Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says before the creation of anti-graft bodies, the media was in the forefront in the fight against corruption.
While fielding questions from journalists at the launch of Up Right For Nigeria, an anti-corruption campaign organized by the Centre for Communication and Social Impact, in Lagos on Monday, Falana recalled how journalists, during the military regimes, stayed on corruption stories till they got the needed intervention.
“The media is very crucial,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, before the birth of the EFCC and ICPC, it was the media that was fighting corruption in Nigeria. Many of you will not understand when we say if you taka me, I will dabo you.
“In the 70s, what that meant; Taka was the most powerful minister under Gowon. Dabo was a businessman. Dabo knew he had done some deals, so he exposed him and the media at that time would feast on that story and would not let go until that minister was forced to resign from the government.”
Falana said, in those days, when a corrupt official is known, an affidavit was filed in court and sent round the media houses.
“When the press took on Gowon’s friends then, his government started arresting and detaining people illegally,” he said.
“Of course, the media continued and at that stage when the Murtala government came in and made anti-corruption the cornerstone of his administration, over 10,000 civil servants were sacked, judges and the rest of them.”
Falana also lashed lawyers who frustrate judgment of corruption cases.
“We’ve just been told now that two former governors have been jailed. Nyame and Dariye,” he said.
“Dariye brought shame on us when he jumped bail in the UK. His case started in 2007, up to three years ago, he was still dancing from high court to supreme court. Then, supreme court now told him, go and stand trial, it is not the duty of lawyers to frustrate cases, and that is why he got convicted.”