Senator wants accused to prove innocence, instead of accuser to prove guilt

Senator Ndume is worried the constitution is making anti-corruption agencies ineffective.

Senator Ali Ndume wants prosecutors to gain the upper hand in corruption cases

To boost Nigeria's fight against corruption, a federal lawmaker has asked that the burden of proof be shifted from the accuser to the accused.

Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South - APC) told colleagues during plenary on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 that the constitutional right of the accused, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, is a hindrance.

The veteran lawmaker said the burden of proof doctrine impedes the fight against corruption and is making the country's anti-graft agencies ineffective.

He said, "If somebody steals something and you say he must prove he stole that thing, then you have a holistic task.

"If I have a house in Abuja here that is more than the mathematics of my income and that property does not equate, then I should explain where I got the money to buy that house."

The lawmaker presented his proposal during floor debates on the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2021, and Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, 2021.

The bills seek to provide a more comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria, especially to catch up with ever-evolving global realities.

Ndume warned that passing the bills into law would be a waste of time if not evaluated critically, suggesting his proposal be seriously considered.

"The root of all problems we have in this country is as a result of corruption that's sometimes even celebrated," he said.

The lawmaker's proposal was countered by Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker-Jev (Benue North West - PDP) who said the constitutional provision he's trying to overturn is a well-recognised legal doctrine across the world.

Even though he admitted there are those that exploit legal loopholes to get away with crimes, the trained lawyer cautioned lawmakers to never consider shifting the burden of proof onto the accused unless Nigeria has become an authoritarian state.

"The law says it's better for a thousand criminals to go free than one innocent person to be convicted and sent to jail.

"That is a safeguard in our legal system," he said.

The two anti-corruption bills were passed for second reading after unanimous voice votes by senators during Wednesday's plenary.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North - APC), referred them to the Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes to report back within four weeks.

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