Sagay accuses Customs, NDDC of perpetrating corruption.



The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), on Thursday, said the recklessness with which public officers spent public funds was insensitive.

While saying the level of insensitivity had become pathological, he cited the cases of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Nigeria Customs Service, which he said had continued to be enmeshed in corruption even under the present administration.

Sagay spoke at the opening of a two-day National Dialogue on Corruption, organised by PACAC at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said while Nigerians justifiably criticised the National Assembly for buying cars of over N30m each for lawmakers recently during recession, the NDDC did a similar thing recently.

He said the commission, that is synonymous with uncompleted projects, spent a fortune on vehicles without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta.

The senior advocate added, “You will not believe that with all that we are going through, the NDDC, which is the other name for uncompleted projects, has just bought over 70 cars.

“Of those, about eight of them are Super Lexus Jeeps, costing N78m each and about 10 are Land Cruisers, costing N63m each.

“This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience, recklessly, without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta.”

Sagay added that despite the purchase, the commission’s Managing Director was quoted in newspapers as saying the NDDC lacked funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of N1.2tn.

“What sort of crocodile tears was the MD shedding?  Eating the resources and future of the Niger Delta and shedding tears for the same Niger Delta?” Sagay wondered.

According to him, another example of bold and brazen corruption, which he said was thumbing its nose at this administration and all Nigerians, was happening at the Customs service.

He alleged that the department had completely ignored the fight against corruption, operating as if it was not in Nigeria.

He spoke about how bribe was being demanded at every stage of Customs clearance at the nation’s airports.

Sagay also named the Tin Can Island in Lagos as a haven of corruption with bribes being demanded brazenly.

“There is no difference in Customs since May 29, 2015. If you go to Tin Can Island, it is business as usual,” he declared.

Sagay said the nation was overwhelmed by “an epidemic of kleptomania”, wondering why a person would loot what he could not spend in 10 life times while exposing the rest of the population to misery, hunger, poverty, wretchedness and death.

He also faulted the judiciary for allegedly disregarding the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

The SAN said in spite of the provisions of Section 396 of the ACJA, some judges were still granting adjournments running into months and would adjourn their cases to give a ruling on preliminary objection instead of giving the ruling at the same time as the judgment on the substantive criminal matter.

He added that contrary to Section 306, which provides that an application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before the court should not be entertained, some courts still adjourned in order to await the outcome of an interlocutory appeal.

Sagay stated, “All these are illegal and strictly constitute acts of misconduct on the part of the judge. The outcome of all these is that we have over hundred high profile cases not going nowhere.

“One of the most tragic phenomena currently creating a major setback for speedy criminal trials, is this new invention of Senior Advocates of Nigeria defending looters and other financial criminals.

“They deliberately set out to cross-examine prosecution witness for weeks in the hope of dragging on the trial indefinitely.  One prosecution witness was, in recent times, cross-examined for over a month while the judge sat there helplessly, clearly having lost control of his own court.

“All he needed to do was to give such filibustering counsel a time limit, say two hours, and the nonsense would have stopped.”

While calling for creative thinking to speed up corruption trials, Sagay said it was not a coincidence that the fastest trials that recorded in the country were those in which bail was not granted to the high-profile accused persons.

He said PACAC has decided to set up its own monitoring corps of young lawyers, who would monitor every corruption case and report any breach of the ACJA.

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, in his remarks, said no arm of government could be spared as far as corruption was concerned.

He, however, asked stakeholders to stop the blame game, saying that had not been helpful in the nation’s anti-graft fight.

Osinbajo stated, “Corruption, as we all seem to agree, is an existential threat to Nigeria, both as a nation and as a viable economic entity.

“Clearly, there is no doubt whatsoever, whether any arm of government can excuse itself. The truth of the matter is that we all know that corruption in Nigeria is systemic.

“It does not matter whether it is the Executive arm of government, the Judiciary or the Legislature, every arm of government is involved in this systemic and life-threatening social anomaly called corruption.

“So, I think we should leave the finger pointing, because the finger pointing is unhelpful. What is important is that we recognise that there is a major problem here.”

Osinbajo said corruption thrived where it was allowed to thrive.

Recalling his experience in Lagos State as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, the acting President listed some steps which he considered helpful to solving the problem.

He said efforts must be made to ensure the integrity of the justice system.

Apart from investigations by the Department of State Services, Osinbajo said there should be test for and proper investigation of candidates to be appointed as judges.

He also called for a revisit of the welfare of judges, while saying any judge, accused of any infraction, must be investigated and prosecuted through the NJC to avoid political influence.

Osinbajo canvassed collaboration among the executive, legislature and the judiciary to ensure that they put in place models that would work.

“The issue really is not about whether the legislature is corrupt or the judiciary or the executive. The truth of the matter is that our nation cannot survive the times of corruption and the problems associated with it. It’s impossible, we can’t,” he added.

But the NDDC denied the allegation by Sagay that it bought 70 cars, including eight Super Lexus at a cost of N70m each and 10 Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps for N65m each.

The NDDC maintained that no such purchase had been made since the assumption of office of its current Governing Board, adding that the Chairman of the Board, the Managing Director and two other executive directors were still using their private vehicles since assuming duty.

A statement in Port Harcourt on Thursday by the Head, Corporate Affairs of the NDDC, Mr. Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, added that the commission was only in the process of acquiring operational vehicles through due process.

Amu-Nnadi stated, “The NDDC wishes to state, categorically, that no such purchases have been made since assumption of office on November 4, 2016, of the current Governing Board.

“Indeed, it is a known fact that the Chairman, the distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN); the Managing Director/CEO, Nsima Ekere; and the two Executive Directors are still using their private vehicles three months after assumption of duties.

“The NDDC is only now in the process of acquiring work vehicles, and is adhering strictly to due process. These include five (5) Toyota Prado jeeps, 10 Toyota Hilux trucks, four Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps, one Toyota Coaster bus and two Toyota Hiace buses.”

Also, the NCS said it would intensify its fight against corrupt personnel in the service.

The Acting Public Relations Officer, NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, said this in his reaction to comments made by Sagay, alleging corruption by officials of Customs service.

Attah, an Assistant Comptroller, while welcoming the observation made by Sagay, said such comments would further challenge the service to intensify its fight against sharp practices.

He stated, “The comments he made are based on the statistics that are available to him. Such a comment, coming from a highly-respected professor, shows that we should do more than what we are currently doing to deal with the remnants of those corrupt people in the system.

“We do not condone corruption and you will recall that a number of officers were dismissed last year. We have a regime in customs that is working hard to stem out corruption.”

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