Looters List: FG Has Done No Wrong, Says Falana
Following the publication of the list of alleged looters of government’s treasury by some officials, Nigeria’s foremost Human Righs Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said the federal government has done nothing wrong with the action.
Falana said this at the Second Forum of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), in Abuja.
According to him, if the police could parade common men for petty crimes, treasury looters should be named.
He said: “Recently, the names of looters were published in the newspapers and I read a lot of publications in the media. Media men and women were challenging the violation of the rights of the looters. They are saying how can you do that? How can you publish the names of looters? You have violated their rights to fair hearing. I say ‘wow, beautiful’, but please we must not join such hallelujah people.
“Please, let us begin to interrogate the literature of corruption. In this country, common people are paraded daily for committing petty offences by the Police and the media men and women attend such media parade. They even interrogate the suspects, particularly armed robbery and kidnapping suspects.
“With blood gushing out of their faces, the police will tell you that they have made confessional statements. The media would then ask, why did you rob? Somebody who has not been taken to any court, you force them to make incriminating statements regularly in our country. Nobody talks about human rights. Nobody talks about the presumption of innocence.
“It is only when you are talking of the rich that we are sounding so eloquent and singing about human rights. Human rights are for all of us.
“So please, let us stop the practice of talking about police brutality when a senator is involved because the police brutalise Nigerians daily.
“We don’t talk of human rights when we are dealing with the poor but even all of us, I am sure you know when a rich man is fat and you are obsessed and you want to lose some weight, you go around our cities, jogging and that is normal. The police will even cheer you, ‘well done sir, we’ll done ma’, but if a poor man does that, that is wandering and you are arrested. How can you be running around? A poor man running around the city, you want to steal in the neighbourhood. So please, we must begin to look at the language of the law. I am happy with the use of the word ‘looters’; it is better than just saying corrupt people, money launderer.”
Falana also said the resuscitation of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) as legal.
He asked the federal lawmakeers seeking the disbandment of the panel to go to court.
He added: “Let me talk about the law establishing the panel; those who are opposed to the law are advised to go to court to challenge its constitutional validity. You cannot sit down in Parliament and say the law is illegal. Only a court of law can do that.
‘You can amend the law, you can even repeal the law, but you cannot sit down and say this law is illegal. When you do that, you are entertaining yourself jurisprudentially.
“Let me tell you why they are criticising it. I have been fighting the anti-graft agencies since 2003, why this law is not being used and I am happy now that they have stumbled on the law.
“The maximum punishment under that law is life imprisonment. If you fail to declare more than N1million, you go for life imprisonment under that law.
“In some areas; 21 years imprisonment and that is the fear of corrupt elements in our society. It is not about the legality of the law; it is the stringent penalty that can land people in prison for life.”
To Falana, the panel is necessary because the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission have been castrated.
He said: “The Code of Conduct Bureau has been castrated. ICPC has been castrated; the EFCC is managing.
“The names of the chair and the board members of the Code of Conduct Bureau as well as the ICPC have not been looked at by the National Assembly not to talk of whether considering to confirm them. You can talk of the Acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, who has been rejected but those ones that have been presented to the Parliament since last year have not been confirmed. ”