In this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, Ilorin-based lawyer, Ayorinde Ishola speaks on the need to make laws stiffer so as to better tackle corruption related offences in the country among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What is your take on the creation of special court to try corruption related matters?
The government of the day has not been proactive when it comes to the issue of corruption. When this government came in; we expected that it will have a blue print based on it, promises during the campaign. This government has Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as the vice, we expected a laid down ways of how it intended to fight corruption before taking up power but reverse is the case. To say the truth, this government cannot fight corruption without having strong laws. Our laws cannot fight it. It is wrong when a person is accused of corruption, he is taken to court and the next thing is for him to be granted bail even the day he’s charged to court. To make matter worse, they will now be delaying cases. We need stringent laws that will make bail impossible for those who are charged genuinely for corruption. Consider cases like robbery, murder and the likes; you don’t secure bail, and corruption cases should be like that too. Let the bail be only on special conditions. On the issue of special courts, it is a good innovation of the judiciary, but I have personal problem with it. Is there a law backing the creation of this courts? We may run into problem if we don’t get the law that backs the creation, I will suggest we just see the court as regular courts with judge assigned to man them. In that wise, it will be a good way to start.
With the creation of courts to try corruption related cases, the menace still appears to be on the increase even with some judges being accused of corruption recently, how do you see this?
As far as I’m concerned, none of the cases against these judges have not been established. No judge has been convicted of being corrupt. That is not to say there are no corrupt judges but the issue is; we belaboured ourselves over non issues in Nigeria. Why do I say that? Judges don’t fall from the sky, they are not super men, and they are part of the society. However, if they belong to this society, what do you expect of them? The system itself is corrupt; you cannot expect those presiding over it not to be corrupt. Corruption has taken over every area of our lives, the earlier we realise that, the better for us. Yes, it portend wrong signal to the judiciary, but we should look at this issue holistically not to take judiciary in isolation.
In recent times, bank accounts of many Nigerians abroad were discovered with looted fund, will you join some members of the public to advocate promulgation of laws that will restrict Nigerians from taking money out of the country?
We can’t advocate such, and we can’t say foreign banks shouldn’t receive money from Nigerians. If we look at it morally, it might be wrong but it is not their government that receives the money, it their banks and these financial institutions are owned not by government but by private individuals. We cannot stop anybody. Our government must put facilities in place to ensure that these tund are not taken out in the first place. Now, we have BVN that makes process of laundering money through accounts difficult. For me, the problem is with us rather than with them.
What punishment will you advocate for anyone convicted for corruption?
Death sentence! If we can give death sentence to an armed robber, why can’t same be meted out to those who have stolen public funds and through the process, millions have died? Because, those funds were not used for the purpose they were meant for again. If you have killed an armed robber because he has killed while robbing, why can’t you kill those who have caused the dead of many too? Remember, the money could have been used to procure drugs, provide hospitals and many more. And that is why we can’t honestly applaud EFCC. Investigators of EFCC are police officers who have worked in one police division or the other. They were corrupt while they were there, and that now they’ve been transferred to EFCC, what do you expect from them? Most of these investigative works we see are newspaper sensational works.