Yemi Osinbajo, Nigerian vice president, yesterday assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari did not interest in tele-guiding the anti-corruption agencies or prosecution authorities in the country in his bid to fulfill the administration’s pledge to curb corruption.
Osinbajo gave the assurance while inaugurating the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) at his conference hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, as a step towards effective prosecution of high profile criminal cases in the country.
The 20-man committee is headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).Other members of the committee include, Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, Solicitor General/Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN; Mr. Chukuma Machukwu, SAN; Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption; Mr. M.S. Diri, Director of Prosecution, Ministry of Justice; Mr. Pius Oteh, Esq; and Okoi Obono-Obla Esq.
Others are Mrs Juliet Ibekaku; Mr. Abiodun Aikomo, Esq; Mr. Kehinde Oginni, Esq; Mr. Salihu Othman Isah, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Attorney-General; Al-Amin Ado Ibrahim, of the Office of the National Security Adviser; Nafiu Yakubu; Tunji Oluborode, Esq; Eric, Onokif Ifere Esq.; Mrs Diane Okoko; Temitope Adebayo, Esq; DIG Abdulrahman Yusuf (rtd); and Sylvester Imhanobe, Esq, who will serve as Secretary to the Committee.
The inauguration also had in attendance the National Security Adviser (NSA), Brig-Gen. Babagana Munguno (rtd) and heads of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) among others.
Osinbajo said: “When you look at the way that the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies have acted in recent times, you will notice that they are not under any kind of direction or influence of the President.
“They are given the independence to act; they are given the authority and backing to act in their own and to use their own discretion appropriately at all times. You don’t get any situation where the President says go get that person.”
Continuing, Osinbajo said: “All of us know that the President is completely committed to fighting corruption and economic crimes and terrorism.”
He said “such external influence does not exist under this administration, as the agencies are given the full authority to act and they do so using their best judgment.”
The Vice President, who stood in for the President at the inauguration, said that what both the President and himself expect is to see the agencies use their powers with fairness and devoid of any prejudice.
He noted that the same responsibility had been given to the newly formed NPCC to bring justice to the people.Osinbajo noted: “That is the sort of responsibility placed on your own shoulders as well; the responsibility to exercise prosecutorial power independently and without any direction except of course from the learned AGF, who is the constitutional and prosecutorial authority in the country.
“It is a very serious responsibility because it also involves making sure that people are treated fairly or that people are not pursued by reason of bias or any other such consideration,” the Vice President said.
He added that it was important that prosecutors don’t embarrass the prosecuted needlessly.He stressed that it was important that everybody observe “that the system is fair and that the system works in the interest of the Nigerian people. When the system is fair everybody buys into it and it is not difficult for people to relate with it and support it.”
While stating that every prosecuting organ or agent had the responsibility to put in place a system that “we ourselves would not be afraid to be subjected to,” the Vice President said that the selection of the committee members took into consideration not only their legal skills and learning, but also their integrity and strength of character in order to chart a new course in the nation’s criminal justice system.
He said although legal background was important, particular consideration was given to those who have courage and would not allow themselves to be cowed or influenced by tribe, religion and friendships.
“Given the nature of economic crimes and the enormity sometimes of the money that is involved and the influence of those who may have to be prosecuted, you need more than legal skills. You need men and women of strong character and courage who will not only be able to turn down inducements of any kind but also act without consideration for tribe, friendship, religion or any other parochial considerations,” he noted.