Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said yesterday, that the Federal Government has re-jigged its anti-corruption strategies to ensure that no corrupt public official escapes prosecution.
As part of the renewed anti-corruption strategy, Osinbajo disclosed that the Federal Government was currently re-equipping its prosecution team.
He spoke at the opening session of a two-day capacity workshop for judges, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, organised in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute, NJI.
Aside judges, other participants at the workshop included prosecutors and other stakeholders in the justice administration system.
Osinbajo stressed that part of the judicial reforms government initiated, involved the dedication of specific courts to handle the trial of corruption cases.
He said government was determined to apprehend and deal decisively with corrupt elements to achieve sustainable development in Nigeria.
He said: “Corruption fight is a cardinal focus of this present administration and government is poised to tame the monster that is ravaging our economy and causing untold hardship to its citizens.”
The workshop, with the theme “Emmerging Trends in Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Financial Crimes,” was designed to help in building a team-based, non-adversarial collaborative justice system that is beneficial to all stakeholders.
Describing corruption as a cancer, Osinbajo, who declared the workshop open, said the malaise could be terminal if it was not syetematically checked.
He lamented the adverse implications of corruption on education, healthcare, social services, infrastructure and iquality of life of Nigerians.
He urged Nigerians to joins forces with the government in tackling the ˜hydra-headed monster”, saying, “We must come together as patriotic citizens to rescue our nation from the shackles of corruption”.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, in his keynote address at the event, described the theme of the workshop as “apt and in line with the current realities in modes of investigation and prosecution of corruption cases in Nigeria”.
Onnoghen, who is also the Chairman, Board of Governors of the NJI, identified the role of the judiciary and the EFCC as vital in the fight against corruption.
He said: “The Judiciary is an important stakeholder which has a crucial role to play in ensuring that, sustainable solutions to the mounting legal challenges to the success of the fight against corruption are sustained.
“This workshop will bring to the fore the challenges faced by the Commission as well as pontificate on solutions, and expose stakeholders to global best practices in the investigation and prosecution of financial crimes”.
While expressing optimism that the war against corruption could be won in Nigeria, the CJN said: “With the coming into effect of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, and the recent designation of special courts to handle corruption cases, we are assured of enduring success in the fight against corruption in Nigeria”.
However, he warned against over-sensational reporting of corruption cases by the media which he said are sometimes pre-judicial and impugn on the integrity of judges involved in such cases.
In her welcome address, the Administrator, of the NJI, Justice Roseline Bozimo, commended the initiative of the organizers of the workshop which according to her “could not have come at a better time than now”.
She said the workshop was organised “in fulfilment of the mandate of the Institute as outlined under Section 3 (1) of the National Judicial Institute Act, Cap N55 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”; which provides as follows:
“The Institute shall serve as the principal focal point of judicial activities relating to the promotion of efficiency, uniformity and improvement in the quality of judicial services in the superior and inferior Courts”.
While calling on Justices and Judges to ensure proper adjudication and resolution of lingering cases pertaining to seizure, forfeiture of assets and money laundering Bozimo said, “I must not fail to emphasize that in order to sustain public confidence in the Judiciary, Judges must be proactive by not allowing technicalities to stand in the way of substantive justice. The Judiciary is saddled with the responsibility of upholding the Rule of Law by interpreting, construing and applying the relevant laws. I therefore encourage you to interpret the law without bias, affection and ill-will”
She thanked the EFCC for collaborating with the NJI, even as she enjoined the participants to pay rapt attention, contribute meaningfully and participate actively at the sessions.
In his remark, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, appreciated the support of the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Judiciary in the war against corruption.
The EFCC boss equally labelled corruption as a cankerworm bedeviling the socio-economic life of the country, saying there was need for a common consensus in tackling it.
He expressed optimism that participants would leave the workshop with a renewed zeal to fight graft in the country.