In the clearest indication yet that his administration is committed to the fight against corruption, Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua Wednesday asked the National Assembly (parliament) to remove the immunity clause protecting certain categories of public officers from the country’s constitution.
Yar’Adua said at the launch of the Anti-Corruption Revolution (ANCOR) campaign by the anti-graft Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the capital city of Abuja that the removal of the clause, which shields the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors from being prosecuted while in office, would energise the fight against corruption.
He said the clause had become a cover for non-performance, ineptitude and corrupt practices and therefore urged the National Assembly to expunge it from the constitution to save the nation some excesses that may emanate from the continued observance of the clause.
“Some of the steps and measures we may have to take in order to entrench the fight against corruption is to look at some of our laws. I want today to call for the abrogation of the constitutional provision of the immunity clause for President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors. corruption in Nigeria is a major problem.
”Corruption is endemic in this country. There is absolutely no way this nation can achieve its potential unless this challenge is confronted frontally by all Nigerians,” the President said.
He challenged the EFCC to be unsparing in its dealing with corrupt government and non-government officials, adding: “I want to remind the EFCC that you must be ruthless, totally energetic in the pursuit of corrupt officials: prosecuting them and sanctioning them and bringing them to justice.”
Head of the EFCC, Mrs Farida Waziri said that “the challenges that confront us today in the fight against corruption can only be overcome by a simultaneous and coordinated big push by the people. They are the direct victims but many are nevertheless ignorant and often enlisted to defend their real enemy, the corrupt.”
The administration of President Yar’Adua has been criticised for weakening the fight against corruption, especially as many of the 31 former state governors said to be corrupt by the EFCC have yet to be prosecuted, while the cases of those who have been arraigned in court has all but stalled.
Critics of the administration also point to the removal of the hard-fighting former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, as evidence that it is not serious about the anti-graft battle.