Corruption in the Sheriff Corps in Lagos State – Bayo Akinlade

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CORRUPTION IN THE SHERIFF CORPS IN LAGOS STATE

Being a short presentation by Bayo Akinlade Esq. At the 2018 Sheriffs of the Lagos State Judiciary Two -Week Workshop for Newly Appointed Sheriff Corps Held at the Judges Recreation Centre, Ikeja

What is Corruption…

In general, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit. Corruption may include any activities such as bribery, extortion and embezzlement.

Corruption can occur on different scales. Corruption ranges from small favours between a small number of people (petty corruption), to corruption that affects the government on a large scale (grand corruption), and corruption that is so prevalent that it is part of the everyday structure of society. Corruption and crime are endemic sociological occurrences which appear with regular frequency in virtually all countries on a global scale in varying degree and proportion. (Wikipedia).

Scales of corruption

Petty Corruption

Petty corruption occurs at a smaller scale and takes place at the implementation end of public services when public officials meet the public. For example, in many small places such as registration offices, police stations, state licensing boards, and many other private and government sectors.

Grand Corruption

Grand corruption is defined as corruption occurring at the highest levels of government in a way that requires significant subversion of the political, legal and economic systems. Such corruption is commonly found in countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments but also in those without adequate policing of corruption.

The government system in many countries is divided into the legislative, executive and judiciary branches in an attempt to provide independent services that are less subject to grand corruption due to their independence from one another.

Systemic Corruption

Systemic corruption (or endemic corruption) is corruption which is primarily due to the weaknesses of an organization or process. It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system. Factors which encourage systemic corruption include conflicting incentives, discretionary powers; monopolistic powers; lack of transparency; low pay; and a culture of impunity. Specific acts of corruption include bribery, extortion, and embezzlement in a system where corruption becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Methods

Bribery: Bribery involves the improper use of gifts and favours in exchange for personal gain. This is also known as kickbacks. It is the common form of corruption. The types of favours given are diverse and may include money, gifts, sexual favours, company shares, entertainment, employment and political benefits. The personal gain that is given can be anything from actively giving preferential treatment to having an indiscretion or crime overlooked. Bribery can sometimes form a part of the systemic use of corruption for other ends, for example to perpetrate further corruption. Bribery can make officials more susceptible to blackmail or to extortion.

Embezzlement, Theft and Fraud: Embezzlement and theft involve someone with access to funds or assets illegally taking control of them. Fraud involves using deception to convince the owner of funds or assets to give them up to an unauthorized party. Examples include the misdirection of funds into the pockets of corrupt employees, scams and other corrupt activity.

Extortion and blackmail: While bribery is the use of positive inducements for corrupt aims, extortion and blackmail centre on the use of threats. This can be the threat of violence or false imprisonment as well as exposure of an individual’s secrets or prior crimes. This includes such behaviour as an influential person threatening to go to the media if they do not receive speedy medical treatment (at the expense of other patients), threatening a public official with exposure of their secrets if they do not vote in a particular manner, or demanding money in exchange for continued secrecy.

Influence peddling: Influence peddling is the illegal practice of using one’s influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment.

Abuse of discretion: Abuse of discretion refers to the misuse of one’s powers and decision-making facilities.

Favouritism and Nepotism: Favouritism and Nepotism involve the favouring of not the perpetrator of corruption but someone related to them, such as a friend, family member or member of an association. Examples would include hiring or promoting a family member or staff member to a role they are not qualified for, who belongs to the same political party as you, regardless of merit.

Economist Ian Senior defines corruption as an action to (a) secretly provide (b) a good or a service to a third party (c) so that he or she can influence certain actions which (d) benefit the corrupt, a third party, or both (e) in which the corrupt agent has authority.

The research work on social corruption developed at The Unicist Research Institute defines that corruption allows individuals to profit from the environment through illegitimate actions while they disintegrate the system they are part of.

Causes of corruption

According to a 2017 survey study, the following factors have been attributed as causes of corruption: Greed of money, power, Luxury or any other materialistic desires, Low levels of democracy, weak civil participation and low political transparency. Others are; Higher levels of bureaucracy and inefficient administrative structures, Poverty, Political instability and low levels of education.

