has noted that the lack of synergy among anti-corruption agencies and international bodies has hampered and slowed down this fight. In addition, ill preparations and non-timely prosecution of some cases has led to the acquittal of these allegedly corrupt individuals.â€
The organisation therefore called for an urgent and expedient judicial reform if the fight against corruption is to have any effect in the country. Special Courts to handle corruption cases should be created as a matter of urgency, it noted.
â€œWe further urge the Federal Government to be proactive, thorough in its investigations and gathering of facts before going to court in order to avoid loopholes through which these individuals can meander their way through.
â€œCISLAC notes the need for highly experienced lawyers to be recruited to handle these cases in court as inadequate capacity of lawyers handling these high profile cases has worked in the favour of these individualsâ€, the release noted.
It observed that â€œthere is need for anti-corruption agencies to be adequately funded in order to aid their work. Hence, a collaborative effort on the part of the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature in fighting corruption is expedient.
â€œWe also call on the federal government to adopt the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and network with relevant anti-corruption agencies, media and individuals, both local and international, who can support the anti-corruption fightâ€, it added.
According to Rafsanjani, â€œIt should be noted that since the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has offices in all of the Local Government Areas in Nigeria, it is only practical for the federal government to work with the NOA to carry out regular civic education and emphasise the damaging effect of corruption in our body polity.
â€œThe use of international prosecutors should be explored since national prosecution does not seem to be effective in solving high profile corruption cases. This call is further strengthened on the face of the conviction the British Government was able to achieve on the James Ibori case when the Nigerian authority failed to deal with the situation.
â€œWe urge citizens to continue to demand for accountability from the government and to support the anti-corruption agencies saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruptionâ€, the release added.