Taking fight against corruption in Nigeria to next level (2)
Continued from last week
Of course, the process by which entrapment can be implemented as a specific policy aimed at fighting the scourge of corruption has to be carefully thought through and necessary safeguards have to be put in place to ensure that it achieves the desired result and is not used as a means of arbitrary persecution. President Buhari has recently inaugurated a Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption headed by Professor Itse Sagay, SAN.
We recommend that the Committee should advise the government to push for specific legislation authorizing the use of entrapment as a legitimate means of apprehending Persons engaged in corrupt practices.
We also recommend that government should be advised to set up or re-energize task forces such as the National Anti-corruption Volunteer Force set up by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission.
These task forces should be constituted in various spheres and sectors of society and of the economy and should enlist willing Nigerians to participate in this crusade to rid our country of corruption and entrapment should be a legitimate tool to be utilized in the fight.
Make anti-corruption lucrative
The motivation for all corrupt acts is financial reward. Thus, if the corrupt realize that rather than bringing them financial reward, engaging in corrupt acts could cause them financial loss, that is likely to be a strong deterrent to engaging in corruption.
There are many sides to this. The first side is by the imposition of stiffer financial penalties for corrupt acts. Such penalties could be flat or graduated rates or could be calculated based on multiples of the illicit reward that the corrupt gained or hoped to gain. The imposition of such financial penalties could be in addition to or in lieu of jail terms and is likely to be a more effective deterrent to corruption.
The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act both make some provision for the imposition of financial penalties, but these penalties are not stiff enough in our opinion and the emphasis thus far has been more on sending offenders to jail. Given the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, the emphasis on jail terms will require a considerable investment in the construction of many more prisons, if the enforcement of anti—‐corruption is To be taken seriously. Moreover, a jail term is not too much of a deterrent where the perpetrator of the crime can serve his or her sentence then come back into society to enjoy the ill—‐gotten gains. Such jail terms will seem less of a holiday where the perpetrators of corrupt acts suffer financial ruin in addition and this may even suffice in lieu of jail terms.
Another side to this is that effective pursuit and prosecution of corruption could prove very lucrative for the Nigerian government. Information obtainable from the website of the United States Securities & Exchange Commission accessed at http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/fcpa/fcpa—‐cases.shtml indicates that between 1997 and 2015, the Department of Justice and the Securities & Exchange Commission generated sums in excess of 4 Billion Dollars in finesand penalties through active and aggressive prosecution of companies and individuals found to have run foul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
This is a model that Nigeria would do well to follow. Aside from stemming corruption, it
Might also help to shore up government’s finances! The third side to this is that government should actively promote and reward whistleblowing and entrapment of corrupt persons. One of the reasons why corruption has thrived is because, aside from attaining a moral high ground or standing on principle, there has been no incentive for people who are not corrupt to actively participate in reporting and prosecuting those who are.
One way of signaling government’s seriousness about stamping out corruption is to reverse this dynamic. Government should promote legislation that would provide healthy rewards for persons who report corrupt practices and cooperate and participate in the successful prosecution of the corrupt. This will turn the tables on corruption and make anti-corruption attractive and lucrative. Indeed, in appropriate cases, the level of reward could also be linked to the amount by which the public purse has been protected from depletion by the courage of those who take it upon themselves to report and expose corruption in the public sector.
Implementation of these proposals will require legislative action either by way of fresh legislation or amendment to current legislation. The willingness or otherwise of the legislature to endorse and support such legislation will be a barometer of whether and to what extent the legislature is part of the problem ofcorruption in Nigeria.
•Ajibade SAN is the managing partner of ASP Ajibade and Co.