President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki has given a damning verdict of the anti-corruption battle of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying the use of extra-legal means and strong-arm tactics was against the laws of the land and would end up being counter-productive at the end of the day.
The Senate president specifically berated the Department of States Security Services (DSS) for the agency’s midnight raid on the homes of some judges in a sting operation last October, describing the action as an illegality.
He also accused the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC) led by frontline constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, of blackmailing the legislature and propagating the adoption of illegal means and extra-judicial tactics in the administration’s anti-corruption war.
Saraki gave these positions Thursday at the presidential villa during a National Dialogue on the Fight against Corruption organized by PACAC which had in attendance, Acting President Yemi Osibanjo, the newly confirmed Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, and other top officials of government.
Saraki who was represented at the event by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption, argued that the administration’s style in the fight against graft is unsustainable, saying “the end-result of any action of government is as important as the process. The platforms for fighting corruption should not, themselves, be corrupt or be seen to be corrupted.”
On the DSS raid of the homes of judges, Saraki said: “The recent so-called sting operation by the Department of State Security on the residences of some very Senior Justices, some without warrants, others without any proof of incriminating body of evidence, leaves much to be desired.”
Noting that the National Security Agencies Act of 1986 granted the DSS the mandate to act in economic crimes of national security dimension, Saraki argued that Section 6 (c) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Act of 2004, being a latter law, had vested the power for the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority on the EFCC.
“It is even more instructive that by Section 2 (1) (e) of the EFCC Act, the Department of State Security sits on the Board of the EFCC and could easily, in their meetings, point out the persons or bodies the EFCC needs to investigate and prosecute backed up by the evidence it had clandestinely gathered,” he said, adding: “That sting operation was a needless violation of our laws and an aberration that democratic society should consider anathema. The EFCC should have been provided the necessary intelligence to execute its mandate if the evidence disclosed a prima-facie case against the Justices.”
On the work of the presidential committee, Saraki said: “PACAC should not lend itself to supporting extra-legal actions, if the fight against corruption will be sustained and ingrained in the body polity. A situation where PACAC speaks in favour of patently extra-legal means of law enforcement does not bode well for the rule of law.”
The Senate President proceeded to accuse the Committee of blackmailing the National Assembly by persistent labeling the arm of government as corrupt.
Hear him: “Certain government agencies and civil society bodies (and PACAC is not innocent of this), have formed the habit of making a scapegoat of the National Assembly as a den of corruption.
”They deliberately cast institutions of state in unsalutary hue that is divorced from reality. It does not help in confidence building, within government and across the civil population, when institutions of state are deliberately demonised in order to put the shine on others.
“As a critical stakeholder and partner in the mandate given to PACAC, it does not feel right when you mount rostrums to say how badly the National Assembly has performed; how they have left their duties derelict and how corrupt they are. Indeed, it is counter-productive for PACAC to do so because its mandate of advising should be given across board to all arms and tiers in order to promote the effectiveness of all government institutions and strengthen anti-corruption measures in a comprehensive manner.”