Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday that official corruption and privatisation of public enterprises have led to huge losses in public revenue.
Osinbajo spoke at the 55th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja.
According to him, the penchant for graft was high and Nigerians spent a lot of time meant for creativity to pursue wealth.
He said: “Official corruption and privatisation of public resources have caused massive losses in public revenue.
“Indeed the truth is stranger than fiction in this matter of corruption in the public service. Dysfunctional government bureaucracies, waste and misallocation of resources.
“A great deal of talent and enterprise that should focus on creativity and innovation is concentrated in wealth seeking activities,” he said.
The Vice President also urged lawyers to find means of changing the public impression that justice could be bought and also remove the legal profession from all sorts of compromise.
He noted that enforcing contracts and the general area of dispute resolution in the country were bugged down by “judicial process that is slow, burdensome and notoriously open to dilatory tactics.”
Osinbajo went on: “Perhaps even more damaging to attracting investments is the largely and compelling narrative that Justice can be purchased.
“This is a major problem of perception in our justice system and of cause a major problem of bringing business in the country. Even local investment suffers when there is a sense that the Justice system can be compromised.”
The Vice President said that it was absolutely important that integrity in the judicial system is dealth with, just as the overall question of corruption is dealth with.
He pointed out that if corruption is not handled squarely, the justice system will be so degraded that it will be practically impossible to get very much done or to encourage anyone to come into Nigerian economy.
He advised the NBA members to find ways of ensuring that authentic dispute resolution were not caught up in the slow moving justice system.
“Applications of all types in the civil courts to stop or delay arbitrary processes run their slow course in many business disputes. An economy that must provide jobs for 80 per cent of graduates from our universities and a youth unemployment population of 40 per cent cannot afford destructive delays in creating these wealth opportunities.” He said
The Vice President said it was the plan of the administration to initiate consultations at the highest levels of government to re-write the story of the nation’s business environment.
He listed some current challenges in power, infrastucture, employment, and monetary policies as he assured that the administration was committed to finding lasting solutions to them.
A former President of the NBA, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, (SAN) said that the citizenry needed more action from the government to demonstrate the need for change in the country.
He said the NBA was glad that government was talking tough on corruption and that the Association was ready to key into the programme.
“One of the challenges we are posing to government is that we have had so much of talking on different issues. What we would now like to see is action.
“So, if for instance you say you want to fight corruption, in what way? How will you be able to recover all the loot because access to that is easy? I think the essence of the conference is that when we leave here government can begin to take action that we can measure.
“If you want to turn around poverty we can see so. If you want to see new jobs, NBA is demanding action from our government.’’ he said
He said that it was not true that counsel were deliberately slowing down legal processes and said it was the responsibility of judges to speed up all legal matters.