Nigeria reeks with corruption, which encouraged Sani Abacha, when he held sway as the nation’s Head of State, to stash billions of dollars in 130 bank accounts in France, Switzerland, the United States, New Zealand, and England.To illustrate the gravity of embezzlement, the Economist Magazine wrote two years ago that an estimated $600 billion got looted from Nigeria’s treasury since the country’s independence in 1960.In another sorry situation related to graft, Nigeria ranks as the 150 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International.
TO solve this spate of corruption, the Federal Government recently announced, through the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, that it was considering the establishment of an anti-graft court.In the past, Nigeria set up anti-graft agencies, such as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), inaugurated on September 29, 2000 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. The Obasanjo administration also established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through an Act of the National Assembly on December 12, 2002, with the operational activities of the body commencing three months later, with Malam Nuhu Ribadu acting as its executive chairman.
BEFORE the ICPC and EFCC, Nigeria had put in place the Code of Conduct Bureau since the administration of General Murtala Mohammed, who appointed the late Isa Kaita as chairman. Unfortunately, the array of anti-corruption agencies failed to be effective at tackling corruption, which is why The Hope supports the new idea of a creation of an anti-graft court. In December 2007, late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration removed the then EFCC Executive Chairman Nuhu Ribadu, from office, two weeks after the crime-fighting boss arrested a former governor close to the Head of State.
IN July this year, the EFCC announced that it had the greatest number of the most inconclusive corruption cases among similar bodies globally, with court injunctions and other challenges leading to cases involving former governors Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, Gabriel Suswan of Benue and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom States to linger. In August this year, a Kano High Court restrained anti-corruption agencies from conducting investigations into the affairs of the state’s public complaints and anti-corruption chairman.
WITH cases of anti-graft agencies forced to linger in the regular courts, or the cases ending inconclusive, or anti-graft bosses dismissed for probing people close to the seat of power, bodies like the EFCC must fail in confronting corruption, which destroys any progress made in the nation’s social and economic life. The country loses about $15 billion to $18 billion annually to illicit financial outflows, according to the Nigeria Extractive Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
THE nation’s public service records shameful numbers related to corruption, with a National Corruption Survey indicating a 32.3 percent prevalence of bribery in the sector and a total of N82 million bribes paid to officers in 12 months. The nation’s level of corruption perception comes out at 26.7 against a global average of 48.4, according to Transparency International, with the National Bureau of Statistics, saying the total amount of bribes paid to public officers amounted to $4.6 billion in purchasing power in 2016 – the equivalent of the federal and state budgets for education.
SEEN within this context, The Hope applauds the Federal Government for its political will to set up anti-graft court, to ensure the quick dispensation of justice, allow judges to develop capacity on cases related to illicit financial outflows from the country and help government to become more efficient through the reduction in the scale of corruption, leading to improvements in national and international corruption perception indexes.
WHILE we support the plan, the Federal Government should also employ more judicial workers, so that the regular courts could be relieved of the burden of handling cases from the too-many courts in the country. The authorities concerned should also use unconventional means to make the proposed court efficient, such as appointing leading and ethical figures to head the court, as Ghana did. With citizen engagement also used, the proposed anti-graft court could make progress in the fight against corruption, which needs to be eradicated or curtailed for this country to grow.