Why Nigeria is Yet to Win Graft War – SAN

By IndepthAfrica
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Oct 25th, 2012
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By Soni Daniel, Vanguard

Abuja — A senior member of the inner bar, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) said, yesterday, that it would be difficult for Nigeria to win the current war against corruption given intrinsic relationship between politics and graft.

Uche said in an exclusive interview with Vanguard that neither the establishment of a special court to try corrupt persons nor the change of type of government in Nigeria could halt the menace of graft.

According to him, corruption and politics cannot be easily separated and it will amount to a waste of efforts and resources by establishing a special court to try suspected corrupt persons without first addressing the forces that promote graft in the country.

The legal practitioner said: “We cannot solve the problem of corruption without adopting a holistic approach towards its elimination. Corruption has eaten deeply into the fabric of the nation’s life and it requires corresponding tough measures and political will to uproot it from the foundation.

“If you look at the way corruption is practised in Nigeria and the way politics is practised in the country, you will come to the inescapable conclusion that corruption is the oil that lubricates the machinery of politics in Nigeria.

“So, it is a siamese twin with politics in Nigeria. It is extremely difficult to separate corruption from politics in Nigeria. It is difficult to practice politics without corruption in Nigeria and it is very difficult to separate one from the other.

“We must remove all those things that make people to see public office as a do or die matter. We have to deliberately restructure public office to really be a platform for rendering service to the people.

“We have to restructure political offices in such a way that the capacity to steal public funds is limited, monitored and scrutinised. Until that is done everybody will continue to see politics as a goldmine.”

On plea bargain

Although he supports the use of plea bargain in the Nigerian judicial system as a means of preventing prolonged and expensive legal prosecution, Uche lamented that the concept had also been largely abused in Nigerian to the extent that it had turned from “plea bargain to money bargain.”

Constitution amendment

On the current efforts to amend the Nigerian Constitution, the legal practitioner described the move as a distraction by politicians to buy time and get Nigerian busy while they prepare for their political interest in 2015.

Uche noted: “To me, constitution amendment is not necessary. That is not fundamental. That is not the cause of our problem. I don’t support constitution amendment at all.

“I see it as a distraction and something to keep us busy between now and 2015. We have no problem with the constitution the way it is. What we have problem with is the manner in which it is operated.

On the way forward

On how to move Nigeria forward, he appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to do all within his powers to improve infrastructure in the country so that other sectors could strive.

He admonished the President to think passionately about transforming the nation to leave a legacy for generations yet unborn.

Uche cautioned: “One thing we must recognise, though, is that governance is not about an individual. We cannot lay on the feet of President Jonathan the blames for all we are suffering now.

“Understandably, most of these problems did not begin with him. But then, he is our figure-head and the buck stops on his table. So, he has to think passionately about transforming this country. This is a very unique opportunity he has to do something about changing things between now and 2015.

“Let him not allow those around him to keep him busy thinking about the next election and the opposition. Let him think of how to make sure that we have good roads and steady electricity, good educational and health facilities.”

“These are the areas he should concentrate on. If he can change these areas he can say at the end of his tenure that he indeed had a transformation agenda that served the people of Nigeria well and history will judge him well.”

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