The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership has taken a swipe at the order of a Federal High Court in Abuja barring the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from prosecuting a former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Abdullahi Dikko.
In a release issued by CACOL’s Executive Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran and signed by the anti-corruption organization’s Coordinator of Media and Publications, Adegboyega Otunuga, he stated, “The Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of Federal High Court, Abuja, was widely reported yesterday in a suit brought by the former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Abdullahi Dikko against the Anti-Corruption outfit, EFCC that based on the ‘non-prosecution’ agreement entered into between the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the ex-Customs boss, the former could not be prosecuted as such an agreement was binding on the EFCC since, as he posited, ‘the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), being the chief law officer of the federation was imbued with wide powers and discretion on prosecution matters as evidenced by certain provisions under Section 174 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). He went further to justify his judicial pronouncement on the fact that Abubakar Malami as the Attorney General of the federation never opposed the suit brought by the ex-Customs Boss indicating that he (Malami) ‘subscribed to Dikko’s case’ and admonished government to speak in one voice and not in different tunes that appear to be discordant.’
“While CACOL as an anti-graft organization is not wholly opposed to the culture and practice of ‘plea bargaining’ by the government or any of its agencies in retrieving and repatriating stolen wealth and flagrant abuse of public office by people entrusted in care of our patrimony, we hasten to assert that the process of application of plea bargaining as a legal instrument is to save government time on thorough investigation and prosecution of corruption cases while much, if not all of the looted funds are recovered while the culprit cooperates fully with investigation and recouping of such funds to enjoy a rebate on likely sentencing and other punitive measures for his unpatriotic acts of personal or group corrupt enrichments.
” Though the ex-Comptroller General of the Customs Service was said to have returned a sum of N1.5bn for his entitlement of this noille proseque arrangement with the Attorney General of the federation, the very act of objection by the EFCC leadership greatly suggests that what the former customs officer surrendered was insignificant compared to the humongous and unimaginable resources he frittered away. The normal thing would have been for the office of the Attorney General to liaise, very critically, with the anti-graft agency, EFCC in this wise to acquaint itself with all grey areas of the former’s investigation and findings towards arriving at a suitable and most patriotic synergy so as not to allow the nation to be shortchanged by corruption using such folly.
“This unfortunate scenario is probably why many critical stakeholders within the nation’s financial circle and anti-corruption assignments, have called for certain prosecutorial and administrative powers on corruption to be taken away from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation. We could not agree more with that proposition. This is because, such loopholes or let-off is tantamount to a slap on the wrist for corruption culprits.’
The CACOL Boss added, “Considering the monumental and grievous effects of corruption on our body-polity, we are using this unfortunate fall out to aver that necessary legal and procedural adjustments be made towards ensuring that the instrumentality of plea bargaining is not used as an avenue for financial criminals and corrupt elements to escape justice; especially when such elements could still claim innocence in future and craftily find themselves back in position of power by their claim of innocence. This cannot be the very spirit of the current administration’s fight against the ogre of corruption.”