Radical Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, has taken a swipe at the administration’s anti-corruption programme, dubbing it dishonest and lacking credibility.
Mr. Falana was reacting in Lagos, Sunday, on the last week termination in the trial of some suspects indicted in the Halliburton multi-million bribe scandal at the Abuja high court presided over by Justice Abubakar Sodiq Umar. The judge dismissed the case for lack of diligent prosecution.
It is such an “induced abortion of the trial of a case that has exposed Nigeria to unprecedented ridicule before the world” said Mr. Falana who also stated that “was a confirmation of the lack of commitment of the federal government to confront the culture of impunity” and, he argued further, “such cavalier prosecution of highly corrupt government officials that has led to the upsurge in the wave of corruption in the country.”
The lawyer who is also an influential member of the national Bar challenged the federal government to explain what he characterized as its “cover up” in the case when “some of the suspects had made confessional statements and refunded huge sums of money,” querying why did the attorney-general’s office suddenly developed cold feet in prosecuting the case?”
Seven prosecution witnesses who wee security operatives (four SSS operatives, two NIA officials and 1 EFCC investigator) repeatedly failed to turn up in court, a development that Mr. Falana claimed was a design programmed to destroy the case in the first place.
He however called for civic response to “Such brazen manipulation of the criminal justice system at the highest level of the State [which] should not be allowed to go without a serious challenge” and dismissed as hypocritical the reported plan of the administration to “file an appeal against the high court order that struck out the case.”
Why bother appeal when the case can be refilled so that it can commence once the witnesses are instructed to attend the trial court and give evidence for the prosecution? He reasoned asking the Nigerian Bar Association to assemble a team of experienced prosecutors to take over the prosecution of the case and save the country from the “embarrassment of having the suspects arrested and tried in a foreign country in view of the expanding scope of universal jurisdiction.”
Nigeria faced such shameful experience last month, he recalled, when Mr. James Ibori was convicted in the United Kingdom by a British court for fraud and money laundering for which the Asaba Federal High Court had freed him.
Mr. Ibori ran into trouble in Dubai where he was arrested and deported to the united kingdom based, according Mr. Falana, “on the advice of the former EFCC chair, Mrs. Farida Waziri that he should escape after he had been declared wanted.
Before then Mrs. Waziri and the former attorney general of the federation, Mr. mike Aondoakaa had, in separate letters to the metropolitan police, given the convicted ex-governor a clean bill of health.”
Even this “official cover up of the Ibori scandal” has not but will need to be explained, he said.