Nigeria: Challenges of Defence Counsel in Corruption Prosecution

AuthorTaiwo Osipitan - Abiodun Odusote
PositionProfessor, University of Lagos, Nigeria. Address: Dan Fodio Blvd, Lagos 23401, Nigeria - Senior Lecturer, University of Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria: Challenges of Defence Counsel in
Corruption Prosecution
, Abiodun ODUSOTE
Abstract: The primary purpose of this paper is to examine the multidimensional challenges inhibiting
the fight against corruption in Nigeria. With emphasis on litigation as a tool for fighting corruption,
the paper reveals factors that contribute to corruption in Ni geria and efforts being made to combat it.
It evaluates the adequacy and effectiveness of the legal framework and prosecution of corruption
cases in Nigeria. The paper argues that the failure of the Nigerian State to effectively combat
corruption is not attributable to inadequate or lack of enabling legal framework. While recognizing
the right of persons standing trial for corruption to a fair trial and meaningful day in court, it also
highlights various challenges confronting defence counsel before and during trial of persons standing
trial for corruption. Finally, the paper recommends how corruption can be controlled in Nigeria.
Keywords: corruption;
1. Introduction
Corruption has permeated every fabric of the Nigerian nation. Various
governments have fought the crime for decades
with little success. Corruption has
been acknowledged as the only steady growth Nigeria has experienced since her
Independence. Corruption is a hydra-headed monster with the capacity to destroy
every facet of life. The virus of corrupt practices is devastating on every aspect of
Professor, University of Lagos, Nigeria. Address: Dan Fodio Blvd, Lagos 23401, Nigeria.
Corresponding author:
Senior Lecturer, University of Lagos, Nigeria. Address: Dan Fodio Blvd, Lagos 2 3401, Nigeria. E-
There are various laws enacted by different regimes in Nigeria to fight corruption. See The Criminal
Code; Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribun als) Act; Civil Service Commission Act;
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act 2004; Corrupt Practices and other Related
Offences (ICPC) Act 2004); Code of Conduct Act 2004; Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria 1999; Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004; Advance Fee Fraud and other Related
Offences Act 2006.
AUDJ, vol. 10, no. 3/2014, pp. 71-94
the economy
; it promotes authoritarian and oligarchic rule because it ensures that
wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few to the detriment of the
silent suffering majority. Corruption compromises the fortune of future generations
of a corrupt nation. The effect of corruption was admirably summed up by a former
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission Crime:
The corruption endemic to our region is not just about bribery, but about
mismanagement, incompetence, abuse of office, and the inability to establish
justice and the rule of law. As resources are stolen, confidence not just in
democratic governance but in the idea of just leadership ebbs away. As the lines
of authority with the government erode, so too do traditional authority structures.
In the worst cases, eventually, all that is left to hold society together is the idea
that someday it may be your day to get yours. This does little to build credible,
accountable institutions of governance or put the right policies in place.
The African Union has reported that corruption drains the region of some $140
Billion a year, which is about 25% of the continent’s official GDP… between
1960 and 1999, Nigerian officials had stolen or wasted more than $440 billion.
This is six times the Marshall plan, the total sum needed to rebuild a devastated
Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. When you look across a nation
and a continent riddled with poverty and weak institutions, and you think of what
this money could have done- only then can you truly understand the crime of
corruption, and the almost inhuman indifference that is required by those who
wield it for personal gain… I stand by the idea that corruption is responsible for as
many deaths as the combined results of conflicts and HIV/AIDS on the African
continent. (Ribadu, 2009)
The UNs top anti-crime official, Antonio Costa, identifies Zaire and Nigeria as two of Africa”s
hardest-hit states, having lost some $5 billion each in the last few years to graft, most of it spirited out
of bo th countries. In Pakistan, an estimated 30 percent of the price of all public works p rojects is
dedicated to kickbacks and bribes. In Bangladesh, corruption consumes a whopping 50 percent of
foreign investment. As high as that price tag stands, there are even more alarming activities, what
officials call the intermingling of terrorism, money laundering and corruption. “The routes for arms
trafficking and d rugs are usually lubricated by corruption,” Costa said. He estimated that about one-
quarter of the $2 billion in annual proceeds from Afghan heroin trade a trade that couldn”t survive
without graft may be used to finance terrorism. Corruption also represents “a tax on the poor… it
steals from the needy to enrich the wealthy,” “ Ashcroft told the convention in Merida, M exico City.
That is especially true in Africa and Asia, two regions which have never signed such a pact before,
where embezzled money is usually sent abroad to a rich banking capital:” M. Stevenson, “UN
Countries Reveal Costs of Corruption” (Johannesburg: Associated Press, 2003)

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