The Executive, the Judiciary and the Senate yesterday disagreed sharply on what constitutes corruption, indicating that the country is wagging an anti-corruption war with no road map.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a 2-day event with the theme; National Dialogue On Corruption, organized by the office of the Vice-President and the Presidential Action Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, Chief Justice Walter Onneghen and Senate President Olusola Saraki gave different views on corruption.
While Osinbajo said it was systemic with the judiciary a foremost culprit, Onnoghen blamed it on the prevailing culture of impunity and lack of rule of law.
For Saraki, corruption has nothing to do with the person.
The ongoing event, holding at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, attracted dignitaries including, Chairman of the PACAC, Professor Itse Sagay, who took time to label the Nigeria Customs and the Niger Delta Commission as cesspools of corruption.
Osinbajo said: “Corruption as we all seem to agree, is an existential threat to Nigeria both as a nation and as a viable economic entity.
“Clearly, there is no doubt whatsoever whether every one arm of government can excuse itself, every part or arm of the society can excuse itself. But the truth of the matter is that we all know that corruption in Nigeria is systemic.
“We can really solve the problem of corruption in this country if we adopt some of those best practices: Ensure the integrity of the entire justice system; that the judges, lawyers, clerks etc are not corrupt. Everybody is involved. How judges are appointed. Not on man know man bases.
“Aside from the DSS investigation, there should be particular test and proper investigation of candidates to be appointed as judges.
“The second thing is to look at the general welfare of the judges (ie the general remuneration of judicial officers). Any judge accused of any infraction must be investigated and prosecuted through the NJC to avoid political influence.”
In an obvious rebuttal, Justice Onnoghen said: “As the head of the Nigerian judiciary, the issue of corruption is a sensitive one. The judiciary finds itself being battered left, right and center.
“So, what should the Chief Justice of Nigeria say on occasion like this which will not appear as if it is in defense of his institution or shielding the bad eggs, a few of which I admit exist.
“I will like us to realize that corruption thrives ( or any other form of injustice) thrives in a culture of impunity.
“But the judiciary holds this principles in care because that is the only way by which you can ensure an orderly society and ensure the good and maintenance of democracy and justice for us. So, if you are to fight corruption, then you fight the culture of impunity, which is an attitudinal phenomenon.
“If we allow the rule of law to reign, then you will agree with me there will be a dramatic reduction in corruption and injustice. “And by the nature of that institution, the judiciary, it is crafted and designed in such a way that a judicial officer can only be seen not heard.
“The institution is so painted as if we are not doing enough. Yes, we can do more.
“When you have a shoddily investigated case, poorly executed one and you expect the judge who is under oath, judicial oath, to do justice to all manner of persons without fear of favour or ill will, to respect you on balancing the scale, to convict willy-nilly, this can never be done. I can assure you of that.
“No judicial officer will get himself involved in that. Do you know why? Because, a Judicial officer’s witness is time. Time is the only witness to a judicial officer.
Saraki said: “The fight against corruption must be driven by a well-articulated strategy.
“These strategies must be multi-faceted, taking alongside, all facets of Nigeria’s political, economic and social system, with each arm or department of government operating within their jurisdictions and mandates to secure a collective stakeholder stage about the fight.
“Deliberately casting the fight as that of one man, a kind of knight in shining armor, who wrestles with a resisting society, in my humble view, will not secure the desired result.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-corruption, Senator Chuwuka Utazi, represented Saraki.