Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the recent string of losses suffered by the Nigerian government in the corruption cases instituted before the courts to lack of proper investigation and unseriousness.
Mr. Obasanjo said this on Sunday while playing host to members of the correspondents chapel, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ogun Chapter, at his hilltop residence in Abeokuta.
“I was reading today when the president (Muhammadu Buhari) said the EFCC should stop losing cases. They lose cases for a number of reasons,” said Mr. Obasanjo.
“One, they engage more of outside lawyers. I believe that they need staunch, `ogbologbo’ lawyers inside that will do the work.
“If I am a lawyer and I want the opponent to win a case, what I will file will be `wishy washy’.
“And if I file a `wishy washy’ case, the opponent will see the loophole and he will get out of it. I believe that it is important.
“Secondly, thorough investigation is very important. Now, investigation must be thorough, it must be proper and it must be really taken seriously.
“Third, our judges must be committed in fighting corruption.”
Mr. Obasanjo’s statements came days after the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, expressed worries about the development.
Last week, at least three judges delivered rulings that went against the corruption cases being prosecuted by the federal government.
Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos vacated a freeze order on the account of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, after initially ordering a temporary forfeiture of N75 million found in the lawyer’s Guaranty Trust Bank account.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had sought a freeze order on the account alleging it to be proceeds of crime.
Two days later, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory discharged a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja of all 18-count charges of fraud brought against him, his wife, and a senior lawyer.
The judge, Adeniyi Ademola, and his wife, Olabowale, as well as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Ago, were accused of fraudulent diversion of huge sums, ranging from local and foreign currencies, possession of firearms and involvement in illegal collection of gratification.
On Thursday, a Federal High Court in Lagos issued an order unfreezing the Skye Bank account of a former First Lady, Patience Jonathan. The EFCC had in November 2016 filed an application before the court seeking an order freezing the account. The Commission had contended that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime. The account is said to harbour the sum of $5.8 million.
In the same week, a federal court discharged and acquitted a former Niger Delta minister, Godsday Orubebe, of all corruption allegations.
According to Mr. Obasanjo, those involved in the handling of the government’s corruption cases as well as the judiciary must be committed to fighting corruption.
“Because if the investigation is very sound and you have `ogbologbo’ lawyer to handle the case, if you have Salamigate, you know what the answer will be,” the former president said.
“So, it is a line: investigation, prosecution and the judiciary. If there is weakness along this line, chances are that corruption cases will continue to be lost.”