The Nigerian Bar Association said on Monday that the number of convictions secured or volume of assets recovered was not the right index for measuring the success of an anti-corruption war.
It rather urged the Muhammadu Buhari administration to adopt proactive strategies in fighting corruption, and do away with discriminatory or selective approach to prosecute his administration’s mantra of anti-corruption.
The association in a statement by its President, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), commemorating this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, also urged the government not to allow the anti-corruption war to be tainted by corruption.
It urged the citizens to stand up against corruption and blow the whistle when necessary while it also urged the government to embrace automation, the rule of law and transparency in order to rid the country of the scourge of corruption.
It said measuring the success of the anti-graft war using the number of convictions or volume of assets recovered from looters as an index would corrupt the criminal justice system.
According to him, this would only induce corruption and abuse of prosecutorial rights.
He said, “By using these as our primary index for determining our success in fighting corruption, we set targets that induce corruption and abuse of prosecutorial rights.
“We thereby make a statement that the end justifies the means and, in the process, encourage and advocate convictions and purported recovery of assets no matter how crooked, corrupt and undermining of justice the processes may be for attaining those goals.
“The end result is that we pay more attention to and celebrate these corrosive and corruptive processes while giving scant attention and regard to proactive measures that could actually stem and block the avenues for corruption.”
He urged the Buhari administration to abolish media trial for suspects while its anti-corruption war must not be perceived as discriminatory or selective.
Usoro said, “It is gratifying that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has consistently made it the credo of his government to fight corruption, right from his first term in office. That is commendable.
“The fight must however not be selective or discriminatory in nature; it must not even be perceived to be selective or discriminatory.
“The trial of persons for corrupt practices must itself not be tainted with corruption. Media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices, for example, amounts to corruption itself.”
He added, “Abuse of prosecutorial powers is perhaps one of the worst forms of corruption and so are the intimidation, blackmail, harassment and coercion of judicial officers in order to secure pre-determined judgments that quite often subvert justice and indeed amount to injustice. Indeed, the subversion of justice by any means whatsoever amounts to extreme corruption.”
He urged the government to put in place a mechanism that would engender transparency as a way of effectively fighting graft.
He said, “In other words, financial and economic corruption thrives where there is lack of transparency, impunity in public service, political non-accountability and pervasiveness of administrative malfeasance.
“Proactive measures that promote transparency and eliminate administrative malfeasance generally curbs corruption and abuses.
“Automation also helps greatly in stemming these tendencies and the attendant corruption and the more we can automate our processes in all the branches of government – executive, judiciary and legislature – the greater our success would be in tackling corruption through the elimination of some of those human elements and abuses that encourage and foster corruption.
“The NBA advises government at all levels and in all branches to embrace such proactive measures in the fight against corruption.
“Impunity and abuse in public service must be abhorred and so must political non-accountability and a lack of transparency in public administration and the management of our affairs.”