Senators Make Corruption Easier

Senators Make Corruption Easier

Corruption is essentially a phenomenon that is highly secretive mostly because its perpetrators seek to avoid the consequences of detection, prosecution and conviction. In Nigeria, and for a long time corruption in high places has been both visible and morally-neutral because of the generous guarantee of impunity public officials readily enjoy. However, the impunity guaranteed by government inertia appears to be insufficient for thieving public officials. Nowadays, lawmakers actually enact bills to destroy those who have the temerity to detect, expose or prosecute their very own cases of corruption and enact bills to immunise themselves against detection and prosecution. Is there not supposed to be a “War Against Corruption” (WAC) going on in Nigeria?

The senators in Nigeria have the world in their hands – prosecute them and they will make laws to destroy both [relevant] people and institutions involved, for the future they are attempting to make laws that will decriminalise corruption, their own corruption and that of others. Law-making is now evidently all pro-corruption in Nigeria at the moment.

The Senate President and gubernatocrat, Bukola “Baby Doc” Saraki, is facing a Code of Conduct [Bureau] Trial (CCT) for false declaration of assets used as a tactic to hide the proceeds of public theft. Not only have Saraki’s declarations been false and evidence of his thefts and assets acquired while he was Governor of Kwara State been properly disclosed, the recent offshore finance mega-leak known as the “Panama Papers” further implicates Saraki and strengthens the CCT case against him. For Saraki to save his hide regardless of the evidence against him, he is very self-interestedly with the help of fellow legislators, earning Nigeria the unenviable distinction of having the “most corrupt legislature” in the world.

The Panama Papers has had its immediate casualties such as the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, being forced to resign within 48 hours of the disclosure due to not declaring funds he had banked offshore. And there are many more casualties to come. However, when it came to Nigerians implicated in the Panama Papers scandal, most of their people hailed them as smart and heroic financial dons. Saraki is doubly hailed as a smart and heroic lawmaker because he can manipulate Nigeria laws to suit his own purposes at will.

Saraki was not happy with the way Ibrahim Lamorde, the former Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) boss, was seeking his prosecution for corruption and decided to use his law-making privileges to fight that battle. Saraki employed the services of Sen Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP; Delta North), a first-timer, to promote a petition that would ensure Lamorde would be sacked from office ignobly. The petition violated the rules of petitioning in the Senate but had its way in the end; Lamorde was sacked and awaiting prosecution. It is the same Sen Nwaoboshi who is now sponsoring and rushing a bill amendment through the Senate that will save Saraki’s hide. The amendment simply wants the Code of Conduct Bureau to seek written consent or clarification from public officials before they can face any trial.

It is absurd for any investigative body or agency to seek consent or clarification from an accused person before a prosecution or trial can take place; such is not supported by jurisprudence or common sense but Sen Nwaoboshi on behalf of Saraki wants it to become law. So another friend of Saraki’s who has sworn publicly to defend him, Sen Isah Misau (APC; Bauchi Central) comes up with a “masterstroke” by promoting a further bill amendment that will ensure that public officials prosecuted for corruption by “tribunals” (e.g. the CCT) will not be tried under criminal justice rules but by special rules. That is the Code of Conduct Bureau, a state institution to check corruption castrated.

Meanwhile, the EFCC is notorious for ignoring strong petitions especially those that seek investigations into the acts of gubernatocrats. The state of the court system in Nigeria is not only weak and corrupt but where and when justice is upheld the current executive Government of Nigeria (GON) has shown their judgements can be ignored with impunity. Where is the “War Against Corruption?”

An insider disappointed with obvious constitutional abuses lawmakers are exhibiting has suggested that at least two more of such bills / bill amendments that will further decriminalise corruption will emerge in the near future. It was also a Saraki crony Sen, Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC; Kebbi South), who proposed a bill criminalising frivolous petition of corruption against public officials and also criminalising social media commentary on malfeasance. These are the kind legislators Nigeria now has and the “Saraki Cabal” is preeminent. Dissenting legislators are hounded into small shells.

Sen Nwaoboshi’s bill amendment is perhaps, at least partly, a response to the disastrous strategy of current executive GON of feeding vital evidence of corruption to the public via deliberate media leaks before trial as was abundantly seen in the case of Col Sambo Dasuki over the $2.1 billion National Security scandal. Such leaks provide excellent information for the lawyers defend the corrupt with. The dependence on such information is habit forming.

Even though Nigeria has its legal origins in the common law of the United Kingdom, senators are surreptitiously seeking to adopt “discovery” [the demand of all relevant and non-relevant information help by the prosecution and other parties before trial] which is a very American practice and unusual in common law nations. This may well be because some big fish corrupt Americans have used it with very degrees of success to save their hides when facing prosecution.

The day of the “principle principal” and the “strong institution” is over. Well, in Nigeria.

Grimot Nane

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