The world INDICTMENT can only have effect if it is confirmed by court of competent jurisdiction. This was the view of Supreme Court of Nigeria in Atiku Vs INEC in 2007. For some time now, some hypocritical elite have been insisting that the President ought to remove the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachair Lawal on account of his indictment by the Senate over contract of rehabilitating internally displaced people’s camp IDP, which they say was awarded to his company at an outrageous price. The question here now is, are these elite not aware of the fact that it is against justices to call for Lawal’s removal based on mere allegation.
In the first place, the National Assembly (NASS) is empowered by the Constitution to expose corruption, but what this writer is yet to understand is whether in the course of exposing corruption, they are further empowered to target individuals in the establishments they are over-sighting. For instance, in over-sighting contract awards in IDP camps, are they legally authorized to probe individual owners of the companies involved in the execution of contracts in question? This question becomes imperative in view of the obvious fact that NASS, as an institution is not equipped to do the job of in-depth investigation. Besides, won’t that constitute usurpation of the job of investigation and prosecution, which is purely outside the, scope of NASS?
One had expected that NASS job is exposing institutional corruption, after which they are expected to pass their findings to appropriate authority for action. But, what we saw was the Senate dancing to the gallery, in the process, making the whole thing look like “we and they fight”, instead of work for the progress of the nation. But the blame should be placed squarely on the door step of some misguided Nigerian elite and their sponsors. While the none legally minded elite can be pardoned here, the same cannot be said of the lawyers among the critics of the person of SGF. For instance, a particular lawyer from Adamawa and supposedly an exposed person in the legal profession, always harps on the need for the President to show the SGF the exit door on account of Senate indictment. Does it mean that he is not aware of a standing Supreme Court judgment on Indictment? Even the lay men now know that only the Court can indict by way of conclusive conviction.
Some of the elite have even gone to the absurd level of calling for the suspension of the SGF by the President till after investigation. The same people are hinging their view on the indictment by the Senate. The question here is, by urging the President to sack or suspend the SGF based on Senate’s indictment, at the same time, telling the President to investigate the matter again, won’t it amount to double investigation and a waste of scares funds? Although, it is clear that most of anti-SGF elite are sponsored by forces against the present government in power.
To this writer, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria only empowers the NASS to expose institutional corruption; the job of finding the culprits in that corruption allegation is solely that of the Executive arm of government through its agencies. Investigating corruption act is not the function of NASS. They don’t have the legal and institutional power to do so.
If the function of NASS extends to investigation of corruption, why do we have agencies saddled with that function? Nigeria would have been a better democracy if some of these hypercritical elite are interrogating issues. The elite in Nigeria should have known that what the Constitution assigned to NASS is the power of exposing institutional corruption, not investigating the characters involved in that corruption. That is why they have the power of appropriation. It is very hard to investigate corruption over funds you did not appropriate, but as a general rule, NASS can offer an opinion as a way of helping the executive arm of government. It is even debatable if NASS can probe funds it did not appropriate in the first place.
Here are posers for those calling for the head of the SGF. Twice, the Senate had rejected the confirmation of the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Ibrahim Magu on account of unfavorable report against him from the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS); why did the Senate rely on DSS report instead of their own report, since the Constitution gives them the power to investigate and expose corruption as hypocrites want us to believe? What would have happened if Senate had generated the allegations against Magu and subsequently disqualified him? But, if Senate had investigated EFCC as a body and discovered corruption based on what they appropriated in the budget, they have the backing of the law to expose it.
If we must tell ourselves the truth, until we separate politics from the fight against corruption, the war may be lost. When it comes to NASS confirmation of political appointees, NASS relies on appropriate agencies for report on individuals to be cleared, but when NASS arrogate the powers of investigating individuals of corruption, then, politics other than exposing corruption takes the centre stage, and it must be condemned in strong term.