Corruption cases….A Bill for Tenure shortening please!

President Goodluck Jonathan, recently, said that there would be no sacred cows in his administration's fight against corruption, especially in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government. This is a very welcome development and should be applauded.

Without sounding pessimistic, I think we may not be doing enough. What Mr President should realise is that posterity will judge him if he handles corruption with kid gloves and much is not done to fight it before he leaves in 2015. Corruption has eaten deep into our foundation in Nigeria. The sad part of it is that those who are lucky to climb into position of authority and who have sworn to an oath of ensuring they do things to the best of their ability and in the interest of the nation are the culprits. Matters are even made worse as the fight against corruption is made a political issue whenever high profile cases come to the fore.

One thing I believe Mr President should be worried about now is how long corruption cases should take before an accused corrupt official is brought to book. I don't want to be told that there is separation of powers and the Presidency is not the Judiciary. I don't also want to be told that the Legislature which makes laws has not indicated how long. What I know is that the Presidency was able to send an electoral bill to the Legislature and the Legislature was able to amend our electoral law indicating how long electoral petitions should last. The Presidency also is considering sending a bill for a single term for Governors and the President.

Corruption being what it is and what it has done to us, what it is doing to us, and what it will do to us, deserve legislation to shorten its tenure in Nigeria without dragging our Judiciary by the nose and also being in conflict with the Judiciary. I believe even the Judges and Magistrates will agree.

I understand that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) keeps a long list of its major court cases, written and fixed to a large board in their office. The record, detailing the particulars of each lawsuit, includes cases Nigerians have not heard about and may never hear about at all with the rate they are being prosecuted.

Information has it that some of the cases still on the EFCC list are those involving some former governors, ministers, a few lawmakers and some business personalities and individuals accused of corruption. The money involved in all these cases is estimated to be more than N240 billion. Whao! With such an amount, we can do a lot for our hospitals.

So what is the problem? Some of these cases have lasted for more than three years. The anti-graft agencies blame the judicial process for the slow pace their trials face. It is understood that some of the challenges of the justice system include the procedure of admission of evidence to a hearing and the right of the respondent to raise objection and sometimes these issues are taken advantage of by the respondents to delay justice.

The Attorney General of the Federation is supposed to ensure the agencies prosecute these cases appropriately but there are blames and counter blames between the head of the agencies and the Attorney General.

Is it true that the Attorney General withdrew over 50% of cases instituted by EFCC from the courts? If yes what was his reason? If the Attorney General of the Federation believes the EFCC is incompetent then he has the ears of the President to ensure that whether AIG or Compol Mrs Farida has the marching orders to get out of the place. Attorney General of the Federation can present his evidence to the Legislature in-order to make his point through due process and get Mrs Farida out before the end of her tenure.

Or is there is any law in Nigeria which says an incompetent officer can not be removed? Our level of corruption has exploded and should therefore not be politically handled. There should be an all out fight against it.

Mr President should know that, there is now a growing discontentment over what is perceived as meddlesomeness by the Attorney General of the Federation who is Mr President's chief legal adviser. Mr President can not be saying to us that there will be no sacred cows and his chief law officer is accused of working to the contrary.

The Attorney General has dismissed the EFCC and the ICPC as being incapable of fighting corruption. Speaking during his ministerial screening by the Senate, he proposed merging both agencies as a way of getting around the problem, without saying how that would accomplish the objective of reducing corruption. He does not realize that he may be getting into a terrible tendency to turn every good idea into a soap opera.

One would have expected that by now, the Attorney General would have come up with something different. I hope the Attorney General realizes that he is also being watched and can be removed by Mr President if he is found collaborating with corrupt bourgeois.

The Attorney General and the EFCC also know that the longer court cases are the more public interest wanes and so the public loses interest in them as time winds up with less news of their existence. This has been the bane of our fight against corruption. The Attorney General it appears has not helped matters so far. Are we lacking lawyers to do the job? Do we need special courts to try these corruption cases with time limits? Do we need legislation on these? These are some of the issues the Attorney General should resolve immediately.

Some people may ask what of the judges? There are insinuations that the judges are also corrupt and that is why we have some high profile cases going under. My thoughts are that the artificially overvalued money they may get tends to drive an artificially undervalued reputation out of circulation. They too have to be checked and their works reviewed. The Presidency will need to work with the Judiciary and the Legislature to hammer this cankerworm of corruption.

A law is as good as it is observed by all. So the statement coming from Mr President that there would be no sacred cows in his administration's fight against corruption is highly welcomed at this time. This is why I ask if we should now start thinking about time limits for our corruption cases as we have done for electoral cases? A discussion among the different arms is needed as soon as possible if we must move on.

In this fight against corruption, Mr President needs men and women who will brave the storms and fight fo rNigeria at his side. I believe we have the people in Nigeria.

Finally, Mr President must demonstrate a determination to combat corruption by sponsoring a bill to create time limit and special criminal courts or tribunals to adjudicate and dispense with corruption cases within a specified time with stiffer sentences. If not even single terms will not help as office holders will become speedily and grandiously corrupt in the single term without fear or favour.