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Published On: Fri, Mar 3rd, 2017

Customs, NDDC Are Neck Deep In Corruption Even In This Regime-Sagay



LAGOS MARCH 3RD (URHOBOTODAY)-Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), on Thursday, said the recklessness with which public officers spent public funds was insensitive.
While saying the level of insensitivity had become pathological, he cited the cases of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Nigeria Customs Service, which he said had continued to be enmeshed in corruption even under the present administration.
Sagay spoke at the opening of a two-day National Dialogue on Corruption, organised by PACAC at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said while Nigerians justifiably criticised the National Assembly for buying cars of over N30m each for lawmakers recently during recession, the NDDC did a similar thing recently.
He said the commission, that is synonymous with uncompleted projects, spent a fortune on vehicles without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta.
The senior advocate added, “You will not believe that with all that we are going through, the NDDC, which is the other name for uncompleted projects, has just bought over 70 cars.
“Of those, about eight of them are Super Lexus Jeeps, costing N78m each and about 10 are Land Cruisers, costing N63m each.
“This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience, recklessly, without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta.”
Sagay added that despite the purchase, the commission’s Managing Director was quoted in newspapers as saying the NDDC lacked funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of N1.2tn.
“What sort of crocodile tears was the MD shedding? Eating the resources and future of the Niger Delta and shedding tears for the same Niger Delta?” Sagay wondered.
According to him, another example of bold and brazen corruption, which he said was thumbing its nose at this administration and all Nigerians, was happening at the Customs service.
He alleged that the department had completely ignored the fight against corruption, operating as if it was not in Nigeria.
He spoke about how bribe was being demanded at every stage of Customs clearance at the nation’s airports.
Sagay also named the Tin Can Island in Lagos as a haven of corruption with bribes being demanded brazenly.
“There is no difference in Customs since May 29, 2015. If you go to Tin Can Island, it is business as usual,” he declared.
Sagay said the nation was overwhelmed by “an epidemic of kleptomania”, wondering why a person would loot what he could not spend in 10 life times while exposing the rest of the population to misery, hunger, poverty, wretchedness and death.
He also faulted the judiciary for allegedly disregarding the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The SAN said in spite of the provisions of Section 396 of the ACJA, some judges were still granting adjournments running into months and would adjourn their cases to give a ruling on preliminary objection instead of giving the ruling at the same time as the judgment on the substantive criminal matter.
He added that contrary to Section 306, which provides that an application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before the court should not be entertained, some courts still adjourned in order to await the outcome of an interlocutory appeal.
Sagay stated, “All these are illegal and strictly constitute acts of misconduct on the part of the judge. The outcome of all these is that we have over hundred high profile cases not going nowhere.
“One of the most tragic phenomena currently creating a major setback for speedy criminal trials, is this new invention of Senior Advocates of Nigeria defending looters and other financial criminals.
“They deliberately set out to cross-examine prosecution witness for weeks in the hope of dragging on the trial indefinitely. One prosecution witness was, in recent times, cross-examined for over a month while the judge sat there helplessly, clearly having lost control of his own court.
“All he needed to do was to give such filibustering counsel a time limit, say two hours, and the nonsense would have stopped.”
While calling for creative thinking to speed up corruption trials, Sagay said it was not a coincidence that the fastest trials that recorded in the country were those in which bail was not granted to the high-profile accused persons.
He said PACAC has decided to set up its own monitoring corps of young lawyers, who would monitor every corruption case and report any breach of the ACJA.

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