Professor Itsay Sagay, shares with The Interview his experience as Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in the last four years.
How would you describe your experience in the last four years as PACAC’s chairman?
Well, it is partially rewarding seeing that we have been present and have contributed to the process in which a government in power has exhibited and demonstrated the greatest will power to fight against corruption.
Not only has this government achieved the highest number of convictions ever through the anti-corruption agencies, but also devised many other methods to fighting corruption.
For example, stolen assets of over one trillion naira in value has been recovered so far. The Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption has been very active in all these.
We have provided training programmes strengthening the anti-corruption agencies to prosecute more effectively and efficiently and also introduced the non-conviction recovery of assets process.
We’ve done workshops for them which they have used effectively and then of course, we have written advisories to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Altogether, I am fairly fulfilled. I know it could be better but we have done very well.
Probably it could be the best period of the war against corruption this country has ever seen.
Before this government came in, what they were taking out of the country fraudulently under the petrol subsidy scam came to about N380bn a year
What have been the major gains of this administration’s anti-corruption fight?
As I have stated earlier, the Economic Financial Crimes Commission alone as secured about 3000 corruption convictions during this period.
Not to talk about the ICPC which has been revamped and reenergised in the last nine months or so and is doing extremely well in all spheres of its work.
So that’s first.
Of course, I mentioned recovery of assets which is unprecedented in terms of value of what has been recovered.
Another example is that you will not find a single case of petrol subsidy scam.
It’s gone. Nobody will dare it anymore.
Before this government came in, what they were taking out of the country fraudulently under the petrol subsidy scam came to about N380bn a year.
A lot has been achieved.
I don’t need to go into the social investment programmes in which the monies recovered from abroad have been invested.
So many vulnerable and poor Nigerians are benefiting from this. So, yes, I have a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction with what this government has done.
And I think its coming to power basing its promises partly on the fight against corruption has been justified.
There is no system that can survive that crushing attack which the Supreme Court launched on our anti-corruption system
The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former governor of Abia, Orji Uzor-Kalu, and ordered for a fresh trial on the ground that the judge who pronounced Kalu’s judgment did so when he was already promoted. What impact do you think this would have on the anti-corruption fight?
Oh, it will have a very negative impact. It will promote impunity, it will promote brazenness because people will say well let’s do whatever we want, we will go through a period of trial and at the end we will be free. It is a pity the judiciary has not been a fellow fighter in this anti-corruption war.
Of course, there are some cases particularly the lower court, High Court, where convictions of major figures have been achieved.
But by and large, the judiciary has not been an enthusiastic participant in the fight. We’ve spoken, we have interacted but that is just the unfortunate thing.
If you look at this judgment, this case took 12 years to come to culmination before the final judgment.
Everything has been thrown away.
Theoretically, the case has started again but we know it is all over.
Because there is no system that can survive that crushing attack which the Supreme Court launched on our anti-corruption system.
No system can survive it.
And, what is the excuse? Somebody was promoted in the middle of the case he was almost finishing.
A law has been passed permitting him to complete his case in court.
That is one of the reasons convictions were not being obtained because when people are promoted, cases have to start afresh before a new judge.
And there was no end to trials.
And of course, it becomes very inviting if you are a very powerful person under trial to now encourage through powerful sources anybody who is trying your case to be promoted so that you can go and start again.
There are those who are benefiting from that now.
See the devastating consequences of this type of decision.
That a supreme court which is supposed to promote the greatest ideals and highest values in a society would take a decision effectively encouraging people to do things that are devastating to the society is just unbelievable – unbelievable.
There are those who attributed the Supreme Court decision on Orji Uzor Kalu’s case to the fact that he is an associate of President Muhammadu Buhari and an APC member. Do you agree with them?
No. I absolutely reject that. If that was the case, he wouldn’t have been prosecuted at all.
The prosecution started under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
If that was the case, the matter would have been allowed to die quietly when Buhari assumed office.
I think it gets to a stage where no matter what the person has done; giving what he has gone through, there should be some compassion in the mind of state authorities
The Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-zakzaky, who was arrested in 2015, is still in detention as we speak. Do you think this government can continue to justify his incarceration?
Frankly, I am very sad about his continuous detention.
I think it gets to a stage where no matter what the person has done; giving what he has gone through, there should be some compassion in the mind of state authorities.
I think this man has suffered enough.
I am from the South. Those in the north are the ones who are very angry and know details of what he has done; how he used to intimidate everybody, zoning some part of the town to his organisation, and being intolerant.
But, I think he has paid a very severe price for whatever wrong he might have done.
He has lost children.
That is the worst thing that can happen to human being – to lose a child. But he has lost children.
He himself has been injured. His wife has been injured. He has been incarcerated. He is very ill. I think the government, the state, should have compassion and let this man go and rest
Wife of late General Sani Abacha, Maryam Abacha recently said her husband was accused of looting because he was dead. What do you think?
Well, that is illogic. That is pure illogic. What she is saying is that my husband looted. I am not arguing about that but there are some looters who are still alive.
Well, looting is looting. If our capacity now is limited to recovering loots from those who have died, so be it.
I think that is totally diversionary.
There are many people who are living who are being prosecuted and there are recoveries that have been made from generals and politicians.
I told you the EFCC alone had recovered various assets worth almost N1trn in value.
Those are from people who are still living.
She does not have any argument.
What about things that are being recovered from former minister of petroleum, Deziani Allison-Madueke?
She is alive.
Even assuming she is even right, ok, if it is dead people we can recover from, we will continue to recover it.
This country will remain forever so coming generation can continue to recover loots.
Many of the things we as a committee do, we do on our own initiative in the the sense that we have hardly ever receive any cooperation from the attorney-general, Abubakar Malami
Do you have an idea if this government will ever call for Deziani’s extradition to face prosecution in Nigeria?
I think they ought to make the effort. Many of the things we as a committee do, we do on our own initiative, in the sense that we have hardly ever receive any cooperation from the attorney-general, Abubakar Malami.
He doesn’t involve us in anything he does, there is a certain hostility somewhere underneath.
He doesn’t involve us and we could have helped to strengthen his hands.
Some of us are international lawyers who have studied the whole process of extradition.
We would have been of help but we have been ignored.
As I said there is some brooding hostility from the beginning.
So that has affected the success of the government in some of these things.
This is a case of extradition. She has to be extradited and the best place to do it is where she is physically located – England.
Yes she is still susceptible to extradition.
But we are not encouraged to assist or share our experience on the issue.
So, I am almost a stranger as I am talking to you now about what is happening to Deziani.
Giving the gains of his government with regard to the anti-corruption fight, would you advise that president Buhari gets involved in the politics of who succeeds him to ensure the gains made in this area are not reversed?
Definitely, anybody in that position will be very interested in the person who takes over from him.
He ought to do to the extent that he can to influence the process. Not illegally, but he must still leave the majority decide who they want.
He could quietly lend support to the person who he thinks will best carry on with the anti-corruption legacy for this country. That is quiet natural and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
You talked about some hostility on the part of the Attorney general, what is the way forward in the anti-corruption fight?
Just to continue with the vigour which has been noticed since 2015?
It has been a vigorous war.
So we must not let the tempo go down. We must sustain it.
We have good people heading the agencies. We have Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, one of the best in terms of knowledge, integrity, brilliance and energy.
We are seeing more of the ICPC doing well.
Of course, the EFCC has already established its reputation which it needs to sustain, while we on our part continue to ensure we empower these agencies by various courses, workshops, seminars, and training, which we have done effectively, particularly for the EFCC.