JUSTICE FOR SALE: Plea Bargain is Mockery of Justice

Published:29 Jan, 2013

President Goodluck JonathanPresident Goodluck Jonathan
| credits: nigerianbulletin.com

On Monday, a Federal Capital Territory High Court handed down the first conviction of persons involved in the theft of N32.8bn Police Pensions Fund.

However, in what seems to have turned out to be another wild goose chase in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration’s anti-graft war, the convict received what is tantamount to a slap on the wrist, considering the amount of money involved and the attendant moral issues, and not forgetting the implications for the nation’s image in the comity of nations.

A director in the Police Pensions Office, Mr. John Yusuf, alongside six others, was convicted for converting public fund to their personal use, an offence punishable under Section 309 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria, 2007.

Yusuf had used the purloined fund to amass 13 houses in the FCT and Gombe State; while he also had N325m stashed in his bank account.

Initially, Yusuf had made a “not guilty” plea, which he later changed to “guilty,” obviously in return for a light sentence, which he got.

Under the extant laws, each of the three counts of offences carries a paltry two-year jail term or an option of fine in the sum of N250,000. The two-year jail terms run concurrently. And if he is able to pay the N750,000, he will be a free man.

The presiding judge, Justice Abubakar Talba, handed down the sentence on Monday, after Yusuf had successfully utilised the doctrine of plea bargain – a process that has been bastardised in recent times by influential but corrupt public office holders in Nigeria. The list is only getting longer.

It may be recalled that on December 19, 2008, an Enugu High Court fined former Governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion, the sum of N3.5m, after he had entered into a plea bargain with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Igbinedion had faced 191-count charges which were, on December 17, 2008,  narrowed down to one after his plea bargain.

The final accusation against him was that he “neglected to make a declaration of your interest in the Account No: 4124013983110 with a new generation bank … in the declaration of assets form of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27 (3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act 2008.”

Though Igbinedion walked away a free man, the international community was not amused; and on January 12, 2013, the United States Government effectively barred him from entering its territory henceforth.

Concerned Nigerians cannot forget the sentencing of the former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the now defunct Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, who, alongside three other senior banking executives, was involved in a multibillion-dollar banking scandal.

While investors and depositors groaned in agony, Mrs. Ibru acquired properties all over the world, from Nigeria to Dubai, using their money.

She denied the charges. And, although sentenced on October 8, 2010 on a 25-count fraud case and ordered to refund N1.29bn, she spent her six-month jail term in a high-end hospital located in a swanky area of Lagos.

This is mockery of justice, when compared with the 150-year-jail term currently being served by Bernard Lawrence Madoff, American former businessman, stockbroker, investment advisor and financier who pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and admitted to turning his wealth management business into a massive Ponzi scheme – which defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

Time will fail us to talk about ex-governors James Onanefe Ibori and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who the Nigerian judicial system literally handled with kid gloves.

But then, what sort of judiciary is Nigeria’s? How come the principle of plea bargain has become a dirty tool in the hands of highly placed criminals, while disadvantaged citizens suffer the full weight of the law when they commit misdemeanours?

According to the legal dictionary, “a plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and defendant, whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor. This may mean that the defendant will plead guilty to a less serious charge or to one of several charges, in return for the dismissal of other charges; or it may mean that the defendant will plead guilty to the original criminal charge in return for a more lenient sentence.”

While this system prevents a lengthy criminal trial, a situation whereby a criminal defendant undergoing felony theft charge is offered the opportunity to plead guilty to a misdemeanour theft charge is unhealthy for any justice system, as it sends wrong signals that it is profitable to steal.

Essentially, the process is unfair to the society where criminal defendants are involved, as in the case of these public figures, as its close relationship with rewards, threats and coercion potentially endangers the correct legal outcome.

Indeed, this tactic is prohibited in a country like the United Kingdom, where the prosecutor’s code states inter alia:

“Prosecutors should never go ahead with more charges than are necessary just to encourage a defendant to plead guilty to a few. In the same way, they should never go ahead with a more serious charge just to encourage a defendant to plead guilty to a less serious one.”

In complex cases such as major fraud trials like the ones under review, the overriding duty of the prosecutor is to see that justice is done. But in the Nigerian case, this is doubtful. So far, plea bargain has tainted the image of the Nigerian judiciary, as justice now seems to be for the highest bidder.

Just last Wednesday, an Abeokuta Magistrate Court sentenced a 49-year-old man, Mustapha Adeshina, to two-year imprisonment for stealing vegetables worth N5,000, with an option of N10,000 fine.

The nation cannot forget in a hurry the amputation of the right hand of Mallam Buba Bello Kure Jangedi – for stealing a cow. He was convicted under the Sharia law in 2000 by the administration of Zamfara State ex-governor (now senator) Ahmed Sani, who had been accused of fund misappropriation but who currently enjoys immunity as a public office holder.

The FCT High Court judge should uphold the plea of the EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), that Yusuf be convicted and sentenced as appropriate. Only then can the image of the judiciary be redeemed from what has come to be seen as a ‘Justice For Sale’ syndrome.

