‘Senior lawyers carry huge sums of money to judges’ – Prof. Itse Sagay

Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against corruption, Prof. itse Sagay, in an interview with Vanguard stated that the Nigerian judiciary is frustrating President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s war on corruption.

Sagay, a Professor of law and a human rights activist, also said that the president’s war on corruption was not partisan or one sided, while adding that the presidency has a problem with the judiciary.

It would be recalled that the committee headed by Sagay submitted a report to President Buhari, leading to a number of high profile arrests including former NSA Sambo Dasuki of the infamous Dasukigate $2.1 billion scandal.

Sagay stated that:

“Is it not obvious that we have a problem? How many cases do we know of members of the judiciary giving perpetual injunctions to people who have siphoned huge sums of money from our heritage? How many cases do we know of judges who have even given injunctions that such people cannot be interrogated, investigated, arrested or prosecuted? They cannot be investigated or interrogated, so we just leave them alone (to) carry (loot) whatever they like. Of course, that would encourage others to come behind and siphon whatever is left and get immunity from the judiciary.

“It is so obvious that the President has a problem (with the judiciary) and the whole country has a problem because the judiciary is not on board with the rest of the country as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.”

Prof. Sagay, who is a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), further indicted his colleagues in the bar, stating that senior lawyers frustrate corruption cases.

He said:”When we talk of the judiciary, we are talking of judges. As far as I am concerned, the judiciary is not the most blameworthy. That is the truth of the matter. The most blameworthy are senior lawyers — a number of senior advocates who have made it a speciality; who have developed particular skills to kill corruption cases so that their clients, after many years of delays and frustrations of prosecution, end up going away with their loot. And such lawyers, of course, share in the proceeds of crime. They get a part of the loot and that is why you see them buying private jets and so on. That amount of money from the proceeds of crime has completely blunted their consciences and they are as active as the accused persons — the looters — in trying to protect the loot because part of the loot now belongs to them by association.

“What I am saying, therefore, is that this is where it starts. These are the people who carry huge sums of money behind chambers to judges. They are the ones who corrupt judges. Really, if the struggle is going to be effective, we have to mark down the lawyers who are behind all these, not just judges. In fact, there are some retired judges too that are in the game. They are called consultants and they carry huge sums of money to their juniors they left behind in the judiciary and use their influence to get them to simply abandon justice and do the bidding of corrupt persons.

“It is a very serious situation. But, as I said, the very first port of call would be the lawyers that are behind it. Right now, they are doing it without control; they are doing it without consequences; and they are flying their private jets, sending their children to the best universities in the world using loot, while the rest of the country is suffering.”

When asked if the anti-corruption war ongoing in the country was partisan, Sagay stated that:

“There is nothing partisan at all about what is going on. Only those who have looted the country dry; who now want to escape with their loot without consequences, are the ones raising that issue. There is nothing partisan. What is happening is that investigations are revealing those who are behind virtually grounding the country. You know the country is financially grounded by these people now. As they are being discovered, they then look for ploys to try to divert attention. Even if there are some All Progressives Congress members who are also involved in corruption, what does it matter?

In fact, let me put it this way: Anybody who is saying there is selectivity or that it is partisanship should just come out and say ‘Yes, I confess; I have looted the treasury. This is how much I have taken. Now, punish me. Then, go after the APC.’ Let us first do that; let us punish them. Let us take the loot from them, then, we will go after the APC they are talking about. You cannot be guilty and then shield yourself by saying there are some other people. It is not a defence in criminal law that others are also guilty. There is no defence like that. It is totally unacceptable, totally intolerable and that nonsense ought to stop. Guilty people should stop trying to divert attention by saying there are other guilty people also. What does that mean?”

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