Activist lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has called on the Federal Government to declare how much stolen funds it has recovered since 1999.
He was joined in this call by the first woman SAN, Chief Folake Solanke at the 20th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture to celebrate the 74th birthday of the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Mike Okonkwo.
Delivering the lecture titled: “The Danger of Unequal Criminal Justice System in Nigeria”, Falana, who was the guest lecturer, said the Federal Government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had recovered over N1 trillion looted from the treasuries helped by its whistleblower policy since 1999.
However, he said the exact amount had not been declared neither had the government said what the funds were used for – though he also mentioned that N605 billion was recently recovered.
He said the government should use the funds to empower local government areas to provide jobs at the grassroots level to check unemployment and curb crime.
He said: “The Federal Government has recovered huge sums of money from looters. one of the policies of government, the whistle blowing policy, has fetched the country N605 billion as of three months ago.
“I am therefore suggesting that the billions recovered by the EFCC, let the Federal Government allocate at least N1 billion to every Local Government for job creation for our young men and women. “
Speaking on the justice system, Falana lamented that the despite the constitution providing for equality before the law, it was difficult for the poor to get justice as majority had no access to lawyers.
The rich, he alleged, are able to subvert justice by paying huge sums of money to stretch trials, get police and military connivance, or buy favourable treatment when incarcerated.
He said: “Section 17 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Nigeria talks of equality before the law. But I am sure you will all agree with me that equality before the law is a joke in any capitalist society.
“What we have done is to create agencies like the Legal Aid Council, the National Human Rights Council and individual lawyers to encourage them to ensure that the poor get justice.
“Because if the poor do not get justice, whether the government likes it or not, whether you arrest all the Sowores of this world, there will be a revolution one day. Because when the poor rise it can be dangerous in any society. It can even lead to anarchy as it is the case now.
“Yesterday what happened in Lagos – the attacks if you watched the film on television, you will know that we are in trouble.
“Some of the criminal elements opened carried the loot on their heads and the police had a hard time containing the crisis. That is why we must go out and ensure injustice in the polity is addressed”
Supporting Falana, Mrs. Solanke, who chaired the lecture, said the government owed Nigeria the duty of telling how much has been recovered from its anti-corruption drive.
To help address the problem, Falana called on Okonkwo and members of TREM to help in ensuring the poor get justice.
He suggested that the church could join magistrates to inspect police stations monthly and identify people languishing in illegal detention.
He promised to collaborate with the church to make it possible.
“To stop illegal detention, every police station shall be inspected once in a month. In a place like Lagos, we have got the chief judge to assign magistrates to inspect police stations. We can help connect with the magistrates so that every month when the magistrates are going on inspection
“By next year, this church will be rolling out how many people have been freed form illegal detention for the past one year. I know your church has a number of lawyers and I will be prepared to partner with them to ensure justice is done and served,” he said.
In her speech, while commending the organisers of the Mike Okonwkwo Secondary School Essay Competition for awarding prizes to winners who scored 50 and above, Mrs Solanke called the practice of setting admission cut-off marks at less than 50 per cent scandalous.
She said: “I am relieved that the average percentage of the winner was 68 per cent. One of my current crusades is to protest the damaging policy of educational institutions, schools, colleges, universities, the Law School…who accept less than 50 per cent as pass mark.
“As a former teacher of Latin and Mathematics in England and Nigeria, anything below 50 is a failure. Now institutions accept 40, 45, 48 as pass marks. Scandalous!
“I was appalled to hear that the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) approves 120 out of 400 as passmark. Heavens above, 120 out of 400 is 30 per cent.”
Winners of the competition, Esigbone Ferdinard of Roshallom International Secondary School, Egbeda, Lagos; Oluwaseun Aremu of Shepherd International College Ado-Ekiti ; and Adeola Ifeoluwa of Chrisfield College, Itamaga, Ikorodu got N100,000, N75,000 and N50,000 each.
Their schools also got computers. Four other finalists will get a consolation price of N20,000.