The Director-General, Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, Dr Salihu Lukman has frowned at the manner in which judges take a long time to deliver judgements in corruption trials in the country.
Mr Lukman, in a statement, entitled: ‘Politicising Anti-Corruption Campaign in Nigeria’, stressed that the trend has impacted negatively on President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft war.
The PGF Boss, therefore, called for the immediate reform of the criminal justice system to address the problem.
The APC chieftain called on Civil Society Organisations, including the Transparency International, TI, whose 2020 report of Corruption Perception Index, CPI, claimed that Nigeria scored 25 out of 100 points in the 2020 CPI, to pile pressure on the authorities to achieve the goal.
The PGF boss faulted the notions held in certain quarters that the anti-graft war under the Mr Buhari administration was aimed at witch-hunting members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, members.
The statement said: “The challenge bordering on the management of our criminal justice system would appear to be responsible for the embarrassing situation whereby although judgements were secured in some corruption cases in Nigeria, which include the cases of Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu and Chief Olisah Metuh, they were reversed by Courts of Appeal and retrial ordered.
“These instances of reversal of judgements may confirm cases of interferences by politicians. However, fair assessment of such interferences would have exonerated the government because while in the case Sen. Kalu, he is a member of APC, Chief Metuh is a member of the PDP.
“To further confirm that Nigerian anti-corruption agencies are not being partisan in the country’s anti-corruption war, just on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Federal High Court, Abuja ordered the final forfeiture of over $600,000 belonging to former Governor of Zamfara State, Alh. Abdulaziz Yari.
“Alh. Yari is a member of APC who is being prosecuted by the ICPC. APC being the governing party, if the case of political interference in which the party and the federal government are to be guilty, the case of Alh. Yari would have confirmed it.
“The nexus between corruption, underdevelopment and high incidence of poverty in countries with low capacity to fight corruption cannot be disputed. Whereby corruption is high, capacity of government to execute projects of economic development will be weak.
“As a nation, Nigeria has had its fair share of evidence in this regard. There were mind-blowing cases of corruption between 1999 and 2015. We could recall instances of $6.8Billion fuel subsidy scam, over N6 Billion Naira Nigeria Immigration Service Scam, $20Billion NNPC fund scam, N120 Billion Malibu oil block fraud, N20 Billion Pension fund fraud and N10 Billion Diezani aircraft fraud.
“These were clear cases that diverted huge financial resources, which would have been utilised to execute major developments. All these cases would have definitely confirmed low rating of Nigeria in the fight against corruption between 1999 and 2015.
“Any conclusion about poor performance should therefore be substantiated with empirical records of instances of corruption between 2015 and now. Nigerian civil society groups who are partners of TI should be able to go beyond perception and expose in clear terms how much has been stolen in 2020 and by who?
“No doubt, Nigerians have every reason in ensuring that the fight against corruption is succeeding such that public resources are protected. If records of execution of government development projects is anything to go by, poor performance in the fight against corruption cannot be substantiated.
“Noting that in the same 2020, the government was able to set aside N50 Billion through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for Household and SME support facility and by July 2020, N49.195 Billion was disbursed to over 92,000 beneficiaries, it difficult not to cite political motives in the CPI reports.
“Other welfare programmes under the government’s Social Investment Programme have similarly continued. Besides the fact that notwithstanding the contraction of economy caused by the pandemic, the government was also able to inaugurate the commencement of Lagos – Ibadan railway transport, there were many other capital-intensive projects that continued unhindered throughout the year.
“Could it be that there are reported cases by contractors handling these projects about incidences of bribery given to public officials, which would have inflated the value of these projects? By how much were they inflated? And who are the public officials responsible for the inflation?
“In every respect, it is very difficult to reconcile the CPI 2020 report with most of the report about the performance of Nigerian government in 2020. Take the case of the Bloomberg report of June 23, 2020, which reported that Nigerian government rules out request for relief in its debt service payment at a time when virtually most African countries were negotiating relief.
“Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed was reported to have told Bloomberg that ‘Nigeria is not planning to ask for debt repayment deferment for our commercial loans or for our bilateral loans from our bilateral creditors’. A number of these would have been impossible under a corrupt government. Rather, all we will be having would have been excuses why no development has taken place in 2020, especially given the contraction of the economy under Covid-19 reality.
“While it is important to stress that no government can be perfect and no government can successfully eliminate corruption, the CPI 2020 report on Nigeria present a very bad approach to engage the Nigerian government in the fight against corruption.
“It is a poor attempt to politicise the fight against corruption largely because it completely ignores all the empirical cases that should have provide objective indicators for the performance of Nigerian government. Beyond politics is also the funding reality, which has made Nigerian civil society groups to be very aggressive in legitimising the CPI 2020 report in Nigeria.”