Comrade Debo Adeniran is the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL). In this interview with AUGUSTINE ADAH, he spoke on the arrest of some judges by DSS, the withdrawal of forgery charges against Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and other issues. Excerpts:
Why do you think the federal government suddenly withdrew charges of corruption against the Senate president and his deputy?
I didn’t see any other thing beside political motive. I think it is based on political exigencies, especially as the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) suddenly came in and said that the forgery they said happened is no longer true. In my opinion, if there is no political undertone, when the case was withdrawn, I expected Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu to cry foul that the government embarrassed them and they would sue the government for some damages and cost they went through. But I can’t imagine if they did not commit the offence that the AGF alleged they committed, and without their knowledge, the same man would come to withdraw the case. We expected the federal government through the Attorney General or anti-graft agencies to be sure of their facts and when the case gets to the court. It should be prosecuted to its logical conclusion. But what we see is the degeneration in the legal pursuit in which the present Attorney General is embarking upon and it would embarrass the government on the long run.
Some people are also saying that the withdrawal of the case is an indictment on the war against corruption which the government claims is fighting. Do you believe it that way?
That is it. This leaves us with the doubt whether this government that we support in naming, apprehending and shaming corruption, would be able to fight the war without embarrassing us on the long run. If without any good reason they went back to court and say the court should not continue with the adjudication of the case, it leaves us with the doubt whether the present government would do things better than the past government. This is why we voted for change mantra. We thought the present government would do things differently. The different in strategy, tactic and methodology is what we expect. We don’t want a situation where agencies would file case that does not have substance where witnesses and evidences are lacking, so that at the end of the day, the case would fail and those we presume to be corruption suspect would now come to make jest of us saying after all, you accused us of wrongdoing but the federal government is saying we are not. We are embarrassed by the unwarranted withdrawal of forgery case against the senate president and his deputy. We know that several documents that got some of the elected or appointed politicians into office were forged. Many of them falsified even electoral results; many of them falsified the required document to which they got to office. If this is a signal to what would come in the near future, then it is going to water down our interest to fight along with the regime. But that would not reduce our own commitment to naming, nailing and shaming corrupt leaders anywhere we found them.
Some Nigerians criticised the arrest of some judges by men of DSS last weekend and described the action as a breach of law . Do you share the same view?
Those who criticised that strategy are the enemies of democracy because there wouldn’t be any gain from democracy that allows corrupt practices to fester. The worst violation of democratic value, norms and practices is when the public cannot rely on their judicial officers to dispense justice freely, fairly and transparently without being paid for. A situation where the revered judicial officers who are supposed to be custodians of morality degenerate to the level of asking suspected criminals to pay them with the view to get them off the judicial hook does not augur well for the development of social ethics. It doesn’t support the development of democratic ethos; it does not support the much needed patriotism from the citizenry. They would lose the support in the capacity of their government to protect them knowing full well that the purpose of the governance is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. Wherever judiciary dips itself into corruption, it exposes members of the society to socio-economic insecurity. The implication is that anybody can accuse them of anything and get the law enforcement agencies to arrest and charge them to court but because justice has been restricted to the highest bidders, the ordinary person would not be able to get justice. Only the super rich who acquired the wealth through corrupt practices would get justices. This is the situation we find ourselves now. Go to detention centres, reformation centres and prison yards, you don’t find those who are well to do in the society there, why because they buy their ways out. We have heard of cases in the past where fraudulent rich people were sent to various jail terms and they have to pay a token to ordinary members of the society to go and serve the jail term for them and they walk free promising to take care of the family of the hapless man. The man was frustrated by the hallowing economic situation which the corrupt person has plunged the country into. Those who are super rich especially those who became rich through corrupt means believe that that they can bribe their ways into freedom. The reason why they can pay heavily for election and litigations is because they did not work for the money. Those who get their riches through legitimate means would think twice before they can bribe corrupt judges with such a huge amount of money that we hear. They would want to use the legal means to prosecute whatever case they may have in court. Judicial corruption is the greatest tragedy that could befall any democracy. Lawyers that are handling the case can’t be trusted for not colluding with opposition in any case against poor litigants who are usually punished for the offence they did not commit. The end result of that is anarchy and people would resort into self-help because they know that they cannot rely on the government to protect them when there is need.