Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has called on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to generate public registers for corrupt governors and other high-ranking public officials convicted of grand corruption since the return of democracy in 1999.
The register, according to SERAP, “would be a proportionate response to the grave crime of grand corruption and impunity of perpetrators and have a deterrent effect.”
In a letter dated August 23, signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare and addressed to the attorney-general, SERAP insisted that “there can be no reasonable expectation of privacy in matters already exposed to public viewing such as prior arrest, charges and conviction records.”
The organisation advised that aspects of the register such as the scope, who to include, and eligibility for removal from the registers, may be discussed in a consultative session with the civil society and other stakeholders.
The letter read further:
“Public registers for high-ranking officials facing corruption charges and those convicted of corruption would be a pivotal moment in the fight against corruption by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the damage caused by graft to citizens’ human rights and Nigeria’s democratic process.
“The proposed registers for corrupt officials would serve a public interest purpose similar in some respects to the recently disclosed names and details by the United States Department of Justice of 80 defendants, most of whom are Nigerians, that have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft and other charges.
“SERAP is concerned that corruption is so pervasive across many states and at several levels of governance and has remained a constant feature of Nigeria’s political scene since 1999, turning public service for many into a kind of criminal enterprise. Grand corruption has continued to fuel political violence, deny millions of Nigerians access to clean water, and even the most basic health and education services, and reinforcing police abuses and other widespread patterns of human rights violations.
“The lack of public registers containing detailed information about high-ranking public officials charged with and convicted of corruption since 1999 has allowed many politicians—often with impunity–to use apparently illicitly acquired wealth to fund political parties, build corrupt patronage networks, thereby preventing fair access to economic and political power, serving to further the wealth and power of ruling elites, and exacerbating inequality.
“Registers would help protect the public from corrupt officials and their collaborators and improve the ideal of representative government, as it would assist the citizens to properly exercise their right to participate in their own government.
“Public registers would improve transparency by making it easier for the public to track the government’s fight against corruption and make the government as open as possible in its anti-corruption efforts. SERAP urges you to push for legislation that will require public officials charged with and convicted of grand corruption at the federal, state and local government levels to put their names in the public registers.
“Registers for corrupt officials would also address the paucity of information about politicians and others complicit in the mismanagement of the country’s natural wealth and resources, with devastating consequences for citizens’ enjoyment of their human rights.”