In the spirit of the anti-corruption drive of the Buhari regime and given the way and manner this drive has gone to fumigate the public finance sector of governance, especially at the federal level thereby freeing humongous resources that were hitherto fleeced by operatives of government, there is this wish writ large in the minds of Nigerians that the Buhari government should institutionalize the fight against corruption so that it will survive his regime when he finishes his current and final term in 2023. Embedded in this desire is the need to make the fight against corruption an institutional act that does not depend on the whims and caprices of the regimes that will succeed Buhari to carry out but make it a compulsive component of governance in Nigeria.
Yes, the Buhari regime has not only shown the will and desire to give this ennui a direct fight, it had done so much in the past four years to re-direct governance far away from the sordid and decrepit form that prevailed before he came in 2015. History will give it to Buhari that his is the very first regime in Nigeria’s independent history to take a holistic battle against corruption, especially governmental corruption which reduced Nigeria to rubbles before he came and exerted such tremendous toll on the Nigerian institutions such that Nigeria was already a failed state where every infrastructure crumbled, insecurity reigned supreme, poverty, disease and want ravaged-no thanks to internecine corruption that assailed all sectors. Graciously, since Buhari came, corruption has taken such hit that public fund that was reduced to a free-looting cesspit before he came had been so capped through the application of diverse policies such that little or no leakages occur in the system.
The capping of huge corruption well-heads has led to massive investment in the country’s infrastructural base that suffered such terrible abandonment before 2015. Nigerian infrastructural sectors are receiving such lease of life that they never enjoyed even when Nigeria was harvesting an oil boom that ended up looted. So, in such positive attention to infrastructure, huge social investment, tremendous recovery of mileages in every sector of governance through judicious use of state resources, Nigerians demand for a rooting of the war against corruption, which had hitherto mopped up resources that would have given Nigeria a huge leap in the comity of nations. Nigerians want President Buhari and the 9th National Assembly to work to make the battle against corruption an institutional provision that will ensure we don’t walk back to such dung pit Buhari’s regime is lifting us from. The demand for such institutionalization finds expression in the desire by Nigerians that an Anti-Corruption Court be set up through the instrumentality of legislation to ensure no coming regime takes us back to the kind of byzantine freeloading we experienced before Buhari came.
Of course, the anti-corruption agencies and policies of the regime are blazing everywhere in Nigeria. They are taking captives by the day. These institutions are moving from one length of the country to the other. They are moving from one sector of governance to the other and nabbing violators of the new regime against corruption. But most of the successes recorded by these agencies and policies are frustrated at the regular courts where multifarious factors that shackle the justice system in Nigeria work to nullify efforts to punish violators of the anti-corruption battle and stultify the noble intents of the war against corruption. Some of these impeding factors include the huge work load of the regular courts, which sees them overburden with so many litigations on virtually every issue under the sun. With this, anti-corruption cases have suffered from unending litigations, which often frustrate the efforts of these agencies and even when justice is gotten, it is often belated and vitiates the important role they should play in quickly punishing offenders.
Again, it is well known that the quality of justice in Nigerian judiciary is very poor as most judicial decisions are often products of transactory compromise that defeats the essence of justice. Of course, the Nigerian judiciary smells from corrupt influences that see judges marketing justice to the highest bidder in often shameful manners that de-markets any effort to tame corruption. Having survived the most extensive fight back by those that were injured by the fight against corruption (and you bet they form a sizeable majority of Nigeria’s population given the pervasive nature of corruption before 2015), and having secured a second term in power, President Buhari owes it to posterity to institutionalize this war and ensure our country doesn’t regress to the parlous state corruption navigated us into before he came.
But an anti-corruption court, of the type Nigerians are demanding, is one that will handle only cases of corruption and expeditiously give justice. Nigerians demand courts that will not be weighed down by civil and political cases and in such manner, have enough time to attend to the myriad of cases that bother on corruption alone. Again, Nigerians expect that new judges that have passed some tests of personal character and integrity need to be appointed as judges in this envisaged court so as to discharge justice with no regard to who gets affected. Nigerians expect that in constituting the anti-corruption courts, rigorous tests and even public examination of the quality of judges that should people the tribunal should be carried out-very different from the appointment process of regular judges and different criteria of operation, more enhanced remuneration be approved for these judges. Even where regular judges are appointed to these courts, they would be made to undergo such tests before being appointed to the anti-corruption courts. There is the feeling that if recruitment and promotion in the envisaged court follow the pattern of the existing regular courts, the aim might get defeated in the long run as justice would be sold as is happening in the regular courts presently. That way, the fight against corruption would be rendered a huge joke; indeed, a huge anti-climax. Again, there is a clamour that appointments to the anti-corruption courts should be done at the very highest level of the judiciary.
So, in having this expectation, Nigerians expect President Buhari to send an executive bill to the National Assembly for the establishment of this court and its enshrinement in our legal system because the country has a peculiar corruption problem that needs a specialized solution. Nigerians equally expect the 9th Senate to act expeditiously on the bill and pass it into law so that the huge number of anti-corruption cases; most of which have lasted for years in our regular courts, could be quickly attended to. A fight against corruption does not end in investigating, arresting and instituting cases against offenders but in quickly dispensing justice so that offenders are punished and litigation is brought to an end in record time. Today, what happens is that the zeal of the anti-corruption agencies is effectively stymied in the courts where judges act in cahoots with suspects to frustrate justice and give offenders freer leases of life. Because of the susceptibility of corrupt influence on our judiciary, accused offenders use the courts to frustrate the fight against corruption and they do this either with compromising the judges to offer them routes for escape or by employing the elastic role time plays in such cases to frustrate even the anti-corruption agencies in prosecuting them. All these stand to be taken care of by this Special Anti-Corruption Court that is expected to be peopled by judges of proven integrity and the quick attention cases would get in such courts.
It behooves the President to work with the present NASS to get to work on this very important imperative of our current battle to cleanse the country from such rots that had supervised the demolition of a country brimming with rich natural and human resources and rendering it a huge wasteland till the present regime came and elected to take on the unchallenged bull and cleanse the Augean stable. History will encrypt the name of this government in indelible gold if it attends to this need.
Peter Claver Oparah
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