Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has warned that the fight against corruption in Nigeria cannot achieve any meaningful result if the government continues to engage the battle in a selective, discriminative or vendetta manner.
President of the NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN), who gave the advice, was of the opinion that fighting corruption in the way the government is going would encourage the malaise in the society.
The NBA’s position was made in commemoration of the 2019 International Anti-Corruption Day.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for making the fight against corruption, priority of his administration, the NBA president said, “The fight must however not be selective or discriminatory in nature; it must not even be perceived to be selective or discriminatory.
“The trial of persons for corrupt practices must itself not be tainted with corruption. Media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices, for example, amounts to corruption itself. Indeed, those orchestrated media trials degrade and corrupt the justice administration system quite apart from the incalculable (but obviously intended) damage that it does to persons who may ultimately be discharged and acquitted,” he said.
Usoro claimed that it is corrupt practice to use as license or hide under the cover of the fight against corruption to recklessly destroy the names, characters and reputations of persons who have not been found guilty of corrupt practices by competent courts and who may ultimately be pronounced innocent of such charges.
He further identified abuse of prosecutorial powers as one of the worst forms of corruption as according to him, they are used to intimidate, blackmail, harass and coerced judicial officers to secure pre-determined judgments that quite often subvert justice.
“Indeed, the subversion of justice by any means whatsoever, amounts to extreme corruption. The corruption of our criminal justice system is indeed exemplified by the index we use to measure our success in the fight against corruption, to wit, the number of convictions that are secured and the volume of assets that are purportedly recovered.
“By using these as our primary index for determining our success in fighting corruption, we set targets that induce corruption and abuse of prosecutorial rights. We thereby make a statement that the end justifies the means and, in the process, encourage and advocate for convictions and purported recovery of assets no matter how crooked, corrupt and undermining of justice the processes may be for attaining those goals. The end result is that we pay attention to and celebrate these corrosive and corruptive processes while giving scant attention and regard to proactive measures that could actually stem and block the avenues for corruption”, he added.
To remedy the situation the NBA boss said government must be proactive and come up with new strategies in fighting corruption, which he said should not be limited to the economic and financial genre.
“As earlier mentioned in this statement, corruption includes administrative malfeasance, political non-accountability, absence of transparency and impunity in public service. More often than not, these genres of corruption give birth to financial and economic corruption. In other words, financial and economic corruption thrive where there is lack of transparency, impunity in public service, political non-accountability and pervasiveness of administrative malfeasance”.