SERAP Asks Dogara to Throw out Amnesty for Looters’ Bill

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By Tobi Soniyi

A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to withdraw the bill seeking to grant full and complete amnesty to suspected looters and allow them to keep their ill-gotten wealth.

Under the proposed law, sponsored by Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi), suspected looters of the public treasury would enjoy full and complete amnesty; not face any probe, inquiry or prosecution; and ‘shall not be compelled to disclose the source of their looted funds’, as long as they invest their ill-gotten wealth in Nigeria.

SERAP said the  proposed bill would foster a culture of impunity in which grand corruption would become the norm, rather than the exception.

In a letter dated June 30, 2017 and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said: “the House of Representatives should allow justice and accountability in grand corruption cases, and not impunity or immunity. 

“The amnesty bill for suspected looters unquestionably conflicts with Nigeria’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to establish territorial criminal jurisdiction over corrupt acts, prosecute alleged offenders, and apply prescribed sanctions through a fair trial.”

The non-governmental organisation argued that instead of  proposing amnesty for looters, the House of Representatives should be promoting laws that would lead to the comprehensive and radical reform of the criminal justice system to ensure that those accused of grand corruption wee not allowed to profit from their crimes.

 The letter read in parts: “The proposed bill is neither necessary to prevent corruption nor end impunity of perpetrators, which has allowed corruption in the country to become widespread and systemic. The bill is also counter productive, especially at a time Nigerians are witnessing a sprawling gap in accountability for grand corruption, and high-ranking public officials accused of corruption are getting away with reduced punishment, and allowed to keep their ill-gotten wealth.

 “The House’s constitutional role to ‘make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the federation’, also suggests that the proposed amnesty bill for suspected looters is not properly within the ambit of the house’s legislative powers.”

SERAP said the amnesty bill sought to foreclose investigations of high-profile corruption cases, and thus negated both Nigerians’ right to know the truth about what happened to their commonwealth, and their right to justice and accountability.

 It stated that it “believes that amnesties or other impediments which preclude or indicate unwillingness to provide prompt and fair prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of grand corruption would violate the principle of good faith under international law. The purpose of the principle is to ensure that those who commit grand corruption are not granted immunity.

“SERAP also believes that granting of amnesty to absolve suspected perpetrators of grand corruption from accountability or prevent the full recovery of ill-gotten wealth violates the right of victims of corruption to an effective remedy. An effective remedy entails access to justice, reparation for the harm suffered as a result of grand corruption, and access to the factual information concerning allegations of corruption.”

SERAP therefore, urged the speaker, to take without delay, all necessary measures to withdraw the unnecessary amnesty bill and to promote bills that would radically reform Nigeria’s criminal justice system to prevent corruption, and ensure that suspected perpetrators regardless of their status were punished in a manner proportionate to the gravity of the corrupt acts committed.

It further asked Dogara to use his leadership position to publish all reports of investigations of corruption that have so far been undertaken by the House  since the return of democracy in 1999.