Waziri: Rule of Law Delays Anti-Graft War

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, yesterday lamented that delivery of justice under the rule of law system as rooted in the 1999 Constitution was slowing down the nation’s anti-graft war.
Waziri, who stated this while delivering a lecture titled: “How Corruption Undermines Democracy” at an Open House Forum held at the Compass Media Village, Isheri, Ogun State, also revealed that the EFCC had recovered over N50 billion in the last 11 months.
She regretted that many people standing trial on charges on corruption had, through their lawyers, devised means of undermining the effectiveness of the courts in carrying out accelerated trial of their cases. She cited two of the delay tactics to include questioning of the courts’ jurisdiction and flimsy applications for stay of execution even when judgment is given.
According to her, “the justice system is slow and windy. Under the rule of law rooted in our Constitution, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The test before us today is to be proactive and ingenious in devising appropriate mechanisms to frontally address the endemic corruption problem. Medication must suite an ailment. We cannot pretend to solve this extraordinary problem with normal or conventional methods.”
She further said sometimes as a result of the slow trial process, judges handling some of the cases in the course of the delay either die, get retired or are transferred.
She declared her total endorsement of the proposed non-conviction-based legislation on asset recovery saying “it is a law we must have”.
According to her, the non-conviction-based legislation is not only desirable but it is a law for a country with acute corruption problem such as Nigeria.
“If culprits cannot be tried and convicted; they can at least have their assets confiscated without the necessity of a trial, conviction and sentence. It is a democratic law that seeks to take back assets illicitly acquired and deny the corrupt the enjoyment of loot they are not entitled to in the first instance,” she said.
She further said the law is rooted in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) as “abuse of office”, adding that UNCAC had accepted the legislation as international best practice today.
“It is my hope that the National Assembly gives it expeditious consideration and passage into law,” she added.
Even till date, she pointed out that the indices of good governance were still non-existent, stressing that what “we have is largely democracy without good governance”.
Waziri remarked that the Commission had equally intensified its investigation and prosecution activities. She listed the results in the last 11 months to include 55 convictions representing about a third of all the over 300 convictions so far recorded by the Commission since inception; prosecution of over 20 high profile cases against Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) across the country; repositioning the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to proactively trail stolen assets with the deployment of the GoAML and GoCase software; instituting a programme to detect tax fraud and evasion and devising of “Eagle Claw”, an anti-419 software to track down fraudsters and signed a cooperation agreement with Microsoft to tackle cyber crimes.
Waziri lambasted her predecessor, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and the former Minister of FCT, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for allegedly carrying out a campaign of calumny against the EFCC and the Federal Government in US and Britain.
She urged Nigerians in Diaspora to ask Ribadu and el-Rufai how they got the huge sums of money there were using to tarnish the image of Nigeria abroad. She also accused Ribadu of behaving as if he is the only one that could do the job and equally tongue lashed him for being adept in grandstanding, saying she would never follow his style by playing to the gallery.
According to her, many of the investigations done by EFCC under Ribadu were not properly undertaken as they were not backed with sufficient evidence and statistics. She said the EFCC under her leadership was working quietly and actively without making noise, stressing that her records would speak for her at the end of the day.