He made the observations in his speech delivered at the public presentation of a book written by Senator Dino Melaye titled, ‘Antidote for Corruption: The Nigerian Story’.
The Senate president noted that the way the fight against corruption is being coordinated is denying the fight the required victory needed, noting that a change of structure and plans are needed before any tangible result can be achieved.
According to Saraki, the desire to punish offenders as being pursued in the fight against corruption rather than achieving deterrence and putting a permanent stop to the menace has not given rooms for any tangible achievement in the war against graft.
The ethics of justice dispensation which always err on the side of caution aimed at not punishing an innocent person unjustly, according to Saraki, has also erected a strong barricade against fast dispensation of justice in the courts when corruption cases are on trial.
“I am convinced that we must return to that very basic medical axiom that prevention is better than cure.
“Perhaps, the reason our fight against corruption has met with rather limited success is that we appeared to have favoured punishment over deterrence.
“The problem with that approach, however, is that the justice system in any democracy is primarily inclined to protect the fundamental rights of citizens.
“Therefore, it continues to presume every accused as innocent until proven guilty.
“Most often, it is difficult to establish guilt beyond all reasonable doubts as required by our laws. It requires months, if not years of painstaking investigations. It requires highly experienced and technically sound investigation and forensic officers. It requires anti-corruption agents and agencies that are truly independent and manifestly insulated from political interference and manipulation. We must admit that we are still far from meeting these standards”, he said.
Describing the anti-corruption war now as a circus meant to amuse rather than achieve anything tangible, Saraki said, “Most often, therefore, because our anti-corruption agencies are under pressure to justify their existence and show that they are working, they often tend to prefer the show over the substance.
“However, while the show might provide momentary excitement or even public applause, it does not substitute for painstaking investigation that can guarantee convictions”.
He further said, “I reiterate, therefore, that we must review our approaches in favour of building systems that makes it a lot more difficult to carry out corrupt acts or to find a safe haven for corruption proceeds within our borders.
“In doing this, we must continue to strengthen accountability, significantly limit discretion in public spending, and promote greater openness”.
But the Senate president noted that it was not all gloom as far as the fight on corruption was concerned.
He applauded the Buhari administration for bringing the issue back to limelight which in the last two years has been the main discourse in governance in the country.
“One area I believe we have made remarkable progress in the past two years of the Buhari led administration is that corruption has been forced back to the top of our national political agenda.
“Every single day, you read the newspapers, you listen to the radio, you go on the internet, you watch the television, the people are talking about it.
“The people are demanding more openness, more accountability and more convictions. Those of us in government are also responding, joining the conversation and accepting that the basis of our legitimacy as government is our manifest accountability to the people.
“We acknowledge that if we want Nigerians to trust their government again, then government at all levels must demonstrate that we are not in office for the pursuit of private gains, but to make our people happier by helping them to meet their legitimate aspirations and achieve a higher quality of life.
“What all these mean is that despite all that we have experienced over the years, Nigeria and Nigerians have not accepted corruption as normal; that we recognise it as a problem; that we are determined to make a break with our past and live by different rules”.