OrderPaperToday – The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has described the Lagos State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law 2021 signed into law by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as a trojan horse meant to weaken the anti corruption war.
HEDA said the law which on the surface looks like a progress in the fight against corruption, is actually an attempt to cripple the anti-corruption campaign and has called on the Lagos House of Assembly to immediately review and amend the law.
The law establishes a new anti-corruption agency in Lagos, namely, Lagos State Public Complaints and Anticorruption Commission, which will have the exclusive rights to investigate financial crimes and corruption cases involving the finances of the Lagos State Government.
According to a statement issued in Lagos and signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA revealed that the bill was passed without public hearing by the State Assembly and is a “trojan horse; an attempt to crookedly weaken the fight against corruption, rather than complement it”.
Mr. Suraju criticised Section 13(3) of the law saying, it is an unscrupulous attempt by the ruling elite of Lagos State to cover up serious cases of corruption in Lagos State especially considering that three former governors as well as other top politicians in Lagos are undergoing various investigations or cases of corruption with the federal anti-corruption agencies, particularly the EFCC.
Section 13(3) of the law provides that: “The commission shall upon the commencement of this law take over the investigation of all anti-corruption and financial crime cases involving the finances and assets of Lagos State Government being investigated by any other agency.”
He added that it is unconstitutional by virtue of Section 4(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) for Lagos State to enact such law to empower a Commission to take over cases from the federal anti-corruption agencies when the agencies are established by an Act of the National Assembly for a purpose which ordinarily “covers the field.”
Section 13(5) of the Lagos law also states that: “The commission shall have the power to the exclusion of any other agency or body to investigate and coordinate the investigation of corruption and financial crimes cases involving the finances and assets of the state government.”
The organisation expressed worry that the Lagos State political class might have just found a way to frustrate the fight against corruption as the Lagos politicians involved in high profile corruption cases may now have to go to Court to stop EFCC and other agencies from investigating them since the new Lagos Commission would likely have been “investigating” them also.
“Rather than focusing on the substantive corruption cases, EFCC and other anti-graft agencies may now have to deal with resolving the legal battle of jurisdiction over the cases. This will frustrate the fight against corruption as many of the politicians will spend years enjoying and laundering proceeds of corruption, thereby making illegal wealth difficult to trace and perpetrators difficult to prosecute,” HEDA said.
HEDA further observed that such effrontery by the Lagos State Government if left unchallenged will embolden other States in such unconstitutional move and therefore called on the Lagos State House of Assembly to immediately review and amend this law and ensure to get the inputs of citizens and civil society if it indeed intends to enact a law in the interest of the people.