Taking fight against corruption in Nigeria to next level
The majority of Nigerians who voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 general elections in Nigeria did so because they were fed up with the sickening levels of corruption that pervade Nigerian society.
It is a generally accepted fact that corruption in Nigeria has reached endemic proportions and people have had enough of it; at least people other than those who are direct or indirect beneficiaries of this corruption.
A former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo when he signed the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Bill into law on 13th June 2000 stated thus: “with corruption, there can be no sustainable development nor political stability. By breeding and feeding on inefficiency, corruption invariably strangles the system of social organization. In fact, corruption is literally the antithesis of development and progress.”
Although there is considerable skepticism as to whether Chief Obasanjo himself practiced what he preached whilst he was in office, it is to his credit that it was under his administration that corruption was first identified as a substantial problem in Nigeria with specific legislative steps taken to combat the scourge. President Buhari’s battle against corruption has commenced.
However, as has often been found in Nigeria, when you fight corruption, corruption fights back and given the sums reportedly generated by corrupt practices, those involved have more than enough resources to fight with.
It is for this reason that we think the government needs to take the fight against corruption to another level if it’s going to stand any chance of reducing it significantly even if it cannot eliminate it completely.
Drastic problems require drastic solutions and we propose some solutions that may be considered drastic but which we feel are justified by the enormity of the problem corruption constitutes in Nigeria.
Information obtainable from the website of Transparency International accessed at http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/nigerias_corruption_challenge, quoting Global Financial Integrity, asserts that Nigeria has lost an estimated US$157 billion to corruption.
We get a proper perspective of the enormity of the problem when we think of it in terms of the infrastructure, housing, health care facilities amongst other that could be enjoyed by Nigerians if these sums were saved and applied towards these ends.
Entrapment is the process by which law enforcement authorities and personnel proactively create situations and scenarios in which a person commits a crime, with a view to apprehending the person and securing his or her conviction for the crime.
In a paper published in the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies Journal on Criminal Law and Justice in 2011, Akinola Akintayo of the Faculty of Law, University
Of Lagos examined the various types of entrapment, drawing distinctions between “fair” and “unfair” entrapment.
According to him, fair entrapment occurs where the law enforcement authorities merely provide an opportunity for the accused person to commit the offence or facilitate the commission of the offence; whilst unfair entrapment occurs where the law enforcement authorities actively induce the accused person to commit the offence.
Mr. Akintayo acknowledges that the distinction between the two types of entrapment is often difficult to draw and that the determination whether a particular instance of entrapment is fair or unfair will depend on the facts of the particular case.
Whilst entrapment is not specifically recognized as a defence to criminal liability under Nigerian law, Mr. Akintayo argues that “unfair entrapment” implicates the breach of various constitutional rights protected under Part IV of the 1999 Constitution as amended, whilst “fair entrapment” could be justified pursuant to the provision of Section 45 of the same Constitution, which empowers the government to pass laws that derogate from these constitutional rights where such laws are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.
In our view, the endemic proportion that corruption has attained in Nigeria makes it eminently justifiable that government deploy all means at its disposal to discourage corrupt practices and will justify the express legislative adoption of entrapment as a tool for discouraging corruption.
As Mr. Akintayo notes in his paper, one of the strongest arguments proffered for the practice of entrapment is the deterrent effect that it has on wrongdoers and their natural reluctance to participate in wrongdoing once they areuncertain whether their co-participants are law enforcement agents (full timeor part time) merely luring them into a trap.
One of the greatest facilitators of corruption in Nigeria has been the impunity with which it is perpetrated and the general belief that there is no sanction for corrupt practices.
A review of our laws and the specific encouragement of entrapment as a policy has the potential to change this dynamic immediately.
Once there are a few examples of persons successfully entrapped engaging in corrupt acts, this will serve as a strong deterrent, as persons will be wary of demanding, offering, accepting or receiving bribes or other corrupt inducements when they don’t know whether the demand or offer is a trap that could lead to prosecution and jail.
• Ajibade SAN is the managing partner of ASP Ajibade and Co.