Anti-graft war : Why EFCC is selective-Lamorde
Speaking earlier ,the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, called for holistic review of the nation’s criminal justice system to strengthen the anti- graft campaign in Nigeria. This call was made on Monday, May 21st, 20012 by the Chairman, Abuja branch of the NBA, Mazi Afam Osigwe during a courtesy visit to the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde at the Headquarters of the Commission in Abuja. Osigwe said that the reform of the criminal justice system was imperative and would address existing challenges in the fight against corrupt practices.
Osigwe said that issues of asset declaration, plea bargaining and bail administration particularly required a review to ensure fairness and expeditious resolution of corruption cases. “…why shouldn’t we amend our Criminal Procedure Justice Sector? If you are living in a manner that your income cannot sustain, the onus of proof should be on you not on the prosecutor”, he submitted.
On the issue of bail administration, the NBA Chairman proposed that any administrative bail granted an accused person by the EFCC should be upheld in court to fast-track justice delivery. “Some forms of delays are sometimes encountered in court in the course of trial because of bail. Why should a person who has been granted bail at the EFCC level be made to go through application in court? If a suspect has been granted bail, why the formalities of starting the same process all over again? We have to look at the current bonding process in Nigeria, is it realistic? People just sign bond and walk away, an accused person jumps bail and the surety cannot produce him and he is charged to court. To me, that is not the essence of a bond, if there is a bond indeed, then it should be forfeited to the government. That is the essence of bonding”, he stressed.
He also said that plea bargaining has become a recognized issue globally and called for its institutionalization in Nigeria, stressing that Judges should have rules guiding them in giving rulings on it.
Osigwe commended the consistency of the EFCC in the battle against corrupt practices. While acknowledging the fact that every Nigerian is a victim of corrupt practices, he called for concerted action against the scourge; stressing that, “If the society is alive and conscious of the fact that this is a battle that must be fought and won, it becomes a lifestyle that we have to say no to corruption, it must not be sloganeering”.
In his response, Lamorde said that the NBA has always been a reliable ally in the fight against graft. He welcomed Osigwe’s proposition of reform of the criminal justice system stressing that legal practitioners knew most of the challenges posed to the fight against corrupt practices. The EFCC Chairman explained that the quantum of cases before the Commission was making prioritization of its work imperative and dismissed the claims in some quarters that the EFCC is selective in its work. “For those who accuse us of selective justice, thank God they are not saying we are persecuting them, they only say we are selective. Our resources are limited; we must prioritize the cases we go after. It is putting logic on its head to talk of selective prosecution of corruption cases. It is unfortunate that Nigerians don’t own up for their crimes”, he said.
Lamorde called for the enactment of a Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture law to replace the existing Conviction-based Asset Forfeiture regime in view of the need to separate an accused person’s ill-gotten assets from his person. “The civil forfeiture law will address the issue of corruption not conviction based forfeiture as we presently have”, he explained. He appealed to lawyers to refrain from delaying cases before the court in the overall interests of the nation.
Osigwe was accompanied on the courtesy call by Agada Elachi, Vice Chairman; Chris Agidy, Secretary; Emeka Obegolu, National Publicity Secretary; U. M Yamah, Publicity Secretary, among others.