Saraki, Dogara Fault Buhari’s Anti-Corruption War?

From some unusual quarters came a biting criticism of Federal Government’s anti-corruption war.

Senate President Bukola Saraki said the war should focus on prevention, and not punishment.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara said only strong institutions could ensure a successful anti-graft war.

But the National Assembly has been criticised for not doing enough, legally, to fight corruption. Many bills to deal with looters remain unpassed.

Saraki said anti-corruption agents and bodies must be truly independent, stressing that the country was still far from meeting the basic standards of fighting corruption.

Saraki and Dogara spoke at the public presentation of Dino Melaye's anti-corruption book in Abuja.

Saraki said: ”I am convinced that we must return to that very basic medical axiom that prevention is better than cure.

“Perhaps, the reason our fight against corruption has met with rather limited success is that we appeared to have favoured punishment over deterrence. The problem with that approach however, is that the justice system in any democracy is primarily inclined to protect the fundamental rights of citizens. Therefore, it continues to presume every accused as innocent until proven guilty.

“Most often, it is difficult to establish guilt beyond all reasonable doubts as required by our laws. It requires months, if not years of painstaking investigations. It requires highly experienced and technically-sound investigation and forensic officers. It requires anti-corruption agents and agencies that are truly independent and manifestly insulated from political interference and manipulation.

“We must admit that we are still far from meeting these standards. Most often, therefore, because our anti-corruption agencies are under pressure to justify their existence and show that they are working, they often tend to prefer the show over the substance.

“However, while the show might provide momentary excitement or even public applause, it does not substitute for painstaking investigation that can guarantee convictions.

“I reiterate, therefore, that we must review our approaches in favour of building systems that make it a lot more difficult to carry out corrupt acts or to find a safe haven for corruption proceeds within our borders. In doing this, we must continue to strengthen accountability, significantly limit discretion in public spending, and promote greater openness.”

Saraki admitted that the Buhari administration had brought corruption to the front burner.

On his part, Dogara said: “As a country, we ran into a situation where corruption was becoming the norm, there was this moral cult that we had created that celebrated corruption.

“The motivation was always there for corruption, but now what is important is not just fighting the old corrupt system. Really, if we must make progress, our focus should be to replace the old order that was corrupt with a new order that makes corruption near impossible to take place."

Reacting, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption chairman, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) accused the National Assembly of undermining the anti-corruption war.