SERAP to Dogara: Stop that bad joke of amnesty for looters

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) is not amused by a bill in the House of Representatives that is set to grant amnesty to treasury looters, and it has told the legislative chamber’s speaker to drop the bad joke, immediately.

In an open letter made available to Morning Mail, the Non Governmental Organisation urged the Speaker, Dogara Yakubu, to use his “leadership position to take without delay all necessary measures to withdraw the bill to grant full and complete amnesty to suspected looters and allow them to keep their ill-gotten wealth.”

The bill, sponsored by Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi), will grant suspected looters of the public treasury full and complete amnesty.

If passed into law, suspected looters will not face any probe, inquiry or prosecution. Not only that, they ‘shall not be compelled to disclose the source of their looted funds’, as long as they invest their ill-gotten wealth in Nigeria.

But SERAP in the letter dated 30 June 2017 and signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said that, “the House of Representatives should allow justice and accountability in grand corruption cases, and not impunity or immunity. The amnesty bill for suspected looters unquestionably conflicts with Nigeria’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to establish territorial criminal jurisdiction over corrupt acts, prosecute alleged offenders, and apply prescribed sanctions through a fair trial.”

According to SERAP, “Rather than proposing amnesty for suspected looters of our commonwealth, the House of Representatives under your leadership should be promoting laws that would lead to the comprehensive and radical reform of the criminal justice system to ensure that those accused of grand corruption are not allowed to profit from their alleged crimes.”

The letter reads:

His Excellency

Hon. Dogara Yakubu

Speaker, House of Representatives

National Assembly

Abuja

Email: info@nass.gov.ng

30 June 2017

Dear Hon. Dogara Yakubu:

Re: Request to take without delay all necessary measures to withdraw proposed law to grant full and complete amnesty to suspected looters

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) is writing to request you to use your leadership position to take without delay all necessary measures to withdraw the bill to grant full and complete amnesty to suspected looters and allow them to keep their ill-gotten wealth.

SERAP is a non-governmental organization dedicated to strengthening the socio-economic welfare of Nigerians by combatting corruption and promoting transparency and accountability. SERAP received the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award in 2014. It has also been nominated for the UN Civil Society Award and Ford Foundation’s Jubilee Transparency Award. SERAP serves as one of two Sub-Saharan African civil society representatives on the UNCAC Coalition, a global anti-corruption network of over 310 civil society organizations (CSOs) in over 100 countries.

According to our information, the House of Representatives is pushing to pass an amnesty bill that would grant to suspected looters of our commonwealth “full and complete amnesty”. The proposed law would prevent any probe, inquiry or prosecution for high-profile cases of corruption. Under the bill, suspected looters “shall not be compelled by any authority to disclose the source of their looted funds.” Looters would be granted full amnesty from inquiry or prosecution as long as they invest their ill-gotten wealth in Nigeria. The scheme sponsored by Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi) is to last for three years, but it could be extended at the instance of the Federal Government. The bill was introduced and hurriedly read on the floor of the House on June 14; and will go for second reading where it would be debated.

SERAP is seriously concerned that this bill seeks to foreclose investigations of high-profile corruption cases, and thus negates both Nigerians’ right to know the truth about what happened to their commonwealth, and their right to justice and accountability.

Rather than proposing amnesty for suspected looters of our commonwealth, the House of Representatives under your leadership should be promoting laws that would lead to the comprehensive and radical reform of the criminal justice system to ensure that those accused of grand corruption are not allowed to profit from their alleged crimes.

The House of Representatives should allow justice and accountability in grand corruption cases, and not impunity or immunity. The amnesty bill for suspected looters unquestionably conflicts with Nigeria’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to establish territorial criminal jurisdiction over corrupt acts, prosecute alleged offenders, and apply prescribed sanctions through a fair trial.

The House of Representatives constitutional role to “make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation,” also suggests that the proposed amnesty bill for suspected looters is not properly within the ambit of the House’s legislative powers.

SERAP believes that amnesties or other impediments which preclude or indicate unwillingness to provide prompt and fair prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of grand corruption would violate the principle of good faith under international law. The purpose of the principle is to ensure that those who commit grand corruption are not granted immunity.

SERAP also believes that granting of amnesty to absolve suspected perpetrators of grand corruption from accountability or secure full recovery of ill-gotten wealth violates the right of victims of corruption to an effective remedy. An effective remedy entails access to justice, reparation for the harm suffered as a result of grand corruption, and access to the factual information concerning allegations of corruption.

SERAP argues that the proposed bill is neither necessary to prevent corruption nor end impunity of perpetrators, which has allowed corruption in the country to become widespread and systemic. The bill is also counterproductive, especially at a time Nigerians are witnessing a sprawling gap in accountability for grand corruption, and high-ranking public officials accused of corruption are getting away with reduced punishment and allowed to keep their ill-gotten wealth.

If ending impunity for grand corruption is to be considered a fundamental national interest worthy of being furthered, it is crucial to have a strong legal rule to prevent and combat corruption rather pursue bills that would weaken the fight against corruption. The proposed bill would foster a culture of impunity in which grand corruption becomes the norm, rather than the exception. SERAP therefore urges you to:

  1. Take without delay all necessary measures to withdraw this unnecessary amnesty bill;
  2. Proactively take steps to promote bills that would radically reform Nigeria’s criminal justice system to prevent corruption, and ensure that suspected perpetrators regardless of their status are punished in a manner proportionate to the gravity of the corrupt acts committed;
  3. Use your leadership position to publish all reports of investigations of corruption that have so far been undertaken by the House of Representatives since the return of democracy in 1999

Yours sincerely,

Adetokunbo Mumuni                                                       

Executive Director

 

 

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