MAMORA: For Probes To Achieve Result, We Need Executive, Legislative Engagement
Former Senate Minority Leader, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora told SEYE OLUMIDE that past probes by the National Assembly must be revisited.
On the anti-graft War
I HAVE always held the views that separation of powers in a Presidential system cannot be absolute, but relative and there are many reasons why it cannot be absolute.
For example, Mr. President prepares the budget and sends it to the National Assembly for approval and it goes back to him for assent and it becomes Appropriation Act.
Mr. President again nominates his ministers and he forwards the nominees’ list to the Senate for approval. These are examples of what I called interdependence as opposed to separation of powers.
To that extent, you will agree with me that both arms of government need to work together to achieve good governance and fight corruption. However, one of the programmes of the government of the day is the need to combat corruption. Clearly, the Executive alone cannot do it without other agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC, police, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and others.
The legislature on its part is involved in the war against graft in areas of the looking into past laws on corruption with the aim to determining how to strengthen the anti corruption agencies, look at possible loopholes in existing acts and correct them to bring them to conformity in the present reality or enhance them to fit the various anti corruption agencies.
Again, the Constitution under section 88 empowers the National Assembly to expose corruption, which it does through its oversight functions, and of course, power to conduct investigation. In this regard one can see the areas of collaboration between the two arms of government in fighting corruption.
When the legislature comes up with recommendations after investigation by way of resolutions, which are passed to the Executive, it beholds of the later to now act promptly on the resolutions and from there involve the judiciary through the courts. The process will also have to involve the police to make it work.
The power to initiate prosecution is usually that of the Attorney General of the Federation, who must be up and doing so that we do not have undue delay and once that is initiated it goes on to the process of investigation, which is usually the power of the Executive through the police, which normally conduct investigation. If proper investigation is not conducted, you cannot have proper prosecution and if proper prosecution is not done, you do not expect conviction.
These three processes – investigation, prosecution and then conviction are key, otherwise nothing will happen. We see a lot of corruption cases are struck out in the courts for want of evidence as a result of improper or poorly conducted investigation and prosecution. So, there is the need for all these processes to be thoroughly put in place before we can expect the war against corruption to be meaningful.
On The 82 probes since 1999
THERE are many factors responsible for why nothing seems to be happening; some of the problems are from the National Assembly itself, while some are from the Executive and others from the investigatory process.
To take the issues one after the other, the legislature; there are times when the National Assembly Committee just go into the probe without been sincere in their approach. There are times when some of the committees go into the probe without the necessary back up. If you look at the rules of the legislature, each committee is empowered to engage the services of experts because they may not have all the necessary ability to understand what is going on in certain military and some agencies, in terms of the technicalities involved; for instance, the oil industries and some other institutions, which have high level of technicalities.
So if you don’t engage the services of experts to put you through, you may just be looking and not seeing. They look without findings. In some instances, there are some degree of deficiencies or incompetent of the committee to really get to the root of the probe.
Again, there may also be a problem of poor funding of such committee. You will also know that adequate fund to engage services of experts is needed, otherwise there will be some disadvantages.
Secondly, is the need of what the nature of the recommendation passed to the executive is because the legislature does not have the power of execution. The mandate given to it by the Constitution is to expose and when that has been done, it now recommends by way of resolution to the Executive. So we must look at the recommendation being made, whether it is implementable because if you are passing a recommendation that is not implementable then you do not expect any result or fruitful outcome.
I have mentioned the issue of the competency of the committee to carry out the assignment of investigations. These are some of the issues that tend to affect the issues of probes.
Tthe Constitution under section 88 empowers the National Assembly to expose corruption, which it does through its oversight functions, and of course, power to conduct investigation. In this regard one can see the areas of collaboration between the two arms of government in fighting corruption. When the legislature comes up with recommendations after investigation by way of resolutions, which are passed to the Executive, it beholds of the later to now act promptly on the resolutions and from there involve the judiciary through the courts
On the part of the Executive, I have said earlier that the legislature lacks the power of execution of action, they can only recommend by way of resolution. Now what happened after? In most cases the culprits are always part of the Executive, which the National Assembly through the various committees exercise oversight functions. Most of the time the Executive through the presidency ‘protects its own’.
You remember the case of Aruma Otteh, who despite efforts made by the House of Representatives to probe her never yielded results. It was so bad that the House had to stop Appropriation to her office and yet noting happened.
I am saying the lack of inability on the part of the Executive is a major factor affecting these probes and prosecutions.
You will also recall the case of the immediate past Minister of Petroleum, who was called by the legislature but refused to show up. She even went to court to get injunction to restrain the National Assembly from inviting her. These are some of the problems in the system, to the extent that at the end of the day nothing happens. The Executive is also guilty in terms of not cooperating with the legislature under the guise of protecting one of their own.
But even where certain recommendations and resolutions are made to the Executive, again we discovered that there is lack of political will on the part of the Executive to implement the recommendations that are made. In this case you cannot blame the legislature for that because the power vested in it is just to probe and not prosecution.
Now, even if the executive appears to be doing something but in a rather unenthusiastic manner then it goes back to the same thing. That’s why some corruption cases don’t go too far. In cases where the investigation is poor, the prosecution will be poor and if the prosecution is poor you don’t expect to get good judgment. Take a look at the case of James Ibori, whom Nigeria court couldn’t prosecute, but was eventually jailed abroad. All the charges against him were thrown out in the Nigeria Court.
On expectations from this government
In the first instance, I do not see the Muhammadu Buhari anti corruption war as mere ‘mouth war’. The issue is that the man at the helm of affairs is seen as a man above board, who is sincere in his approach and as one who is not corrupt, but that is not enough. He is an individual who cannot do it alone. He needs cooperation.
On the other hand the Senate I was part of is not the same with the present one. That Senate has the control of the majority party, which made it easier for it to have its ways. The reverse is the case now, where the ruling party cannot say it has outright control of the majority. More so, when you look at how the incumbent Senate President emerged, it generates a question.
He has done so far in terms of managing the affairs of the Senate, but he needs to watch his back because he needs that bipartisan cooperation. This will have a lot of impact on what the Senate will be doing as time goes on even in the area of probes and fight against corruption.
In essence, much as President Buhari is determined to fight corruption he cannot do it alone without the support of the Senate. He has to do a lot of reaching out to the Senate in whatever he wants to do.
One of the things I feel should be done, which I have been canvassing is that the number of committees is too much. It is unhealthy. The committees are over 50 in the Senate and over 90 in the House, just to give everybody sense of belonging. We don’t really need these numbers of committees. A member now belongs to several committees. The ideal thing is a situation where you don’t belong to more than two committees.
I will suggest that we prune the number of committees to enable members function well.
The other thing is to revisit past probes on the condition if situations have not changed drastically in most of the agencies concerned. The third thing is to advocate for Executive, Legislative engagement, particularly on the policy objective of the ruling party because we cannot afford to work at variance.
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