- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Thursday, 05 July 2012 22:37
- Written by Chris Edache Agbiti, Esq
Except for an incurable optimist, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is currently at its wits end in every expectation of what good governance can deliver. In all spheres of our national life, dashed expectations of governance deliverable litter the national space, no thanks to the monster called corruption. It does not call for
any intellectual effort to know that of all the ills besetting this country and which manifest themselves in the current systemic breakdown and nation failure staring the country in the face, corruption is the bedrock upon which every ill stands.
It is the reason for the high carnage on our roads, the unequalled high infant and maternal mortality rate in our health institutions, the only reason for the show of shame in our legislative institution where the one who was called to probe the thief turned out to be the thief himself; the high level of mediocrity in our public institution is traceable to it. The list is endless.
More saddening is the fact that everyone seems to have caught the bug. What ought to be a clear aberration in public service has now become the norm. The little that remains of our collective sense of indignation and shame at the pervasion of values for individual gain has taken flight. Nigeria, to call a spade a spade, is drifting towards the Hobbesian state of nature, no thanks to the all pervasive cankerworm of corruption.
The crime of corruption has dealt such a very terrible blow on even the workings of our minds, both individually and collectively that our social control mechanisms of justice delivery, the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, are themselves in a cesspool of corruption. The attempts by the few men of goodwill in these institutions at redeeming them have all been thwarted. The reason is not far-fetched. The level of sophistication attained by corruption in this country has made it practically impossible, if not delusional, to continue to apply the extant adversarial system of justice administration and expect to achieve justice in all its ramifications. There is therefore, a need for a paradigm shift in the standard of proof from the extant adversarial system to inquisitorial system in the prosecution of economic and financial crimes that constitute the bulk, if not all, of the crime of corruption in Nigeria.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, it is necessary to explain the twin concepts of adversarial and inquisitorial system of justice administration. Adversarial system is a system of justice administration whereby the initial responsibility to prove an allegation, subject matter of a dispute at the tribunal, rests with the party alleging it, failing which the party against whom the allegation is made is absolved of liability. Inquisitorial system, on the other hand, assumes a person against whom an allegation is made, liable of the allegation except the he leads evidence to absolve himself of the allegation. Nigeria currently practices the adversarial system which presumes an alleged criminal innocent until the contrary is proved.
Now, proceeding from the above, it bears repeating to state that given the level of sophistication in which economic and financial crimes are committed in this country and elsewhere in the world and the complexities associated in leading evidence to establish the allegations, the doctrine of presuming an alleged criminal in this regard innocent from the outset until the contrary is proved becomes of doubtful significance to the reality of the current state of affairs in this country, as far as economic and financial crimes are concerned, .
Take, for instance, a public servant who joined the public service soon after he left the university about 25 years ago but can boast of over 42 Billion Naira in his bank account, 25 Million US Dollars in his offshore account and assets worth several billions of Naira scattered all over the world, still enjoys the presumption of innocence that the adversarial system guarantees. Should the prosecution make any mistake of not tying the acquisition of any of the property mentioned above to the illegal act he is being charged, as it is often the case, our public servant then goes scot-free to enjoy the loot!
Pray, will it not make for more efficiency in the fight against graft by adopting inquisitorial system whereby the job of the prosecutors of economic and financial crimes is limited in principle, to merely linking properties, money, assets and criminal conduct to an alleged criminal and establish his guilt on that sole basis, leaving the accused to prove his innocence, failing which the allegations will be confirmed and the approved punishment meted out?
Let me hasten to add here that I am fully aware of the lapses associated with inquisitorial system before anyone may presume my ignorance in that regard to volunteer to lecture me in any rejoinder. However, given the abnormal state of affairs in Nigeria, we cannot continue to play the Ostrich game in the name of subscribing to universal standard while the flood of corruption submerges us all. Other countries of the world have adopted various strategies as they suit their peculiarities in the fight against graft. The time to act is now. Amend our constitution to adopt inquisitorial system in proof of economic and financial crimes.
* CHRIS EDACHE AGBITI, ESQ.,
IS OF THE LAW FIRM OF OBLA AND CO.,
BANK OF INDUSTRY BUILDING,
CENTRAL BUSINESS AREA, ABUJA