Immunity Cause and Corruption – Tribune Editorial

No Comments » December 25th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Nigeriawatch



December 25, 2008


President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in a statement, during the launch of the anti-cor ruption campaign revolution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), called for the removal of section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which grants immunity to the president, his deputy, the 36 state governors and their deputies from criminal prosecution. According to the president, this clause in the 1999 Constitution has provided a cover for public officers while they loot the treasury. The anti-corruption war cannot, therefore, be effective without expunging the clause from the constitution.

WHILE it is accurate that the immunity clause has provided cover for certain officers while in office to loot the treasury, it must be noted that the same constitution provides alternative means of dealing with such public officers. For instance, a governor can be investigated if suspected to have been involved in any abuse of office, including treasury looting. A positive outcome of such an investigation can be the basis for the process for his impeachment by the relevant organs of government. Once a public officer is impeached, he or she ceases to be immune from prosecution. The possibility of this aspect of the constitution has been tried in the case of a former governor of Bayelsa State. The big issue to address, thus, is why legislative assemblies cannot be relied on to carry out their role in the anti-corruption war as stipulated by the constitution in cases of corruption.

IT must also be recognised that the immunity clause is not the cause of corruption and that until the major causes of corruption are addressed, the removal of immunity clause will not, in any significant way, enhance the anti-corruption war nor reduce the tendency to loot public treasury. There is, indeed, a real challenge to the government to pay attention to the causes of corruption and invest in efforts to deal with them rather than attribute the problem to the immunity clause in the constitution.

Dealing with the causes of corruption in the country calls for a deeper understanding of the dynamics that have entrenched corruption in the country. Indeed, corruption has grown so deep that it has become a culture of government. And it will take more than mere rhetoric to begin to deal with it.

ONE of the greatest factors that have made the disease of corruption to be endemic in Nigeria is the failure to make individuals found to be involved in corrupt practices to face the consequences. The disregard for laws, procedures and due process among public officials must not only be frowned upon; corrupt individuals, whether within or outside the government, must also be punished according to law.

THUS, one of the major issues that the current government needs to address relates to the prosecution of former governors and other high-ranking government officials who have been investigated by the EFCC and the ICPC on the allegations of fraud. These serving and former public office holders must be charged to court and made to face the full wrath of the law, if found guilty, to send the right signal that the government is serious about its anti-corruption war.

Historically, the growing attraction of corruption, even among the masses, is attributable to consequences of sustained corruption by political leaders under military and civilian governments. The brazen corruption in these governments led to wanton waste of public resources, failures of developmental initiatives and the collapse of social amenities. The result is an unprecedented level of poverty in the land, such that corruption became the available option of survival for even the ordinary man.

BUT as researches have continuously shown, there is an intricate link between corruption and socio-economic well-being of any society and its citizens. Nigeria needs to extinguish the fire of corruption that has almost destroyed its moral foundation. It is not the immunity clause that has created the army of roguish citizens, serving and former public officials; it is because the government’s hands have been deeply soiled by corruption. And it is unlikely that a soiled hand will clean another without staining it. The government’s failure to deal with alleged corrupt former public office holders and its unconcealed friendship with those with soiled hands have put blots of doubts on its war against corruption.

IT is only when corruption is reduced to the barest minimum in government and the welfare role of government becomes meaningfully restored that an anti-corruption revolution will make sense. Importantly, the answer to the problem of corruption lies with the political leadership.

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