“My own personal preference is that we should scrap this Constitution and adopt the 1963 Republican Constitution,” Professor Itse Sagay has said.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria made the recommendation when he appeared on Politics Today on Monday.
He believes the 1963 Republican Constitution addresses everything that is being agitated for in the country and can help halt the turmoil that has rocked the nation.
“If we had that, with amendments here and there to make it accommodate states rather than regions which we used to have, I think all these agitations will die down and everybody will be happy,” he added.
Sagay, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), noted the report of the Nasir El-Rufai led All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on Restructuring.
He stated that the committee came up with an excellent report, stressing the need to look at the content of the documents and implement them.
‘Allowed To Gather Dust’
The senior advocate was, however, of the opinion that it would be better to implement the report in a totally new Constitution, rather than amending the existing one which would involve lots of amendments.
He explained that the move by the APC to set up such a committee in the first instance was indicative that President Muhammadu Buhari was in favour of federalism and devolution of powers.
The PACAC chairman, however, said, “I am personally disappointed that that excellent document is being allowed to gather dust and I think the leaders of the party should now bring it out and go to the President and say, we should now make a move to implement what we ourselves commissioned and have approved because that is what the whole country wants now.”
‘A Unitary, Not Federal Constitution’
As one of the few people who have virtually seen Nigeria from the beginning, the octogenarian revealed that he knew nothing about the Federal Government as a secondary school student.
He recalled that governance was being controlled at the regional level, noting that there was so much peace in the land at the time.
“I only knew about Ibadan and Awolowo; the region controlled my life from A-Z and everything worked perfectly, beautifully, happily. That is what we are missing. We just have to go back to that otherwise Nigeria will not enjoy stability,” he said.
Sagay added, “If we can have a process which will be towards having a new Constitution, it will be better. Until we have it, we can manage with what the National Assembly is doing but certainly, it is far from satisfactory but may result in an improvement of what we have now.
“But what we really need is a clear departure from what we have. what we have now is a unitary constitution parading itself as a federal constitution.”
The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay has confirmed the arrest of former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke.
Prof Sagay during a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said the arrest is the latest success in the fight against corruption under the federal government.
Mr. Adoke is facing criminal charges bordering on alleged abuse of office and money laundering with respect to the granting of the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI, brought against him and four others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
His arrest follows a warrant issued by a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja requested by the EFCC.
He added that the fight against corruption is gaining momentum under the Buhari-led Federal Government due to the fightback from its beneficiaries.
“The former attorney General Adoke has been arrested in Dubai. It’s a continuous thing, so when Nigerians pretend and say what is the difference this government has brought into the fight against corruption, what has been achieved? There is no difference, it amazes me. For me, it’s a sign of patent bad faith being expressed by the elite who were the beneficiaries of corruption.
“They are undergoing the pains of having to earn their living, rather than simply collecting easy money where people were building edifices without any sign of employment of any sort. There has been a lot of change and the EFCC activities are responsible for most of this change.”
Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, says any “self-respecting” judge who is being accused of breaching the Constitution should, on his own, step down until such case is cleared.
He said this in a phone interview with Channels Television on Friday, while reacting to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnghen.
“Looking at it from the moral angle, the head of the Judiciary, the number one judicial officer of the country, head of a branch of government, is under suspicion of breaking a very very grave provision of the Constitution, for which there is provision that he could lose his job… If he is accused, any self-respecting judge would have stepped down pending the prosecution of the whole matter,” he said.
The PACAC Chairman, therefore, stated that the decision to suspend him pending the completion of the trial was constitutionally right.
“This decision is both legally, morally and constitutionally right,” he said.
“From what I’ve heard, (because I’m speaking as an individual now) the removal was a directive from the Code of Conduct Tribunal so, as far as I’m concerned, the President was carrying out a court order… that’s number one.
“Number two, the suspension could have been carried out in another manner by (Section 292 paragraph 1) of the Constitution which clearly gives the president the right to remove the Chief Justice if he is guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct.
“From what I can gather, this order of the Tribunal was before the court of Appeal order so obviously, it cannot affect something that has already been done”.
The Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, has described the recovery of assets by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as “ a major match forward”
He said this while evaluating the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
“The recovery of assets has been monumental during this government’s tenure” Professor Sagay declared. “It is unprecedented and whether Nigerians who have short memories like to acknowledge this or not, it is a fact.”
According to the senior advocate, part of the recovered loots are being used to fund the present budget for the social intervention programmes of the government.
