EFCC Earns Another Conviction In Bid To Tame Corrupt Practices Amongst Public Official
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has earned another conviction in its effort to tame the ugly trajectory of corrupt practices amongst public officials. Over the years, corrupt enrichment has continued to ensnare our politically exposed elites, and the consequence is the gross underdevelopment of the country, despite the billions of dollars earned over the years from natural resources.
Last week, a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, convicted and sentenced a former permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Clement Iloh, to 12 years in prison. The convict was prosecuted on a three-count charge bordering on non-declaration of assets to the tune of N87.3 million. Mr Iloh is serving five years imprisonment for fraud, having been convicted and sentenced by Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Ikeja Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on October 3, 2019.
While we commend the EFCC for its effort to make those who have corruptly enriched themselves receive their comeuppance, we urge it to redouble its efforts, considering that corrupt practices are still endemic in the country. According to Wikipedia, Transparency International ranks Nigeria 149th position with a score of 25 out of 100 points on its corruption perception index (CPI), which measures perceived public corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world.
So, there is still a lot of work to do. During Mr Iloh’s trial, the prosecution was able to show that he received the sum of N65 million from SURE-P project contractors, which he lodged into his private account with First Bank of Nigeria. It was after the prosecution presented that piece of evidence that Mr Iloh conferred with his defence counsel, and thereafter applied to change his earlier plea of not guilty to guilty.
The court duly granted his application and went ahead to convict and sentence him appropriately. The judge also took notice of his plea of allocutus, before doing its duty according to the law.
We note that the defendant was apparently cornered because of the water-tight case presented by the prosecuting agency. So, before presenting cases before the court, it is important for the prosecution to prepare its case diligently.
No doubt, where the prosecution has conducted a forensic examination of the case against the defendant, and has prepared adequately, the defendant would accept his/her fate and face the consequences. But where the prosecution presents a wishy-washy case, either because he has connived with the defence or because of the lack of competence on the part of the prosecutors, the defendant would take advantage, and the court would be hamstrung to do justice.
So, we urge all prosecution agencies to take appropriate steps to build capacity for their investigating and prosecuting teams, and that requires training and re-training. Also, there is need for the agencies to maintain high integrity. On its part, the government must provide the needed resources to achieve optimal capacity by these agencies fighting corruption. Furthermore, there should be no political intervention, as witnessed recently with the unfortunate pardon of former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye and that of Taraba, Jolly Nyame, by the Federal Government.
The fight against corruption is key to the country’s socio-economic development. Mr Iloh’s action showed the debilitating impact of corruption on the efforts of government to develop the country. Having bribed a high level officer in government, the contractors of SURE-P will either abandon the project or deliver a poor job, believing that there will be no repercussions.
We urge the EFCC to also charge the contractors concerned to court, if it has not, for aiding and abetting corrupt practices.
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