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Group Faults Jonathan’s Panel On Oduah’s N255m Car Scandal

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

Ayo Balogun, Lagos

A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) says the setting up of a panel by President Goodluck Jonathan to probe the N255 million car scandal has effectively blocked and undermined the mandate and work of appropriate anti-corruption agencies on the matter, and implicitly grants amnesty for corruption.

The organization said “amnesty for corruption violates the right of the victims of corruption. It presents the risk of a general erosion of deterrence and the rule of law, which may in turn encourage future acts of corruption in the expectation that they too will be excused or ignored.-

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan

“We are therefore calling on the president to without further delay end the work of the panel and now allow appropriate anti-corruption agencies to take over the matter for necessary action. On their part, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission should swing into action and invite the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, for questioning.”

According to the organization, “the allegation of corruption by a high-ranking public official is a purely criminal matter, which can only be best handled by appropriate anti-corruption agencies and the courts. Setting up an administrative and apparently political panel to deal with this matter seriously falls short of the international standards regarding independence and impartiality of anti-corruption bodies.”

In a statement dated 3 October 2013 and signed by the organization’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group also said that rather than setting up a panel to investigate a corruption matter, the president should have allowed the appropriate anti-corruption agencies to take over the matter, with a caveat to work thoroughly, fairly and independently as setting up a parallel panel to these agencies tended to undermine not only their mandate and work, but also generally the public trust and confidence in the fight against corruption.

“Even though it is within the prerogative of the president to establish the panel, the government should have considered the public interest, the rule of law and the country’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption, in the exercise of any such power. Any amnesty granted for corruption will conflict with the international obligations of Nigeria to establish territorial criminal jurisdiction over corrupt acts, prosecute alleged offenders, and apply prescribed sanctions through a trial that meets international standards of fairness,” it stated.

SERAP added that if the panel found that no wrongdoing was committed, “will the president simply say that is the end of the matter? Or if on the other hand the panel establishes evidence of wrongdoing, will the president refer the matter to the appropriate authorities or just forgive the minister and ask her to return to obedience and to her duty? The point is that this panel is entirely unnecessary and allowing anticorruption agencies to handle the matter in the first instance would have saved the government and the country the international embarrassment that has since followed.”


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