By Ige Olugbenga
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has stated that the acquittal of Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has exposed deep flaws in the fight against corruption.
SERAP in a statement today, by deputy director Timothy Adewale, said:
: “The outcome of the Saraki’s case sends a damaging message that suspected corrupt leaders can get away with their crimes, while keeping their stolen assets. Many would-be corrupt leaders may now see engaging in acts of corruption a risk worth taking.
“The acquittal of Saraki has exposed deep flaws in the country’s legal framework against corruption, and seriously weakened any notion of accountability of high-ranking public officials accused of corruption.”
The CCT on Wednesday dismissed the 18-count charge of false asset declaration against Saraki following his no-case submission.
The statement added that a complementary and supportive mechanism in the form of a UN-backed commission against corruption and impunity in Nigeria is urgently needed to achieve President Muhammadu Buhari’s oft-stated anti-corruption agenda.
They further called on Acting President Yemi Osibanjo to assist the criminal justice system to effectively and efficiently investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases in the country.
“We urge the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to urgently pursue the establishment of a UN-backed International Commission Against Corruption to assist our criminal justice system to effectively investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases in the country, like it happened in Guatemala.
“This government needs help in its fight against corruption, and strong leadership is now needed to urgently design a complementary plan.”
According to SERAP, “A UN-backed commission would help to improve our criminal justice system in the short, medium and long terms so that it would be better able to prosecute complex grand corruption cases.
“It would also meet legitimate demands of the Nigerian people for meaningful action against corrupt leaders, past or present.”
“Supporting a strong partnership between Nigerian prosecutors and international law enforcement experts would show that the authorities have the ability and political will to chip away at the country’s corruption and impunity of perpetrators, and help address Nigerians’ scepticism about the viability of the anti-corruption agenda.”
“Further, to end a culture of corruption and impunity of perpetrators, we urge the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN) to urgently take over the prosecution of the corruption case against Saraki by ensuring that the CCT decision is urgently appealed and that the case is diligently prosecuted within the limits of the rule of law.”
“The Guatemalan commission established by the UN in 2006 has a strong record of fighting organised crime and high-level corruption and the Nigerian authorities can learn valuable lessons from its operation and achievements in the efforts to take the fight against corruption in this country to another level.”