Letting the Big Fish Swim: How Those Accused of High-Level Corruption are Getting Away with their Crimes and Profiting from Nigeria’s Legacy of Impunity.’’
Dr Esa Onoja, a senior lecturer at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, said on Wednesday that the nation’s two anti-graft agencies — EFCC and ICPC — have secured only 10 high profile convictions in 17 years.
Onoja said this in Lagos at the public presentation of a report entitled: “Letting the Big Fish Swim: How Those Accused of High-Level Corruption are Getting Away with their Crimes and Profiting from Nigeria’s Legacy of Impunity.’’
The report is published by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in partnership with Trust Africa.
Onoja, who teaches law, litigation and professional ethics, said: “The EFCC and ICPC between 2000 and 2017 secured an average of 100 convictions each year for low-level offenders.
“Within the same period, the EFCC and ICPC only got 10 high profile convictions for a total of 177 high profile prosecutions conducted.
“Of the 10 high profile convictions, three went to full trial, out of those three, two were advance fee fraud and the law right from the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Decree of 1995 up to the present law stipulates a mandatory minimum sentence.
“The two offenders that were convicted between seven and 10 years imprisonment one of them was Mrs Anajemba and the other one was Mr Emmanuel Nwude.
“The third conviction was that of Bode George, which was quashed at the Supreme Court with one of the basis for the quashing the conviction was that the offence was unknown to law.
“The remaining seven convictions were subject to plea bargain one of which was the conviction of Mr Lucky Igbenedion, the former governor of Edo, who was sentenced to a prison term with an option of fine which was paid promptly in court.”
“Some of the others were the conviction of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former governor of Bayelsa and one Mr Golama a former Chairman of Bank of the North both of them were convicted subject to plea bargain but former President Goodluck Jonathan has granted them presidential pardon.
“None of them were sentenced to punishment proportionate to the seriousness of their offences.
“Causes of the stagnation of the high profile cases are preliminary objections 16.55 per cent, interlocutory appeals 14.60 per cent, non-compliance
with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law 30.28 per cent and suspicious court orders 6.32 per cent.
“Others include immunity of offenders 2.40 per cent, gag orders 2.27 per cent, loopholes in legal processes 8.06 per cent, poor prosecutions 8.06 per cent and alleged ill-health of offenders 10.46 per cent.”
The Chairman of the occasion, Mr Oladayo Olaide, the Deputy Country Director of the MacAuthur Foundation, called for a reorientation of the citizenry, noting that decades of corruption had adversely affected Nigerians.
“We need to stop seeing corruption as something that someone engages in for their benefit but rather something that inflicts a huge cost on Nigerians.
“Every Nigerian has to come to the realisation that corruption will not go unless we do something about it. Our inability to enforce laws opens us to all manners of anti social behaviour.
“We have lost the capacity to be shocked and to respond, I am hoping that the report will jolt Nigerians to react.
“Let us not condemn the opportunity to fight corruption no matter how weak, if every administration builds on what the previous one has built, a strong anti-corruption resistance will be created.
“The government alone cannot fight corruption for us to reach a turning point; Nigerians must rise up and use the very powerful voter’s card.
“We need to make 2019 elections an opportunity to discuss accountability in this country,’’ Olaide said.
In an address of welcome, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, the Executive Director of SERAP, said the regular launch of reports by the rights group was to question the anti-corruption in Nigeria.
He also thanked Trust Africa, an NGO, for partnering with SERAP on the project and for sponsoring the report.
“What we are doing in SERAP is to continue to interrogate the process of the fight against corruption and we found an amiable partner in Trust Africa, who sponsored the event.
“We have launched a lot of books, one of them was ‘Corrupt Judges Escaping Justice in Nigeria: Go Home and Sin More’ , that was monumental and we are launching another one today,’’ he said.
While commending Onoja, Mumuni said: “We did not write the report ourselves as it is better to come up with an independent person to do it for us, Dr Onoja should be commended for this.
“This report will benefit the Nigerian environment as well as SERAP, the report is not a catalogue of why there is corruption but it shows why we have low number of grand convictions in corruption cases.
“When these issues are raised and put in the front burner, those in power can listen to us so that things needed to fight corruption be put in place.”