Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) has criticised the National Assembly, led by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, for not doing enough, legally, to fight corruption.
He was reacting to claims by Saraki and Dogara that the anti-corruption was is ineffective.
The duo spoke at the public presentation of a book: Antidotes for corruption – The Nigerian story, written by Senator Dino Melaye, in Abuja.
Saraki said the focus of the war should be on prevention rather than punishment insisting that anti-corruption agents and agencies must be truly independent, stressing that the country was still far from meeting the basic standards of fighting corruption while Dogara said only strong institutions could ensure a successful anti-graft war.
Responding, Sagay accused the National Assembly of undermining the anti-corruption war and have failed to rid the country of corruption.
He said they refused to pass key anti-graft bills and failed to confirm Ibrahim Magu as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman.
“In fact, the National Assembly has constituted itself into an opposition to the anti-corruption struggle. It has mounted a war against the anti-corruption struggle. It has decided to obstruct it at every stage,” he declared.
“For example, the bill for a special criminal court is not moving. And we saw the way they tried to stop Magu from being chairman of EFCC just because they found out he was effective, determined and incorruptible.
“So they really want to weaken it, destroy it and bring it to the level it was when Jonathan was in power. So, they’re enemies of the anti-corruption struggle, there’s no question about that.
“He (Saraki) said we’re determined to send people to prison. No. What we are determined to do at any cost is to recover every stolen kobo, all the loot taken from Nigeria, 100 per cent.
“We will not allow any loot to remain with anybody. We need it for development. That is what we’re determined to do. And you will find instances in which we lose a criminal case, and still recover the assets from the person involved.
“Two things have happened that he (Saraki) is probably not aware of. In the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), there are very comprehensive provisions on plea bargaining and alternative means of sentencing.
“There are also provisions for reducing sentencing based on the admission of the defendant. So, it is not true that government is favouring punishment alone.
“We have a national anti-corruption policy document. Prevention is one of the major provisions there. Prevention by education, giving incentives, to make Nigerians realise it is better to be honest than to be corrupt through many means like television plays. We’re not just looking at punishment alone. In short, punishment is the last alternative.”
On Saraki’s claim that anti-graft agencies were not independent, Sagay said: “We in PACAC are not consulted in most of the cases tried by EFCC and ICPC. We read about them in the newspapers just like everyone else. They are not influenced at all. They use their own independent judgment.
“All we do is to guide them on how they can successfully, effectively and efficiently do their job. We provide the services, training, workshops and we help them get resources like laboratory equipment. As for giving them instructions, no. they decide what to do.
“Again, he is not aware of things that are happening. For example, PACAC has produced a manual on prosecution. It essentially recommends teams for prosecution rather than individuals.
“When a case arises for investigation, there is an investigator who looks for evidence. He works with lawyers and experts who will guide him on what constitutes the evidence required to prove the offence. The team of five or six meets to determine if there is sufficient evidence to go to court.
“The showmanship might have existed before – I don’t believe it did – but not now. The idea is to do team work, conduct comprehensive and exhaustive investigation to establish a strong case in order to achieve efficient prosecution and speedy adjudication.”