Nigeria’s leading human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN has called for the urgent establishment of specialized anti-corruption courts in the country to effectively deal with the scale of corruption allegations especially regarding the $2.1 arms purchase scandal.
Falana said this in a paper delivered today at the Faculty of Law, Osun State University, Ifetedo, Osun State.
Here is Falana’s justification for the special court:
“The federal government deserves commendation for the renewed fight against corruption and impunity in the country. Regrettably, the anticorruption battle cannot be won through the regular courts. Under the pretext that the regular courts are congested corruption cases are being adjourned to the delight of politically exposed persons. The ICPC has over 400 corruption cases in the courts. It is not in doubt that the EFCC has many more cases which are pending in the regular courts. Some of the cases being prosecuted by the ICPC were filed in the courts as far back as 1999!”
“It has just been disclosed by the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed that 55 ex-public officers standing trial for allegedly stealing N1.3 trillion have had their cases subjected to interminable delays. Owing to congestion of cases in the regular courts corruption cases are being adjourned to upwards of three months instead of hearing them day by day as stipulated by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. As if that is not enough, the suspects are being granted bail in self recognizance and other liberal terms notwithstanding the gravity of the offences alleged against them. Experience has shown that once granted bail in corruption cases suspects adopt all manners of dilatory tactics to frustrate trial.”
“With the ongoing investigations into serious allegations of massive corruption in the office of the NSA, NNPC, CBN, NIMASA, NPA etc it is clear that the regular courts cannot cope with the trial of the many suspects that are likely to be indicted and recommended for prosecution. It is high time the Executive sponsored a Bill for the establishment of an anticorruption court. Otherwise, a decade from now the corruption cases which were commenced 17 years ago will remain in the docket! The proposed court will specifically handle cases of corruption, terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, advance fee fraud and other economic crimes. The proposed courts should be manned by judges of proven integrity.”
“In addition to the establishment of the anti-corruption court there is the urgent need to reorganize the ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal. The recent organization of the EFCC by President Buhari is already producing positive results. Time is not on our side! Trial of military officers involved in arms deal by courts-martial.”
“Last week, the Federal Government referred the report of the Arms Procurement Panel to the EFCC for further investigation and the prosecution of the indicted suspects. The military authorities have assured the nation that the military officers among the suspects would be handed over to the EFCC for trial. In a similar vein, while receiving the report of the panel which inquire into the role of military personnel in the subversion of the electoral process in Ekiti and Osun states last year the Chief of Army Staff promised that some of the suspects would be referred to the EFCC for prosecution. With respect, there is no legal justification for asking the EFCC to handle cases of military officers who have committed war related crimes. Since the indicted military officers are subject to service law they be referred to the military police for urgent investigation and prosecution before special or general courts-martial convened by the relevant military authorities in line with the provisions of the Armed Forces Act, Cap 20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”
“It is my submission that the military officers who diverted billions of dollars and naira earmarked for procurement of arms and armament are liable to be charged under section 45 for aiding the enemy and section 52 for mutiny by impeding or sabotaging the counter insurgency operations and thereby collaborating with the enemy, section 62 for failure to perform military duties and section 66 for stealing under the Armed Forces Act. Although retired military officers cannot be subjected to trial after 3 months after retirement the limitation does not apply to mutiny by virtue of section 169 (2) of the AFA. The proposed trial before military courts will meet the justice of the case and the expectations of the public. More so, that the Rules of Procedure applicable in courts-martial have no room for frivolous adjournments, motions for bail, interlocutory appeals, stay of proceedings of proceedings and interim or perpetual injunctions.”
“The Nigerian people must take more than a passing interest in the ongoing investigation of the erstwhile military officers and their civilian collaborators who engaged in the criminal diversion of huge funds earmarked for the procurement of arms and armament. Since about 25,000 people have been killed and over two million others displaced as a result of the sabotage of the counter insurgency operations by the criminal suspects they must bear full responsibility for the atrocities perpetrated by the satanic Boko Haram sect in the last 6 years. We are not unaware that following the report of the Arms Procurement Panel set up by President Buhari has confirmed the criminal diversion of $2.1 billion and N643 billion through a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) and $2 billion and N29 billion through some officers in the Nigerian Air Force in collaboration with Col. Dasuki.”
“Contrary to the claim that the federal government cannot fund socio-economic rights on account of lack of resources Nigeria is extremely rich in terms of human and natural endowment. The over $150 billion stolen and taken abroad in the last 10 years is enough to fund socio-economic rights and the infrastructural development of the nation. Ours is a country whose citizens have been pauperised by a rogue ruling class. President Buhari has requested western governments to help Nigeria recover her stolen wealth. President Jonathan reacted by saying that the figure of the loot has been exaggerated. With the revelations oozing out of the EFCC President Buhari may have underestimated the extent of the loot.”
“The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christien Lagarde stated that a loan from the IMF was not discussed with the federal government but that a team from the institution would visit the country to study the economic crisis and make appropriate recommendations. She also promised that IMF would help Nigeria in the recovery efforts.”
“It is doubtful if Nigerians are aware that the IMF boss in under investigation in her country, France over her handling of a €405 million (£322m) state payout made to Bernard Tapie, a disgraced tycoon, in 2008 when she was France’s finance minister. Apart from lacking the moral integrity to recover loot for Nigeria the IMF and World Bank as well as western government are complicit in the promotion of capital flight and looting of the treasury of Nigeria.”
“Notwithstanding the frustration of western banks the federal government has recovered not less than $4 billion from the Abacha loot. But the World Bank and a former Managing Director of the bank, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recently produced a report which gave the false impression that only $500 million had been recovered. A 700-page tissue of lies which listed phantom projects executed with the recovered loot was produced by the bank. Instead of relying on the foreign financial institutions governments that have fed fat on the corrupt practices of Nigerian leaders the federal government should commission a panel of experts to ensure that the $150 billion is recovered and repatriated to the country.”