Comrade Debo Adeniran is the Executive Chairman of the Campaign Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL. In this interview with Ayo Esan, he speaks on the issue of corruption in the country and the effort of President Muhammadu Buhari to stem it. Excerpts:
How will you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration so far?
There is the need for a public declaration of his assets. You know that is important so that we know where he is coming from and we would have a baseline through which we can measure his accumulation while in the office and be able to assess his statement of account at the end of the tenure. So if he has not done that and his vice has also not done that, we are not satisfied. What we expected is that as soon as they completed their code of conduct bureau forms they hand it over to the media not minding what the code of conduct bureau will say after. This is because the implication of not making it public early enough is that they must have garner enough strength to cow the code of conduct bureau to agree with what they dictate to them. If they are now making it open, we may not totally believe them because it would have been compromised one way or the other even if it wasn’t they would have given that room for doubt.
Be that as it may, the other agenda which they have carried out especially in the area of anti-corruption ,we are satisfied with that , that the books of the past leaders would be looked into and everybody that have been found to have soiled his hands will be punished. But what we have not seen is how adequate the punishment will be, how deterrent the punishment will be and that is what we are expecting from the regime to re-work the book to ensure that the punishment that will be meted out to corrupt criminals are truly deterrent and would be a clear departure from a slap on the wrist kind of punishment which we have witnessed in the past.
Then international relations, it has been so far so good citing the example of the President’s visit to the G7 although we are not sure that the G7 has acted in tandem with the wish list that the president submitted to them . We are not yet sure that they have lived up to expectation. But for the government of the United States, we are sure that they have made a number of promises which we are sure is going to help our polity.
That is a good direction and there are some criminals who stole before and have started returning money. Power is relatively stable now than it used to be and the promise that the refinery will soon be working and if they are working in Nigeria there won’t be any need to import refined products from anywhere. That means that the regime of subsidy will naturally die. Basically it has been right steps in the right direction but there is still a long way to go, although we are still far away from the start point and that is a good omen.
How will you assess his anti-corruption programme?
It is being so good and that he said he is going to probe the last regime is a good step in the right direction and a good way to start. But beyond that , he should look into the pending petitions with anti-corruption agency and with the presidency and to ensure that every petition is investigated , is reacted to in such a way that the petitioner will not feel let down . That is the way by which you garner public will to support the government towards the eradication of corruption in Nigeria. But like I said earlier he need to re-work the books especially the legal criminal justice system that makes it possible for corruption-criminals to delay the period of adjudication to their cases for as long as they wish. There should be a time limit during which such hearing could be done and any lawyer that waste the time of the court should know that if it is discovered that he deliberated waste the time of the court he should be sanctioned. Any judge that allows frivolous application when it is unnecessary should also be sanctioned. That means that there would be a commission that will oversee the adjudication into all these criminal cases to ensure that no lawyer participate in deliberate time wasting venture because some lawyers are found to conspire with the criminals to circumvent the course of justice by delaying the cases . First, they know that the trial judge could die or could be transferred and that means that the case will start pro novo. That is starting afresh. Then frivolous application like questioning the jurisdiction of the court even if it is a magistrate court should be allowed to try corruption cases and should insist that even the suspected corruption criminal will appeal the case to the high court. He should be the one that will embark on that. So there is no court that should not be given the jurisdiction to try corruption cases, even if it is going to be a customary court. So the question of them filing against the jurisdiction of the court and they will pursue that to the Supreme Court. Then they will look for other frivolous excuses to file another process they pursue it to the Supreme Court that is the way they delayed cases. There are a lot of cases still pending since the first regime of the present republic. You can find that the case of Femi Fani-Kayode spent seven good years in court Chief Uzor Kalu still has a case in court, Joshua Dariye , many of them who had even participated in the national assembly exercises and completed several terms of offices They still have pending cases in court . That regime should be abolished and to ensure that every corruption cases is not more than six months before t it is deposed off.
But some people are suggesting that there should be a special court for corruption cases. What is your view on that?
Yes, the one way out of it, is to have special courts for trial of corruption cases because corruption has become a cankerworm that to extricate it needs specialised skills and that is why we also joined former Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri when she suggested it. That if there is Special Court, then no court will claim to have too many cases that are not corruption cases to attend to. The specialized courts will have all the time to look at all the statutory books that have to do with corruption. They will be well abreast of precedence and decided cases, which will help them in determining the cases in their own court. Then they will be given time limit during which the cases will be heard not the same rule that will apply in other jurisdiction that will try corruption cases, because it is an emergency situation that has to be dealt with in an emergency solution. Part of it is to make it a snappy thing like the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Murktar tried to do because any judge that engage in corrupt practices she cautioned them, query them, punish them immediately not allowing things to lie low. And she actually put machinery in motions that make quick dispensation of criminal justice even faster than what was expected to be.
The PDP senators are saying that President Buhari’s anti-corruption drive is targeted mainly at the PDP members. They said he should also probe former Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who they accused of also being corrupt.
You see, also former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was also accused of selective justice and they accused him of misuse of EFCC during his tenure. That will always come. What the opposition should do is to put together enough evidences and witnesses that can actually compel the EFCC or ICPC or Code of Conduct Bureau to prosecute some of the cases they desire to be prosecuted. Like Tinubu for example, they have made several allegations but none of these allegations have been able to stand the test of judicial process.
Now for Amaechi, I don’t know the evidence they have but if they have evidence let them bring it to the EFCC or even to us at CACOL. We will put it in the front burner and everybody will know he has a case to answer. The practice in Nigeria is that once something affected you in a way that you don’t desire , you continue to look for excuses and to kind of vilified the authorities that makes it possible for you to trace the court of justice.
President Muhammadu Buhari has set up a committee on war against corruption under the Chairmanship of legal luminary, Professor Itse Sagay. How do you see the set up of the committee and its composition?
It is a good thing that the committee is set up given the antecedent of Professor Itse Sagay who was an active member of ASUU when he was in the then University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University and later moved to Benin where he was an officer of ASUU and performed creditably well . Don’t be deceived he was also a victim of the first incursion into politics by the military during President Buhari military administration.
Source: National Mirror.