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States’ anti-corruption law a progressive step, lawyers, civil society speak



Some lawyers and civil society activists have commended states, including Lagos, that have passed laws to fight corruption.

They believe that the recently passed laws would help foster transparency in government.

The Lagos State House of Assembly recently passed a bill titled: ‘Lagos State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law’, which has been assented to by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Some of those who spoke about the bill, also commended the state for being proactive noting that positive steps so far taken by successive governments in the state have succeeded in putting it above others in the federation.

They argued that the setting up of the anti-corruption law is not the exclusive preserve of the federal government since it is not an item on the exclusive or the concurrent lists in the constitution.

They also argued that since states have the powers to generate revenue and establish policies on taxation, they should also have the powers to regulate how the revenue generated are utilised for public good.

A Nigerian, Oyibo Sylvester, who made his comment on social media in reaction to the law, urged other states to emulate Lagos.

“Every state must have power to investigate financial fraud done by the present or past government, because such money belong to the state government. So if the money in question is stolen from the state treasury, this agency have (sic) the power to investigate,” he said.

A senior lawyer, who said he could not speak much on the law since he has not acquainted himself with its content, however, said the state should be commended for taking what he termed a bold step.

“Politicians are seen as greedy and shady. So, if Lagos decides to pass an anti-corruption law, then those who took part in the process should be commended.

“Moreover, the constitution does not bar states from fighting corruption. And if the clamour for true federalism is anything to go by, then laws like this must suffice,” he said.

Asked if it would not amount to duplicity since there are federal anti-corruption agencies, the lawyer, who would not want his name mentioned until he reads the new law, argued that the states make laws for the generation of revenues and as a result, they should be in the best positions to monitor how funds are utilised.

“There has been this argument among lawyers on the legality of federal anti-graft agencies probing corruption allegations in states which are supposed to independently generate and manage their resources. Note that states have had to wrestle the federal government to return monies recovered from corrupt people to them (the states). That shows the states have powers to recover stolen money,” he said.

Earlier speaking concerning the bill, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was quoted as saying the constitution gives states the right to make such laws.

“The Lagos State law is valid,” Ozekhome said arguing that since the House of Assembly makes laws concerning taxation and related issues, it also has powers to protect diversion of funds.

Ozekhome added: “It follows that anyone who commits a crime concerning such charges, fees or taxes is subject to the House of Assembly and that amounts to what is called an economic crime. It is therefore the House of Assembly that has the jurisdiction to deal with economic crime within its own jurisdiction, not the Federal Government through the National Assembly like a principal controlling its pupils.

“Therefore, the law made by the Lagos Assembly regarding financial crimes is a valid law in line with Section 4 of the constitution and the Second Schedule Part 1 and 2 of the exclusive and concurrent legislative list.

“If the EFCC wants to enforce its act, it should go to other states except Lagos because Lagos now has its own law. It is the same way the Federal High Court has rules guiding it.”

In a statement by the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, its director, Debo Adeniran, commended the state government over the law.

He said from the governor’s position, “we could see how the anti-corruption Commission would be the ‘brainbox’ or engine room of the state government in the fight against corruption in the state, especially as they relate to government and public officials and CACOL, as an anti-corruption group with its component organisations, would solidly lend its unalloyed support in this patriotic duty, as the entire world focus on the nation to overcome the destructive ogre of corruption within the shortest time possible.”

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