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PRESS STATEMENT

Anti-Corruption Agencies Must Bring Better Resolve and Consistency to Fighting Judicial Corruption:

Bringing CCT Chair, Danladi Umar to Account for Alleged Misconduct Has Been Fraught with Questionable Dithering and Capriciousness

Background

Last Friday (February 2, 2018) the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reported that it had filed criminal charges against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar. The charges accuse Danladi Umar of demanding and receiving bribes from Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, a defendant standing trial before the CCT for “favours to be afterwards shown” to him. [Further background information has been footnoted below].

Access to Justice’ Position

A2Justice welcomes efforts to ensure that institutions of justice – such as the Code of Conduct Tribunal – function with integrity and that those who administer justice in any fora do not pervert the cause of justice or abuse their adjudicational authority. In this respect, we welcome efforts to establish whether Danladi Umar is guilty of allegations made against him and is fit to continue in his current office.

However, A2Justice regrets that the EFCC did not act sooner with respect to to Danladi Umar, and waited for nearly five years before reaching the decision to do something. Unfortunately, that time interval has been a costly one: the failure to act before this time fostered the impression that Danladi Umar was invincible and unstoppable, and gave Danladi Umar the opportunity to run the CCT as a personal fiefdom. Right from the time of his appointment as Chairman, Danladi Umar has been dogged by allegations of corruption and financial malpractices, and these claims have come both from within the Tribunal and outside of it.

Efforts of a number of whistle-blowers to draw the attention of anti-corruption agencies to what was going on within the CCT drew blank, and in the end, those people were forced out of the CCT.

The failure of the EFCC to act on the many allegations against CCT Chairman Danladi Umar for many years, until now, will trigger doubts among many about whether the Commission is now going after Danladi Umar in good faith, or, if indeed, other overarching factors are at play in this dramatic turn of events. These cynicisms will create ambivalent perceptions of the forthrightness of anti-corruption agencies, and, in this case, spark some level of public anxiety about the motive behind this prosecution, a scepticism that is wholly unhealthy in the fight against corruption.

To fight judicial corruption effectively, anti-corruption agencies must, as a rule of thumb, be consistent and unwavering, and not permit the public to read mixed messages from what they do, or do not do.

Access to Justice now calls for:

1. Danladi Umar to be suspended from office pending the trial of the criminal allegations against him, and, pending a formal suspension, requests Danladi Umar to go on an indefinite leave.

Notwithstanding the trial, and as we said in our 2016 report of the CCT: It is no longer tenable for Danladi Umar to continue in office as the Chairman of the Tribunal. He has brought the CCT nothing but public ridicule and embarrassment which has done incalculable harm to the image of the Tribunal and the Judiciary in Nigeria. The Tribunal, under Danladi Umar does not have the integrity, public trust and “moral character” it needs to fight corruption, which is something of a paradox given that the Tribunal is established to enforce public morality. The Code of Conduct Tribunal needs a new leadership that will restore public trust in the Tribunal, provide purposeful leadership for the staff of the Tribunal and put the tribunal's powers to effective use.

2. The appointment of a 3rd member of the CCT. The failure of the federal government to appoint a 3rd member of the CCT to fill a position that has been vacant for many years now greatly undermines the work of the CCT and the fight against corruption.

3. Reform How the CCT Functions: There are many aspects of the framework of the CCT that sub-serves the Tribunal’s ability to function efficiently and with integrity. The government should use this opportunity to reform the framework of the CCT, and, most importantly, ensure that the CCT is no longer placed under the executive branch of government but under the Judiciary and is made accountable to judicial oversight bodies - such as the National Judicial Council. This will give the Tribunal greater independence and ensure more effective oversight of Tribunal members, and make the tribunal a more accountable anti-corruption institution.

Joseph Otteh,

Director, Access to Justice.










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