He added that the looting of the nation’s resources allegedly by public servants has down considerably and is being reduced drastically.
Sagay who said, “the beginning of wisdom now is the avoidance of looting,” was worried that the progress recorded in the area of asset recovery is not being noticed.
Instead, he said Nigerians were waiting to see those convicted of corruption being jailed, noting that it was the narrow aspect and not the most important part of the anti-corruption war.
The PACAC chairman said, “We may be too impatient about conviction, the administration of the Criminal Justice Act which sealed a lot of loopholes which created these long endless cases only came in force in 2015.
“We are just going to start seeing the effect of the impact of the act in the coming months. So, I expect that there’d be more and more convictions.”
Professor Sagay further commented on the recent list of alleged looters published by the government, saying it was in accordance with a court order and that more names might be unveiled soon.
He was also confident that the judges handling corruption cases cannot be influenced by the views of other people since they have the knowledge to make their opinion on the facts of the case before them.
“This government has poured its heart and might into fighting corruption, but corruption has fought back,” the professor of law decried.
“And the shocking aspect is that it is the elites, the educated, the powerful who have been fighting this government. They have been so violent in the opposition to the fight against corruption that one is even shocked.”
Despite the challenges of the anti-corruption campaign and the strength of the opposition, the PACAC chairman said he was impressed with the success recorded so far.
He disclosed further that a lot of looted assets have been recovered by the government and that part of them was used to fund the current budget.
Professor Sagay also reacted to the recent list of alleged looters published by the government. Amid the mixed reaction triggered by the list, the senior advocate noted that there was nothing wrong with it.
He recalled that a court had ordered the government to publish the names of those who have looted the nation’s resources, saying the disclosure was in accordance with the court’s directive and to address the issue of public interest.
The lawyer said he would not be surprised if more names of alleged looters surface, stressing that “there is a very large number of these people who presided over the looting of the assets of this country.”
He was also confident that the judges handling corruption cases cannot be influenced by the views of other people as they have the knowledge to make their own opinion on the facts of the case before them.
Sagay, however, admitted that although government might not have mentioned the names of some individuals due to ‘strategic’ reasons, such reasons would unravel themselves in the course of time.
Reacting to those who have condemned the list, he said, “It’s a free society, the government has provided its own list.
“Those who are complaining must surely know the persons who are omitted from the list. So, let them bring out their own list and let them correct the list which is incomplete.”
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) told Channels Television in a telephone interview the Buhari administration recorded more achievements than the eight-year rule of former President Obasanjo.
“I want to make a clear statement that in my view, what the Buhari government has achieved in two and half years is far more than what Obasanjo achieved in eight years,” said the senior lawyer.
“He (Obasanjo) has no right to start writing public letters and running down other governments simply because he’s no longer the one in power.”
The former President, in the 13-page statement issued on Tuesday, advised President Buhari not to seek re-election and called for a new movement to salvage Nigeria from its challenges.
He said the present government has failed, especially in one of the areas it pitched as its ‘key point of action’ when it assumed office – the anti-corruption fight.
In his reaction, Sagay believes Obasanjo lacks the moral right to offer such advice to the President, noting that it is coming from the wrong source.
He said: “My immediate reaction is that it sounds very ill in the mouth of the person who sought three terms of presidency to demand that the person who has not even sought a second term to abort any idea of doing the second term.
“That advice is coming from the wrong source; he has no moral right to give that advice.”
The PACAC chairman noted that he has monitored President Buhari’s government closely and cannot overlook that fact that it has had its own challenges.
He, however, insisted that it has been the best government since the country returned to democracy while accusing the former President of disrespecting his successors.
“This is the best government we have had since return to civilian rule in 1999; far better than Obasanjo’s,” Sagay said.
“Obasanjo appears not to have respect for other people who have been in governance after him – (Late Umar) Yar’Adua, (Dr Goodluck) Jonathan, (President) Buhari.
“He has this penchant for writing derogatory letters about them and publishing it in the press and making them look bad to the public, and it shows lack of respect and my own view is that he wants to continue to dominate Nigerian politics,” he alleged.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, during an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, spoke about the scandal in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war and his problem with leaders of the All Progressives Congress, among other things.
Are you alarmed by the allegations in the NNPC?
Well, I’m not particularly alarmed. There is no organisation that does not have its internal problems and I think it will be resolved with time.
Do you think this is just an ordinary problem?
