The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, has described this week’s string of court decisions against the corruption cases prosecuted by the Nigerian government as “worrying.”
Mr. Sagay, who spoke on the sidelines at a Strategic Engagement with Investigative Journalists in Lagos, Thursday, said the courts’ decisions call for a deep reflection.
At least three judges delivered rulings that went against the corruption cases instituted by the federal government.
On Monday, Justice Abulazeez Anka of a Federal High Court in Lagos vacated a freeze order on the account of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, after initially ordering a temporary forfeiture of N75 million found in Mr. Ozekhome’s Guarantee Trust Bank account.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had sought for a freeze order on the account alleging it to be proceeds of crime.
On Wednesday, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory discharged a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja of all 18-count charges of fraud brought against him, his wife and a senior lawyer.
The judge, Adeniyi Ademola, and his wife, Olabowale, as well as Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi, were accused of fraudulent diversion of huge sums, ranging from local and foreign currencies, possession of firearms and involvement in illegal collection of gratification.
On Thursday, a Federal High Court in Lagos issued an order unfreezing the Skye Bank account of a former First Lady, Patience Jonathan. The EFCC had in November 2016 filed an application before the court seeking an order freezing the account. The commission had contended that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. The account is said to harbour the sum of $5.8 million.
“Definitely, I’m worried,” said Mr. Sagay, a professor of Law.
“It’s a complex matter that will need a lot of reflection. But what I can say, generally, is that all those involved in the anti-corruption struggle should not be discouraged, they should continue to do their best.
Mr. Sagay reiterated his earlier stance that he would not honour a summon by the Nigerian Senate over comments he made about them.
“I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not going to respond to that summons because it is illegal and way beyond the powers of the Senate,” he said.
“And there is need to demonstrate that there is limitation to powers of institutions otherwise they will become oppressors of the country and our democracy will be at risk. My speech was made under my constitutional right, and I’m protected by the Constitution to hold such right.
“Definitely, you will not agree that the Constitution be trampled upon because some people have thin skins. If anybody has problems with what I said, there are institutions created by law to which they can seek redress. But I’m not going to allow the Senate to be the accuser, the prosecutor, and judge in its own case because that’s absolutely unconstitutional.”
Mr. Sagay also said the comments by Bolaji Abdullahi, the All Progressives Congress spokesperson, that his utterances about the Senate are worsening the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature were “out of line.”
“The man who spoke (Mr. Abdullahi) is an APC official, I have nothing to do with him. I’m not an APC official, they didn’t elect me. He’s way out of line, let him face his party and let me face my own work.”
On the Senate’s refusal, for the second time, to confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman, Mr. Sagay said, “Magu is the best hand we have, he’s done nothing wrong and he should remain in position. Period.”
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