“The Judiciary is about Justice Delivery, its focus is to do this more effectively and more transparently. Its primary task is to dispense Justice without fear or favour. It is the LAST HOPE of the COMMON MAN”

The principal profession within the Judiciary is the Legal Profession; all other professions within the Judiciary are primarily for Administrative Support including the Sheriff Corps. The Judges, Magistrates and Lawyers depend heavily on the Sheriff Corps….you are the beginning and the end of most litigation and without the sheriff Corps the Judiciary cannot dispense justice adequately.

The Sheriff Corps is not immune to corruption; however mechanisms are in place to monitor Sheriff Corps members and to punish whoever breaks the law.

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LAWS ON CORRUPTION

Nigeria is one of the countries which has perennially battled corruption. As a result, there are several laws which deal with corruption. Let us look at a few of the main ones:

  1. THE 1999 CONSTITUTION

The Constitution is the most important law in the country. In the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution (the Code of Conduct), it prohibits public officers from accepting property or benefits of any kind for him/herself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties.

  1. THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIME COMMISSION (EFCC) ACT

The EFCC Act is the Act which established Nigeria’s anti-fraud agency. Section 46 of the Act defines “economic crime” as a – nonviolent criminal activity committed with the objectives of earning wealth illegally. The Act mandates the EFCC to combat financial and economic crimes and empowers it to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes. Apart from establishing the agency it has several sections which deal with financial crimes and corruption, and provide penalties for breach of those sections.

  1. THE CORRUPT PRACTICES & OTHER RELATED OFFENCES ACT

The act seeks to prohibit and prescribe punishment for corrupt practices and other related offences. It established the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) vesting it with the responsibility for investigation and prosecution of offenders thereof. The Act generally prohibits the various perceived acts of corrupt practices arising from interactions or transactions involving public/government officers and the general public or private individuals. The main aim of the Act is prohibition of corrupt practices and bribery; however it also seeks to curb corrupt practices in private business transactions and inter personal relationships among individuals and persons.

  1. CRIMINAL CODE

The Criminal Code is applicable in most of the States in Southern Nigeria, and has several sections which deal with corruption and unjust enrichment, specifically by public officials. For instance, Section 98 of the Criminal Code deals with the offence of corruption by defining what it is and prescribing an offence for corruption and its related offences.

Let us examine the Criminal Code in detail: 

Chapter 12

Corruption and Abuse of Office 

  1. (1) any public official (as defined in section 98D) who- 

(a)  Corruptly asks for, receives or obtains any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person; or bribes, etc., 

(b)  Corruptly agrees or attempts to receive or obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person, on account of- 

(i) anything already, done or omitted, or any favour or disfavour already shown to any person, by himself in the discharge of his official duties or in relation to any matter connected with the functions, affairs or business of a Government department, public body or other organisation or institution in which he is serving as a public official, or 

(ii) anything to be afterwards done or omitted, or any favour or disfavour to be afterwards shown to any person, by himself in the discharge of his official duties or in relation to any such matter as aforesaid, is guilty of the felony of official corruption and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. 

(2)  If in any proceedings for an offence under this section it is proved that any property or benefit of any kind, or any promise thereof, was received by a public official, or by some other person at the instance of a public official, from a person- 

(i) holding, or seeking to obtain, a contract, licence or permit from a Government department, public body or other organisation or institution in which that public official is serving as such, or 

(ii) concerned, or likely to be concerned, in any proceeding or business transacted, pending or likely to be transacted before or by that public official or a government department, public body or other organisation or institution in which that public official is serving as such, or by or from any person acting on behalf of or related to such a person, the property, benefit or promise shall, unless the contrary is proved, he deemed to have been received corruptly on account of such a past or future act, omission, favour or disfavour as is mentioned in subsection (1)(i) or (ii). 

(3) In any proceedings for an offence under this section to which subsection (1)(ii) is relevant it shall not be a defence to show that the accused- 

(a) Did not subsequently do, make or show the act, omission, favour or disfavour in question; or 

(b) Never intended to do, make or show it. 

