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EDITORIAL

PMB’s Marching Order On Anti-corruption War

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The cardinal policies that undergird the Muhammadu Buhari administration from inception in 2015 are security, reviving the economy, and fight against corruption. And so far, the President, from all intents, has kept faith with these three fundamentals by demonstrating the political will towards their realisation.Although corruption still persists in the polity, it cannot, however, be denied its backbone has been broken.

The huge amount of looted funds recovered, corruptly-acquired landed property, houses and other assets seized from public and private persons, institutions as well as the convictions secured by the anti-graft agencies attest to the fact that the anti-corruption war is making a head way.

However, the administration’s anti-graft war has continued to receive knocks from some Nigerians, especially in the opposition, who describe it as one-sided and directed at the opposition. Their position is strengthened by the red carpet treatment given to politicians on trial or indicted who defect to the ruling party.

There are also allegations that both the Presidency and the anti-graft agencies look the other way as public officials accused of corrupt practices during the first term of the Buhari government were neither investigated nor prosecuted.

In the President’s second coming, this alleged indifference of the government to such cases appears to be giving way to a new era where there is no more hiding place or cover up for such persons. This deduction is informed by the several public officers who have been fired for alleged sharp practices and abuse of office since Buhari was inaugurated for another term in office.

In furtherance of this, the President again demonstrated his total commitment to freeing Nigeria from the grip of corruption last Friday in Kaduna when he told Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) graduating cadets that they should ignore his body language or preferences and go after every corrupt person no matter his or her status.     

That the President at the event restated his non-interference in the activities of the anti-graft agencies and vowed never to do so is very reassuring and leaves the onus on the EFCC and sister agencies to do their work well. This presidential marching order implies that the EFCC and related agencies no longer have any excuse for not doing its job well.

As a newspaper, we salute the courage of the President and believe that it is one national assignment the EFCC and others cannot afford to fail because corruption has been adjudged to be the key driver of terrorism, banditry, political violence and denial of millions of Nigerians access to good life, good health and sound education. Corruption is also rated as the major cause of mass poverty in the country.

We, therefore, appeal to the anti-corruption agencies to buy into Buhari’s avowed commitment to taking criminality and corruption out of governance so that Nigeria will be prosperous and safer for future generations.The anti-corruption outfits should get used to the fact that everything now rises and falls with them. They must defend and protect the nation’s commonwealth from the criminal minded who have mismanaged Nigeria’s resources and denied the citizens the benefit of the country’s wealth.

In line with Buhari’s declaration that his overall vision for the present and future generations of Nigerians is to bequeath a nation that is not shackled by corruption, the EFCC in particular must go after the so-called “big boys” in corruption circle and get back from them what they had stolen.

In its quest to accomplish this onerous task, the anti-graft agencies must not fail to operate within the ambit of the law by respecting the rights of those linked with corruption acts. They must engage in diligent and discreet investigation and refrain from media trial. This practice, which has severally manifested in the past, had caused the agencies to lose some cases at the court.

No matter the pressure from any quarter, especially as the President has declared his neutrality, it is our opinion that the EFCC should no longer begin the prosecution of suspects before concluding investigation. It is our position that the reinvigorated anti-graft war should not be targeted at perceived enemies, while all cases and charges that were dropped against some persons for political reasons should be revisited and the accused re-arraigned for the anti-graft bodies to earn the confidence of Nigerians.

We also urge the courts to refrain from granting injunctions and other restraining orders that embolden the corrupt to carry out their acts.As obtains in the election petitions tribunals, the National Assembly should amend the laws to specify the timelines for the conclusion of certain corruption cases to ensure speedy trial of indicted persons. The current practice of cases lasting in perpetuity does not augur well for the country’s justice system.     

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