I think we really have to wait until we hear the other side. We have read what one side, the accusing side, has said. Then we have to wait, patiently, to hear the response from the other side before we can make very rational judgement in this matter. I don’t think one should rush into any conclusion.
You have spoken so much about the corruption in the NNPC. You advise the President on this kind of issues and you had said corruption in the NNPC is one of the things that your committee would focus on. How are you shining light on the NNPC right now?
I think I need to explain the way we operate. We are not an anti-corruption agency; we are not an executive body. We are more of a think-tank. So, we advise the government on various issues that come to our knowledge. We make proposals for reform and improvement of the administration of criminal justice and we also provide support for the anti-corruption agencies to make them more effective. We also do a lot of workshops and dialogues and seminars for the judiciary, the anti-corruption agencies and various other bodies that are relevant in the fight against corruption. So, I cannot tell you, for example, that I am investigating the NNPC. We don’t have that mandate.
What would you advise the President to do about these kinds of allegations around the NNPC?
Well, my advice is an obvious one that any reasonable person with any knowledge of law and legal practice would make and that is to hear both sides. And then, having heard both sides, then make an effective decision that will solve the problem.
Mr Femi Falana (SAN) is asking the President to relinquish his position as Minister of Petroleum. Also, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources shares that position. Do you think that the President should relinquish that position?
Not necessarily so. I think what we are really interested in is the effectiveness of that ministry. If the Minister of State (for Petroleum Resources) is invested with sufficient authority, he can do the job effectively and report to the President at regular intervals. I think that is where we should focus our attention on. That is, investing the Minister of State with all the requisite powers and authority so that all the parastatals under the ministry will recognise his authority and respect it and make the Minister the medium through which messages and activities will be channelled to the President. And there should be strict observance of the various regulations and procedures of those agencies, NNPC included. So, I think the Minister of State can effectively do the job of the Minister because, of course, the President has so many other things in his hands that we don’t expect him to give full attention to any specific ministry. But he can retain the position, and the ministry can still be run effectively if the Minister of State is given sufficient powers if power is delegated effectively to him.
They say that sometimes perception is everything. With the current state of things regarding the report on the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, and also the report on the suspended DG of the National Intelligence Agency, Mr Ayodele Oke, it looks like Nigerians are expecting so much of the President. What can you say about the kind of urgency that the government should be putting in such, which of course, affect how Nigerians perceive this government?
I have no doubt in my mind, that the present government is actually fighting corruption, in accordance with its mandate and its promises. There is no question about that. But on the specific issue of the suspended Secretary to the Federal Government and the Director of the NIA, I would agree that action has been much too slow and there should be immediate decision on this matter so that we can put it to rest and move on. I agree with that but I certainly disagree absolutely with anyone who suggests that is government is not fighting corruption with all its might and resources.
A senior member of the APC did say that when it comes to fighting corruption in other agencies and arms of government aside from the executive, the Presidency uses insecticide but when it comes to fighting corruption its own atmosphere it does use deodorant.
Well, that is the perception of that particular gentleman, but I don’t agree with that. I think there is an even-handed approach to the issue of fighting corruption. Everybody who is suspected of corruption of the commission of the Economic and Financial Crimes would be investigated and the EFCC and the ICPC, who are the bodies who are invested with the authority to act in such matters, will act in accordance with their own priority. You know, I think we should make it clear. We cannot handle all corruption cases at the same time. As you know, in this country, that the cases of corruption go right from the top and permeate to the lowest level. There are hundreds of thousands of corruption cases. So it makes sense for the agencies involved to choose what to pick and what to drop or what to suspend.
From your standpoint, you say that the government is fighting corruption, but the citizens and the voters who voted for President Muhammadu Buhari are asking for evidence of the success of the anti-corruption war.
The evidence is staring every Nigerian in the face. Only a person acting in extreme bad faith that or who is a beneficiary of corruption will question that evidence. We have had an accumulation of recovered assets. There is no day that passes without some assets being recovered. And we are counting now towards a trillion naira, if not more, of recovered assets. We see that all the time, that is number one. We also know that the petroleum subsidy scam has been brought to a permanent halt. Under the former administration, N380billion, the government was being defrauded of N380billion every year, all that has ended. And there are so numerous other things that have been done. We have the whistle-blower policy, which is effectively bringing out so many cases of corruption and hidden Nigerian assets, we have mutual agreements with various countries all over the world through which the recovery of assets are being facilitated. So, I think people who criticise this government are thinking only of conviction of high-profile persons. That, of course, has had some hiccups. But let us wait and see on the long run, how things are going to develop because I know a lot of efforts is being made in that direction. In fact, only two days ago, former DG of the IITA, was convicted of corruption, and sentenced to, I believe, 40 years imprisonment, of course, five years running concurrently over so many charges. So, as I said, anyone who says this government is not successfully tacking corruption is putting on blinkers of bad faith or is totally ignorant or is a beneficiary of corruption, and is part of corruption fighting back.
