Monday, June 10, 2013

The Fight Against Corruption is Continuous Commitment

This week the U.S. Embassy, Abuja, is hosting an anti-corruption program with U.S. Speaker Peter Ainsworth.  Peter Ainsworth is Senior Deputy Chief for Litigation - Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division in the Department of Justice.  His section investigates and prosecutes public corruption, election law, and conflicts of interest offenses nationally and internationally.  In addition he personally serves as lead attorney on high-profile matters handled by the Section.  One such high profile case is that of Rickie Scruggs, a highly influential, highly connected and rich Attorney in the State of Mississippi who tried to bribe Judge Henry Lackey, which Mr. Ainsworth used as a case study in his interaction with civil society groups this morning at the National Center for Women Development in Abuja.  The program was put together in collaboration with the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).

Mr. Ainsworth recalled Rickie Scruggs, a brother-in-law to former U.S. Senate Majority leader Trent Lott, made a fortune in the 1990’s in litigations against tobacco companies.  He had private jets, yachts and several luxury cars, and was friends with highly placed politicians.  Mr. Scruggs refused to honor an agreement with a lawyer, to share proceeds of a case if successful, and the lawyer sued him.  The case came before the court of Judge Henry Lackey, and in his attempt to win a favorable decision, Mr. Scruggs tried to bribe the Judge.  One of the first things Judge Lackey did was to report the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  After months of investigation, Mr. Scruggs was charged to court, tried, found guilty and is currently serving a seven-year jail term for bribery.

Drawing from this story, Mr. Ainsworth encouraged discussion on corruption in high places and what can be done to confront it.  The first question he posed to the audience was on the action of Judge Lackey in calling the FBI to report the bribe attempt.  In the Nigerian context “why shouldn’t Judge Lackey call the authorities to report?” asked Mr. Ainsworth.  The responses included lack of trust of the law enforcements agents in Nigeria, the safety of the judge and members of his family, possibility of his career being affected negatively and also his action could be viewed as an attempt to seek cheap publicity.  In addition, the suspects, especially if they are highly placed, might never be prosecuted or punished.  Interestingly the Speaker pointed out that every single reason mentioned in the Nigerian context is also applicable to the U.S.

Next Mr. Ainsworth wanted the audience to think and come up with ideas about how people like Judge Lackey can be protected.  The audience said first and foremost whistleblowers must be protected by law.  In addition cases should be successfully prosecuted, to encourage others to come forward.  Leaks must also be prevented from happening, and at some point, those charged with the responsibility of conducting investigations should be trusted to do so.  There were several suggestions, but the bottom line is that the fight against corruption is a continuous commitment and those fighting corruption must never give up.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

 “We’ve got to sit down and thoughtfully create these rules that will protect the guy, protect the Henry Lackey’s of this world, protect our investigations, but still allow us to get to the bottom of this.  And this is not impossible.  It took us (U.S.) a while to get there but it’s not impossible.”

This blog will keep you posted throughout the week about this important event. 

2 comments:

  1. I mean CORRUPTION in Nigeria is as a RESULT of political DECEPTION over the years. It has SICKENED the nation, it has affected the people. In fact the CORRUPTION in the upper sector has greatly affected the lower sector.
    DARKNESS is within the nation; the future of Nigeria seems bleak. In a nation where the UNEDUCATED, crooks etc are made leaders(it's a fact ), how can a significant progress be made.
    For example; how can a Nation that produces crude sell a liter of gasoline almost one dollar? It doesn't make sense to me; at all.
    How can a nation that has more than 50% of its people living in POVERTY still boost of the greatest number of private JETS??
    How can NIGERIA move progress appreciably when 70 per cent of its resources are WASTED on salaries and emoluments??
    Look at the SEGREGATION among the people. Look at the hate among the people;nobody truths nobody. Some, looking to inhumanly prey on others. I could just go on & on.
    Why should other smaller countries survive(in their little way) while NIGERIA plunges more into doom??? Why ?? Don't the leaders etc see this, can't they come together to MAKE some issues right??? Oooh!My Nigeria.

    I now no country is perfect but the case of Nigeria should have been DIFFERENT.
    In a nation where only whatever goes.
    The best way to fight corruption is through EDUCATION(Look at it critically)

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