By Nwaorgu Faustinus
Call me whatever you like after reading this piece. Since the advent of the 4th republic on May 29, 1999, I have continued to watch developments, trends, situations, actions, inactions and events with particular reference on how the affairs of the Geo-political entity called Nigeria is being piloted by our rulers, politicians, government institution among others and have arrived at a conclusion that Nigeria is regrettably, unfortunately and pitiably a clime where absurdity dwell.
My view on this is not far to seek given recent issues that have continued to rear their ugly heads in our body polity. It is in this country of ours that you will see political, institutional, government; ministerial criminals etc. who are hand-in-glove with the government in power, use their position to launch economic rape on public fund or our collective patrimony. Today you see high-powered criminal politicians celebrated – undeserving awards of this or that is now being extended to such people who should hide their face in shame for the public odium which their kleptomaniac disposition has caused them as well as the nation. However, the reverse is the case.
It is still fresh in the minds of many how an Ex-convict – Olabode Georg fresh from jail was given not only heroic welcome, stupendous party but also an award. The Kwame Nkrumah Africa Leadership Prize award which came from a student leader of a decidedly leftist organisation – National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), according to reports was given to Mr Bode George for his impressive efforts in youth development and education based on the recommendation of its parent body – AASU, an abbreviation for All Africa Student Union. According to the student leader, this is a man who has awarded over 1000 scholarships and grants to indigent students, he deserves to be honoured. Chief Bode George was selected from among the many nominees for the 2012 award based on his commitment to youth development and his defence of democratic institutions. This is incongruous to say the least. The body should not have given such an award based on the fact that he was a criminal and not the other way round. The leadership of the student union should review its constitution and put in place a clause where a prospective awardee will forfeit his or her award hinged on the ground of criminal conviction no matter the great contribution the individual must have made to uplift indigent students in order to bring integrity into its body and not public condemnation.
It is in a Nigerian court that criminals like James Ibori would be found guiltless but convicted in London on the same charges brought against him in a Nigerian court. Some other governors apart from Ibori have in the past been charged with corrupt practices but what do you hear and see? They were given clean bill of health by way of discharging and acquitting them. Some do go extra miles to secure injunction that would make it impossible to prosecute them on corrupt practices and the injunction will be granted. A good example is that of Ex- governor Peter Odili of Rivers State. Mrs. Cecilia Ibru and former MD/CEO of Oceanic Bank now Eco Bank was jailed for a paltry of 6 months for pinching 54 billion Naira. Again, Tafa Balogun a former Inspector General of Police was sentenced to only 6 months in prison for N20 billion naira frauds. The duo of Balogun and Cecilia served their prison terms at well-furnished home or hospital where they were adequately taken care of. Recently, former boss of Police Pension Board, Yakubu Yusufu was jailed two years for stealing N39 billion Pension Fund with option fine of N250,000. When one juxtapose the prison terms given to the big thieves in relation to the term given to petty robbers the words of Mr. Chinedu Vincent Akuta comes to mind, ‘What is worrisome is that poor Nigerians are left to rot in Nigerian prisons, for little or no offences, compared to what the “big and mighty” Nigerians are doing’. Are we really comfortable with these odious trends?
As long as these sentences together with the option of fines are concerned, the Nigerian Judiciary should be reminded that it is setting a dangerous precedent. If our justice system continues to give such miserly prison terms to these unrepentant and conscienceless rogues who have made it a habit to ravage or despoil the commonwealth of Nigerians, what is it then telling the future leaders of this country? May be, go you out there – in the political, banking, educational, agricultural sector, among other areas of endeavour which you prefer, use your position or connection to amass breath-taking wealth either by hook or crook, we are here to protect your interest by reducing your prison term as long as you settle us with part of the loot. We can grant you injunction stopping or restraining EFCC, ICPC, any person or group that tries to investigate arrest or arraign you in the court. We can also give you a clean bill of health thus – you are hereby acquitted and discharged on all the corruption charges brought against you by your accusers (as it is in the case of Mr. James Ibori). Go ye therefore to your family, wife and children and enjoy your toil. Is this what the judiciary is telling us to do with the encouraging sentences and fines given to these rogues?
No I do not think so but it seems to be what they are telling us to do. I therefore call on the Nigeria justice system to look inwards by reviewing the prison terms and fines given to those who have sworn with their life that they would continue to convert, steal, ravage, and plunder our commonwealth for selfish, greedy and avaricious ends at the slightest opportunity they get. The Nigerian judiciary should henceforth refrain from granting injunction that would likely stall investigation, arrest and arraignment of persons with charges of corruption no matter who the person is. Capital punishment and freezing of bank accounts would not be a bad option for those who have been found guilty of charges bordering on corruption. They should also confiscate and sell the proceeds of such ill-gotten wealth (public fund) in terms of landed property, companies, and vehicles, etc. which should be proportionate to the amount they stole. The above recommendation if implemented to the letter will definitely serve as deterrent to others who might try to enrich themselves corruptly via public fund and thus restore the hope Nigerians have in the judiciary.
Nwaorgu Faustinus wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org