When you say there are hiccups in the convictions of high-profile cases, a lot of Nigerians would want to know. What are these hiccups?
Well, you know that before the administration of Criminal Justice Act was passed, a lot of things were going on. Senior advocates will automatically file preliminary objection contesting the jurisdiction of the court over a corruption case whilst knowing definitely that there is no doubt about jurisdiction. And then the whole case would be stalled, concentration will be put on the preliminary objection. Then, after two or three years, once ruling is given, of course, with the court confirming its jurisdiction, there is an appeal to the Court of Appeal; the same process is gone through all over again. And with the same result, the matter goes again to the Supreme Court. After five years, it is confirmed that the court has jurisdiction and then we are back to the High Court for the trial which ought to have been completed 10 years earlier. Of course, in the interval, witnesses might have died or disappeared, the trial personnel might have become judges, and the prosecutor might have become a judge. So many things would have happened. A lot of political interference would have occurred and of course, prosecution fatigue would have set in. So, this was what it was but all that has ended now with the passing of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act. That is why I expect that in the coming year, we are going to see a lot more convictions and this position has been strengthened by the decision of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, directing all High Courts in the country to designate specific courts in their jurisdictions as Anti-Corruption courts and then, of course, establishing a committee that will monitor all corruption cases in the country. Personally, I think the personnel of the monitoring committee, those constituting the committee, there is the need for a rethink, particularly with regards to the former President of the NBA, and I think the appointment of Justice Salami is perfect, it is the best choice possible. Supporting him should be people who have not been involved in corruption cases, defending high profile cases of corruption and I think the former Presidents of the NBA have been very much involved in this and their orientation is to defend those charged with corruption and some who actually still have cases going on, which will result in conflict of interests. So, I think there is a need for a rethinking in that area.
You have been on a collision course with some powers that be within the ruling APC. What has really happened? Are you frustrated recently by that?
Let me try and put it in a very simple way without mentioning names. If you have within a party, which has a specific mandate to fight corruption and at least reduce it drastically, to a level that it will not stall our development and our future. If you have such a mandate, and then you have within that party, people who are actively promoting corruption, who, in fact, are themselves major subjects of corruption charges who are themselves promoters of corruption, and they are defying the party on major issues that would have assisted the government in eradicating corruption, my view is that it is better to totally remove people of that nature and have a smaller party in which everybody has confidence in themselves, rather than to have a large party in which people are doing things that are absolutely contrary to what the programme of the party stands for. And my view was that the party leadership (the party hierarchy), I am not talking about the government. I am talking about those elected as the Chairmen, Secretary and so on of the party, are condoning the situation I am talking about. They are appeasing those who are guilty of all these things I am saying and therefore setting a stage for the party to have a serious problem when there is need to convince the nation that it is entitled to have another term or more terms in government because ‘show me your friend and I will tell you who you are’.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) has backed Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC’s) criticism of the National Assembly.
The revered Professor was reported to have said: “from the information I have gathered, a Nigerian Senator earns about N29 million a month and over N3 billion a year. Basic salary N2,484,245.50; hardship allowance, 1,242, 122.70; constituency allowance N4, 968, 509.00; furniture allowance N7, 452, 736.50; newspaper allowance N1, 242, 122.70.
In addition, Sagay reportedly listed other allowances to include: “Wardrobe allowance N621,061.37; recess allowance N248, 424.55; accommodation 4,968,509.00; utilities N828,081.83; domestic staff N1,863,184.12; entertainment N828,081.83; personal assistant N621,061.37; vehicle maintenance allowance N1,863,184.12; leave allowance N248,424.55; severance gratuity N7, 425,736.50; and motor vehicle allowance N9, 936,982.00.”
The Executive Chairman of CACOL, Mr Debo Adeniran, reacting to the ‘exposure’, said: “Between the present NASS and Prof., we will choose the latter in terms of the zeal and dedication to the cause of ridding our society of corruption. We know that the PACAC Chairman’s integrity is a million miles ahead when compared to that of the present NASS.”