(4) Without prejudice to subsection (3), where a police officer or other public official whose official duties include the prosecution detention or punishment of offenders is charged with an offence under this section in connection with- 

(a) The arrest, detention or prosecution of any person for an alleged offence; or 

(b) An omission to arrest, detain or prosecute any person for an alleged offence; or 

(c) The investigation of an alleged offence, it shall not be necessary to prove that the accused believed that the offence mentioned in paragraph (a), (b),or (c), or any other offence, had been committed. 

98A.(1)  Any person who- Official corruption: person giving bribes, etc., on account of actions of public Official. 

(a) corruptly gives, confers or procures any property or benefit of any kind to, on or for a public official (as defined in section 98D) or to, on or for any other person; or 1966 No. 84. 

(b) corruptly promises or offers to give or confer or to procure or attempt to procure any property or benefit of any kind to, on or for a public official or to, on or for any other person, on account of any such act, omission, favour or disfavour on the part of the public official as is mentioned in section 98(1)(i) or (ii), is guilty of the felony of official corruption and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. 

(2) If in any proceedings for an offence under this section it is proved that any property or benefit of any kind, or any promise thereof, was given to a public official, or to some other person at the instance of a public official, by a person- 

(i) holding, or seeking to obtain, a contract, licence or permit from a Government department, public body or other organisation or institution in which that public official is serving as such, or 

(ii) concerned, or likely to be concerned, in any proceeding or business transacted, pending or likely to be transacted before or by that public official or a government department, public body or other organisation or institution in which that public official is serving as such,  or by or from any person acting on behalf of or related to such a person, the property, benefit or promise shall unless the contrary is proved be deemed to have been given corruptly on account of such a past or future act, omission, favour or disfavour as is mentioned in section 98(1)(i) or (ii). 

98B.(1) Any person who– 

(a) Corruptly asks for, receives or obtains ‘any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person; or 

(b) Corruptly agrees or attempts to receive or obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person, on account of- 

(i) anything already done or omitted, or any favour or disfavour already shown to any person, by a public official (as defined in section 98D) in the discharge of his official duties or in relation to any matter connected with the functions, affairs or business of a Government department, public body or other organisation or institution in which the public official is serving as such; or 

(ii)  anything to be afterwards done or omitted, or any favour or disfavour to be afterwards shown to any person, by a public official in the discharge of his official duties or in relation to any such matter as aforesaid, is guilty of the felony of official corruption and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. 

(2) In any proceedings for an offence under this section it shall not be necessary to prove- 

(a) That any public official counselled the commission of the offence; or 

(b) That in the course of committing the offence the accused mentioned any particular public official; or 

(c) That (in a case to which subsection (1)(ii) is relevant) the accused believed that any public official would do, make or show the act, omission, favour or disfavour in question; or 

(d) that the accused intended to give the property or benefit in question, or any part thereof, to a public official. 

98D. In sections 98 to 98B, “public official” means any person employed in the public service (within the meaning of that expression as defined in section 1(1)) or any judicial officer within the meaning of section 98c. 

  1. Any person who, being employed in the public service, takes, Or accepts from any person, for the performance of his duty as such officer, any reward beyond his proper pay and emoluments, or any promise of such reward, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. 
  1. (Deleted by 1966 No. 84.) 
  1. Any person who, being employed in the public service, knowingly acquires or holds, directly or indirectly, otherwise than as a member of a registered joint stock company consisting of more than twenty persons, a private interest in any contract or agreement which is made on account of the public service with respect to any matter concerning the department of the service in which he is employed, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years, and to be fined at the discretion of the court. 

                The offender cannot be arrested without warrant. 

  1. Any person who, being employed in the public service, and being charged by virtue of his employment with any judicial or administrative duties respecting property of a special character, respecting the carrying on of any manufacture, trade, or business of a special character, and having acquired or holding, directly or indirectly, a private interest in any such property, manufacture, trade, or business, discharges any such duties with respect to the property, manufacture, trade, or business in which he has such interest, or with respect to the conduct of any person in relation thereto, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year. 
  1. Any person who, being employed in the public service in such a capacity as to require him or to enable him to furnish returns or statements touching any sum payable or claimed to be payable to himself or to any other person, or touching any other matter required to be certified for the purpose of any payment of money or delivery of goods to be made to any person, makes a return or statement touching any such matter which is to his knowledge, false in any material particular, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. 
  1. Any person who, being employed in the public service, does or directs to be done, in abuse of the authority of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of another is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years. 

