Home Q & A Reporting on corruption cases should not be sensational – Cristina Albertin

Reporting on corruption cases should not be sensational – Cristina Albertin

The Country Representative of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Nigeria, Cristina Albetin spoke with Omotolani Alamu on the activities of the agency in the justice sector. Excerpts:

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Which issues do you think are the strongest factors militating against justice administration in Nigeria?

When we talk about justice in Nigeria, a very important issue is that justice is very much often delayed. Then there is the fact that we see overcrowded prisons. And when I visited the prisons, there are really like 70% of the people detained that haven’t been brought to justice and have not been tried. And this is something serious because, we know according to declaration of human rights, every person has a right to express fair trial in time. But I think what Nigeria needs to look into, is why justice is so delayed.

I think one of the key factors is that not everybody has to be in prison because of an offence. We have to look at the seriousness of the offence and of the crime. Of course, very serious crimes like murder can warrant punishment; but maybe small thefts don’t warrant imprisonment.

I think the other issue is also how to make the justice system more effective and I think it has to do with capacity building; it has to do with knowledge. Maybe it has to do with operational tools and so on and this is exactly where which we have worked. I was also at the Nigerian Bar Association meeting and this is what the lawyer brought forward, that they really capacity building.

According to UNODC report, police and judges are among the most corrupt public officials in Nigeria. How does this affect access to justice for ordinary Nigerians?

In reference to this survey we recently, to find out about the interface when citizens are in contact with public officials, if they have to pay bribe and how high the bribe are and the police, of course, is a group that interacts a lot with citizens because you see them all the time. They on the road or you have to report a crime and this why they scored a very high percentage. I think this is something each institution has to take up because, I think, each institution has to have mechanisms not to allow bribery and also to have combination of disciplinarian measures, if the oversight measures are not effective enough.

On the other hand also, what we usually recommend is that police officers or any other public officials have to have training program. There should be a workable code of conduct so, when you have any new police officer or new judiciary officer or any others public officer, when they come on board, they should be monitored training and of course it is not enough to do one duty of the institutions to really be an institution that is characterized by integrity.

Albertin being serenaded by drummers at Osogbo

What would you say is the major impact of UNODC intervention in the fight against corruption in Nigeria since you started this project?

Well, I mean, you can’t attribute only any achievement to us alone because this is a partnership project. When we work with the government, we agreed together on what we want to do and in the areas of combatting corruption over the last five years, we have seen quiet some progress both in the area of law enforcement and also on the supply and demand side. For example, we worked with a lot of officials, we also reached out to the national and states legal drafting bodies.

We facilitated the anti- corruption academy and some of the important things that came out, I think here in Nigeria, they have been focusing very much on investigating and prosecution of large scale corruption cases and not too much success has been seen. But of course, I mean, there has been successful prosecutions and assets recovered. However, asset recovery and prosecution is only one side of anti-corruption fight. The other side is to work on education, prevention and awareness-raising and, like I said, staff in the private and public sectors have to be trained. The general public should also be regularly sensitized on the need to keep the country free of corruption.

How can the UNODC build the capacity of the media in the fight against corruption?

During the last five years, we have quite an active engagement with social media that has been a very unique aspect of our corporate project. There has been a lot of round table and media work. We have a regular radio program in Nigeria, which was reaching out every week to give support to the anti-corruption agencies to present their mandate and work to Nigerians.

Let me just go back to the survey that recently show that actually the anti corruption agencies are as well known as they may need to be; also there are agencies you can go to if you want to report corruption. I think a lot still have to been done, of course and we depend on the good will and interest of the media also to work on the issue. I think one of the important lessons we also emphasize is that the reporting on corruption should be also be evidence-based and effective and not be sensationalized.