The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has expressed concern over the seeming inability of the judiciary to effectively prosecute and sentence corruption suspects.
According to the group, the unfavorable trend in the fight against corruption in the country as buttressed in the newly published Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2017 shows that Nigeria is slipping further down in the international ranking in the fight against corruption.
In a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, and sent to THISDAY, the group noted that the fresh setback in the fight against corruption confirms that grand-corruption, political corruption, nepotism, favoritism and bribery persist in Nigeria at all levels.
CISLAC noted that the negative perception is mainly a consequence of the inability to combat grand corruption and astronomical plundering of public coffers costing the Nigerian tax payers around 25% of annual GDP.
It also wondered why the current administration that came to power on the anti-corruption ticket has significantly unable to sentence any politically exposed person on anti-corruption charges.â€
The statement read in part: â€œThere is reason to suspect that the Judiciary is either not able or willing to prosecute the VIP cases of senior public servants and elected politicians who have either directly plundered lucrative Nigerian state resources or are at least responsible for the catastrophic lack of oversight over public funds as mandated by the Constitution.
â€œCISLAC notes that anti-corruption agencies have accelerated the rate of convictions on anti-corruption charges. Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for example has brought 286 cases to conviction in 2016/17. However, the majority are rather insufficient cases with little impact of returned assets into the state budget and no effect on unfavorable public opinion.
â€œPromising steps such as the drafting of the first-ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2017 have been undertaken. However, little has been done to put the strategy in motion. Such half-way abandoned projects are unlikely to convince the Nigerian public.â€
The group further recommended steps to re-galvanise public engagement and secure cooperation of international community in the fight against corruption:
â€œMake the 2017 anti-corruption strategy known to the grass-root level, assign responsibilities for its implementation and prepare a detailed and costed action plan monitored by civil society organisations,
â€œPrioritise anti-corruption courts and nominate judges with proven record of high integrity and no controversies and international cooperation and usage of international agreements to repatriate Nigerian assets abroad and use foreign jurisdictionsâ€™ legal instruments such as recently passed unexplained Wealth Order in UK to expose Nigerian illicit financial flows
â€œStrengthen the functions of supreme audit institutions such as the Office of the Auditor General and hold National Assembly accountable for an oversight or lack of it and get rid of absurd privileges for elected public officials and senior civil servants including insisting on the public submission of asset declarations of the executive, legislative and judiciary officials;
â€œImmediately appoint and promptly inaugurate of the National Procurement Council as provided in the Public Procurement Act to curb continued systemic corruption in the nationâ€™s procurement process and persons essential for smooth functioning of anti-corruption institutions.â€