Sunday, March 15, 2015 4:59 pm
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged the presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Goodluck Jonathan, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, to publicly endorse the global initiative for an International Anti-corruption Court, IACC, to demonstrate their expressed commitment to satisfactorily address corruption and impunity of perpetrators if voted into power in the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria.
The presidential election has been scheduled for 28 March.
The organisation said that such a multilateral body would be empowered to probe allegations of corruption in the spending on the fight against Boko Haram, the billions of naira raised under the Victims of Terror Support Fund, and to try other cases of political corruption such as those involving former governors that have remained unresolved for many years.
SERAP’s call followed the global campaign for an IACC being championed by a senior US Judge, Mark L. Wolf, who has made presentations before the US Congress, the UN and other bodies on the need for the court.
In a statement on Sunday signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that, “given that many Nigerians have lost faith in the ability of successive governments to combat high-level official corruption and money laundering, an IACC could erode the widespread culture of impunity and contribute to creating conditions conducive to the democratic election of honest officials in a country with history of grand corruption.
“Some statistics provide that majority of those indicted for international crimes by the International Criminal Court are in custody, facing trial, or have already been convicted.
“The rest are fugitives in hard to reach areas or dead. That’s not a bad track record. There is no reason to doubt that an International Anti-Corruption Court couldn’t do as well, and by doing so it would make a big difference in the efforts to combat corruption in Nigeria.
“Large-scale official corruption is so harmful and antithetical to the idea of a law-based society. It erodes public trust in government and permeates critical institutions of governance.
“But it is increasingly becoming clear that this kind of corruption is beyond government capacity to prosecute as it is unrealistic to expect ‘turkey to vote for Christmas.’
“It is thus appropriate for the world nations to look at how international law can be engaged as a major component of the efforts to address the problem.
“In Nigeria, corrupt officials generally are not deterred by the threat of prosecution. Endorsing an international court to prosecute outstanding cases of corruption will deter would-be corrupt officials from turning public office into a maximising unit or business enterprise to make money at the expense of the interest of the public.
“It will also reduce unnecessary political pressure on the government by corrupt politicians who can use their wealth and contacts to frustrate investigation and prosecution,” the organisation said.
Continuing, SERAP said: “large-scale corruption is not just stealing of a country’s resources and wealth but also a basic issue of human rights. In countries like Nigeria political corruption continues to kill more people than war and famine put together.
“We believe that high-ranking public officials who commit acts of corruption that lead or contribute to human suffering, poverty, discrimination and other serious violations of human rights are no less guilty than those who commit crimes under international law.”
The organisation said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, who was a key force in the creation of the International Criminal Court, has made the IACC project a ‘personal priority’.
According to the organisation, that the government is unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute high-ranking public officials for corruption is illustrated by the unresolved allegations and cases of corruption in the spending on Boko Haram and against former governors, the KPMG report involving large-scale corruption in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) audit report, which exposes 10 years of corruption in the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry; ‘pension funds corruption report’; and the case of the missing $20 billion from the account of the NNPC.
“An IACC would employ an independent corps of investigators expert at unravelling complex financial transactions and prosecutors experienced in preparing and presenting complicated cases. It would also include experienced, impartial international judges.
“An international ‘whistleblower’ statute enforceable at the IACC would increase the resources that would be devoted to combating the problem and enhance the potential for restitution for victims,” the organisation also said.