This was made known in a statement by the Media Coordinator, CACOL, Wale Salami.
The Senate in response has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the PACAC boss to order accusing him of spreading falsehood and making hate speeches against the federal legislature.
The lawmakers alleged that Sagay was fond of using every opportunity he had to make public speeches to disparage the National Assembly by using “uncouth and unprintable words” to describe the legislators and the institution they represent.
Furthermore, they described him as a man who cannot stand for councillorship election and win. They also challenged him to state what his contributions are in the election of President Muhammadu Buhari and what new ideas he has contributed to making the fight against corruption more effective since his appointment.
Adeniran, however, described the reaction of the lawmakers as an attempt to divert attention from the fundamental issues raised by the Professor, adding that the Senate should rather have responded by ‘disproving’ the figures put forward.
Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, says there’s enormous fraud in the country’s private sector particularly in the banking industry.
He said this at a conference on financial system integrity improvement which held in Abuja.
“Much has been achieved although this is not appreciated by the general public. There is nothing like subsidy scam anymore. At its height, over two trillion was being siphoned out of the country, people were collecting the money with the names of sea vessels that were either non-existent or were in faraway territories – that bleeding has been stanched, much has been recovered in terms of stolen assets – a lot has been recovered.
“Although not much has yet been achieved in the area of conviction for corruption and financial fraud, there have been some which tend to be overlooked,” he added.
Sagay also used the occasion to explain some of the Federal Government’s successes in the fight against corruption.
One year after its inauguration, the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, has come out with its recommendations.
In its report from August 2015 to July 2016, the Executive Secretary, Bolaji Owasanoye, highlighted areas of concentration.
Amongst are the things that the committee maps out as sentencing guidelines for high profile cases where huge monies are trapped.
He decried the amount of monies that the Nigerian government has lost to such cases and its effect on the economy.
“If we do simple arithmetic of all those high profile cases, just add the sums and see how much you will come up with, it will be far above two trillion and because the state has not recovered the money, we will see the effect on the economy,” he said.
The chairman of the committee, Professor Itse Sagay, also added that Nigeria needs an upright judiciary without which the nation’s democracy would collapse.
The sudden raid of the houses of some judges by the DSS and the subsequent arrest of the judicial officers drew a plethora of reactions recently.
But Professor Sagay described the anti-corruption campaign of the President as right, while describing the criticism from Nigerians as totally wrong and shocking.
“We need the judiciary but we need an upright judiciary. Without that, one arm of government will collapse and democracy will collapse.
“Let us think of the implication of what is going on. If we don’t put the judiciary right or have a judiciary in which we have confidence, with integrity and honour, with moral authority, then we have no government and we have no democracy,” he said.
Nigerians could be in for more surprises in the New Year as more high profile personalities might face trial in 2016.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Professor Itsey Sagay, in an exclusive interview with Channels Television’s political correspondent, Seun Okinbaloye, said that the last set of looting of the nation’s wealth was in desperation to win elections at all cost.
“What I saw from all I have put together is that this last set of looting arose out of determination for reelection. Money was being distributed recklessly and thoughtlessly in order to get back to power at any cost.
“The evidence is still hot, the witnesses are present. The amounts are huge and unprecedented; amounts that have crippled the government from functioning effectively.
“The only thing you can do is to go after those first and there is much. I can tell you that the corruption is at every level; from these prominent politicians to the lowliest civil servants and even private sector.
“But the ones in the public sector, over which these high profile politicians are involved, I suspect, (would make up) probably over 90% in terms of assets that have been stolen.
“Those are the things that have to be dealt with first because they are immediate. So it is not discriminatory, it just happened that the people in government are doing these things. We are all living witnesses of what happened in the NSA’s office.
“You cannot overlook those things and say ‘oh they may suspect me of being selective’. If you leave it then you have left the substance,” he said.
Professor Sagay gave the assurance that the present government remains committed to fighting corruption at all levels but acknowledged the need for caution.
“My personal view, not the committee’s view and certainly not the government’s view, is that the position of the President is a sensitive one. If somebody has been a president before he should be very careful in thinking of any physical thing like incarceration and so on.”
He added, “Efficient investigation, effective prosecution, speedy adjudication and effective sanctions. Those are the four policies we are working on.
“You’re going to see slowness at the beginning but the results, when they begin to come, will make a great impact – a decisive departure from the past.”