The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, has charged the federal government to ensure fairness and transparency in its fight against corruption to avoid creating an impression of witch- hunt.
He gave the advice at the weekend and admitted that there was an intolerable level of corruption in the country, but the battle should be fought without being sentimental or biased.
“Government should not let people have a feeling that the war on corruption is about targeting a few people. My feelings about this whole thing are based on my understanding of the fact that the kind of corruption we had in Nigeria was systemic and endemic.
“While not saying that people who stole money should be allowed to go free, it would have been better that the emphasis was laid on re-organising and restructuring the system of governance, in such a way that it would not be easy for anybody to steal money again”, Onaiyekan said.
He noted that it would be difficult to find anybody, who had occupied any political position, in the last 20 years, in this country, that was truly clean. While reacting to the trial of former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, Onaiyekan said that government should be careful and protect those who could be facing trial based on having made enemies, while in government.
“If we have a situation where someone had stepped on some toes, while in government and he is now being unjustly punished, it should be the concern of government that such does not happen. But it’s quite disheartening the way we deal with the so called corrupt people. Government needs to carefully address it, so as not to give an impression of a witch-hunt. Why do you pounce on one person and leave others?”
Onaiyekan also advised that the independence of the judiciary should be upheld to enable them discharge their functions without fear or favour.
“When we talk about structures, we are to include not only how business should be conducted in the civil service, but how the law should be administered. The whole scenario of 100 lawyers invading a court over one case is ridiculous. We should find a way to prevent such charade. We have to see that judges are in a position to do their work without intimidation and harassment.
“When I see the way some cases are going, I become a bit worried. Some of the judges have even come out to say that they were under strong influences, that they were not free to do their work. How many of them can resist any influence from above and from different places? We are back to the rules and to how things are done properly. It would have been preferred if the process of dealing with the cases of corruption can be dispensed without too much rigmarole and ensure that justice is done”, the cleric said.