Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, a Civil Society Organisation, on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to implement reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system to strengthen its fight against corruption.
The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani made the call at a two-day Transparency International, TI, Sustainable Development Goal, SDG, Africa Common Assessment workshop in Abuja.
Mr Rafsanjani said that the countries of Togo, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Ghana were in Nigeria to attend the workshop and to share country by country progress made so far, especially on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.
According to him, SDG 16 seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
He said that the present administration had tried in its fight against corruption.
Mr Rafsanjani, however, said that there was the need to ensure that implementation of the SDG 16 was institutionalised in governance and systems.
Mr Rafsanjani said that CISLAC therefore advise the present administration to strengthen its prosecution of the war against corruption by implementing other required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.
“In spite of some acceleration in the rate of repatriation and confiscation of proceeds of corruption, we still do not see the investigation, prosecutions and convictions in the highest levels of our political class.
“In spite of some indisputable evidence, many corrupt politicians and businessmen and women seem to be above the law.
“A report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, claims that in 2016 and 2017, 286 cases were brought to conviction which would have signalled a remarkable improvement to the 53 convicted cases recorded in 2012 out of 353 court proceedings.
“However, this nominal improvement disguises the fact that politically exposed persons have been too often acquitted on dubious grounds.
“This is unfortunately not specific to Nigeria, as developing and developed countries battle the same crisis on consciousness and rule of law in this matter.’’
Rafsanjani said that according to a Thabo Mbeki report, 70 per cent of West African losses to illicit financial flows came from Nigeria as it loses more than 35 billion dollars annually.
He said that these indirect and dodgy movements of monies earned in Nigeria and leaving the country through the backdoor posed great challenge to her development and economy.
This, he said was the reason for Nigeria’s setback in education, and health among other things.
He said that the Mo Ibrahim index showed that while human development was one of the biggest successes of 2018, the stalling progress in education seen in 2017 had turned to decline.
Rafsanjani said that for 27 countries, education score registered deterioration in the last five years, meaning that for more than half of African youth’s population, education outcomes were worst.
He said that some youths were giving up on their governments and voluntarily crossing continents and very often ending up in slavery, deprivation and even deaths.
The executive director said that the rule of law transparency and accountability as embedded in SDG 16 were keys to improving public governance in Africa and urged governments to implement it.
Rafsanjani appreciated CSOs and the media for always checking the excesses of the government in spite of the harassment and death threats they faced in the line of duty.
He expressed the hope that the workshop would develop and forge a common African position on the implementation of SDG 16 that would be used at policy level discussions and evidence based advocacy.