 If the act is done or directed to be done for purposes of gain he is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant. 

A prosecution for any offence under this or any of the last three preceding sections shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of a law officer. 

  1. Any person who, being authorised or required by law to give any certificate touching any matter by virtue whereof the rights of any person may be prejudicially affected, gives a certificate which is, to his knowledge, false in any material particular, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment of three years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant. 
  1. Any person who administers an oath, or takes a solemn declaration or affirmation or affidavit, touching any matter with respect to which he has not by law any authority to do so, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year. This section does not apply to an oath, declaration, affirmation, or affidavit, administered or taken before a peace officer in any matter relating to the preservation of the peace or the punishment of offences, or relating to inquiries respecting sudden death; nor to an oath, declaration, affirmation, or affidavit, administered or taken for some purpose which is lawful under the laws of another country, or for the purpose of giving validity to an instrument in writing which is intended to be used in another country. 
  1. Any person who- 

(1) not being a judicial officer, assumes to act as a judicial officer; or 

(2) without authority assumes to act as a person having authority by law to administer an oath or take a solemn declaration or affirmation or affidavit, or to do any other act of a public nature which can only be done by persons authorised by law to do so; or 

(3) represents himself to be a person authorised by law to sign a document testifying to the contents of any register or record kept by lawful authority, or testifying to any fact or event, and signs such document as being so authorised, when he is not, and knows that he is not, in fact, so authorised; is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. 

The offender cannot be arrested without warrant. 

  1. Any person who-

 Touts

(1) personates any person employed in the public service on an occasion when the latter is required to do any act or attend in any place by virtue of his employment; or 

(2) falsely represents himself to be a person employed in the public service, and assumes to do any act or to attend in any place for the purpose of doing any act by virtue of such employment; is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. 

  1. MONEY LAUNDERING (PROHIBITION) ACT
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Money laundering according to the Act is when any person in or outside Nigeria directly or indirectly conceals or disguises the origin of; converts or transfers; removes from the jurisdiction; acquires, uses, retains or takes possession or control of; any fund or property, knowingly or which he/she should reasonably have known that such fund or property is, or forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act. In a nutshell, it is when an individual intends to legitimise proceeds from criminal activities. The Act prescribes penalties for money laundering related offences.

You may want to be justified for being corrupt by saying “I am not being paid enough” but let me ask:

  1. Who forced you to take the job?
  2. How much work do you even do?
  3. If your salary is insufficient, look for another job altogether or look for extra streams of income that won’t interfere with your main job

Do not think you are the only ones that have it tough? The litigant or lawyer or court user you may want to extort is someone’s father or mother or brother or sister, uncle, niece etc.

All of you here are an essential part in making the wheels of justice turn more effectively. Your position in the judiciary is so vital that justice cannot be substantially seen to be done without your inputs. Without your commitment to the service you render, without dedication to your work, without a high sense of moral persuasion which is required within the Judiciary; the judiciary can never be anyone’s LAST HOPE it most certainly won’t be yours.

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If you decide today not to be corrupted by lawyers, litigants and court users in general; you will be rewarded. Why: because people will notice and they will fight your battles for you.

The Hon. Chief Judge has identified and acknowledged that corruption in the Judiciary negatively impacts on the growth and economic development of our state and our nation. You, as Sheriffs must begin to resist the temptation and say NO to inducements and bribery. Just as we continue to encourage lawyers and litigants to refuse to give bribes, we are encouraging you not to receive bribes or extort court users.

We are watching, when you least expect it, we may come in and catch you in the act and then you will have yourselves to blame.

LET US WORK TOGETHER TO END CORRUPTION TODAY

Bayo Akinlade Esq is the National Convener of Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary and Current Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikorodu Branch

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