 

via Punch

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Japanese Surgeon, Dr. Takasu Angry With Nigerian Officials Over His Donation

Japanese surgeon, Dr Katsuya Takasu is unhappy with Nigerian sports officials over their recent “grumblings” about the $390,000 donations he made to the Nigeria U-23 Men’s football team, Dream Team V1 at the just concluded Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.   The Japanese flew to Brazil to hand over the $390,000 cheques to Siasia and Mikel John Obi (Coach and captain of the team) after winning the soccer bronze of the Rio 2016 Olympics. But immediately after the donation, top...

Buhari Agrees To Swap Boko Haram Prisoners For Chibok Girls

Nigeria’s President has again renewed his commitment to the rescue of the Chibok girls, saying government will not give up in the search.   Commenting on this via Twitter on Sunday, President Muhammadu Buhari paid glowing tributes to the military for their efforts in the war against insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast.   The President also said he is willing to swap Boko Haram prisoners for the Chibok girls.   But that is on condition that they are able to list those they want released...

Group Urges EFCC To Probe NASS Over Budget Padding

A group named 'Conscience Nigeria', on Monday in Lagos, urged the EFCC to investigate the leadership of the House of Representatives over alleged N40 billion budget padding.   The Executive Director of Conscience Nigeria, Mr Tosin Adeyanju, made the plea during a peaceful protest at the Lagos office of the EFCC.   He called for the immediate interrogation of the principal officers of the House fingered in the allegation.   The former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, had named himself and...

IPOB Raises Alarm Over Nnamdi Kanu’s Life In Kuje Prison

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has raised an alarm over Nnamdi Kanu’s life in Kuje Prison.   The IPOB in a statement on Monday signed by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, accused the Federal Government of trying to kill Kanu in prison.   The group disclosed that Kanu’s room in Kuje Prison was teargased on Monday and gun shots fired in his direction.   According to IPOB, the federal government and the DSS, through their prison authority and warders in charge...

Zaria Clash: Court Declines To Grant El-Zakzaky Freedom

A Federal High Court, Abuja, has declined the application of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, seeking his immediate release from detention by the Department of State Service (DSS). El-Zakzaky is the leader of Shi`a Movement in Nigeria. Justice Okon Abang, the vacation judge, who declined the application, had in the past one week refused the applications of Rep. Abdulmumini Jubril’s house planned suspension. The others were application from his kinsmen seeking stoppage of the appointment of the Managing Director and commissioner into NDDC...

Man Arrested For Impersonating Movie Star, Defrauding Fans

A 23-year-old man, Sylvester Onakpobe, has been arrested by the police in Lagos for allegedly impersonating a Nollywood actor, Michael Ifeanyi, on social media and defrauding his fans. The suspect was nabbed by operatives attached to the Maroko Division in Victoria Island following a petition filed by the action on August 17. He was alleged to have used the actor’s name and photograph on Facebook to collect huge sum of money from unsuspecting persons under...

“Kill Rats And Make Money In Lagos” -NGO

In a bid to avert incidents of Lassa fever and other vector-borne diseases in Lagos State, a non-governmental organisation, Phosguard Fumigant Limited, in partnership with the state government, has introduced a bounty, ‘Kill rats, make money.’ Under the project, rodents in the state will be bought by the NGO after they had been killed using hi-tech chemicals and equipment that would make their decomposing bodies non-infectious, the News Agency of Nigeria reports. The Chief Executive...

Riot, Attempted Jailbreak At Kuje Prison

A riot broke out at the Kuje Medium Prison located in Kuje on the outskirts of Abuja on Monday morning with prisons officials barely settling down for official duties. A top prison official was quoted as saying that the crisis broke at about 10.30am from one of the blocks and spread to other blocks within the facility. As at the time of filing this report, the official who asked not to be named because he was not...

Lawmaker Orders The Arrest Of 2 Men For Criticizing Him On Facebook

According to Abubakar Aminu Ibrahim, a House of Representatives member, Hon. Ali Madaki representing Dala Constituency in Kano State allegedly ordered the arrest of Kamalu Salisu Jibril and Adamu Salisu Yalwa from Dala Local Government for criticizing him on Facebook. Looks like the men were arraigned before a court because about an hour ago, Ibrahim posted some photos and wrote: 'At the court. They must be free"...   Read story here: 

Kuje Prison Riot Under Control, No Inmate Shot- NPS

The FCT Controller of Prisons, Mr Daniel Odahro, on Monday confirmed there was a ‘minor riot’ by inmates at the Kuje Prison. “There was a minor riot at the Kuje Prison, but the situation has been brought under control,” Odahro told the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja. He explained that a ‘disagreement’ ensued at about 10.30am on Monday, when some inmates resisted...

Woman Jailed For Allegedly Stabbing Her Husband To Death In Ibadan

An Iyaganku Chief Magistrates’ Court in Ibadan on Monday ordered the remand of 35-year-old woman, Doris Kanung, in prison custody for allegedly stabbing her husband to death. The Chief Magistrate, Mr Taiwo Oladiran, said that the court lack jurisdiction to try the matter. He said that the accused should be remanded at Agodi Prison pending the outcome of advice from the office of Director of Public Prosecution. The plea of the accused was not taken.

22% Of Children Under Five In South West Suffer Stunted Growth- UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) raised fresh concerns in Monday over the prevalence and effect of malnutrition in the South-West geo-political zone of the country, stating that 22 per cent of children under five years in the zone have stunted growth. The UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, gave the figure in an opening remark at a media dialogue organised by the UNICEF for select journalists in some states of the South- West.

Kaduna Proposes Life Imprisonment For Rapists

The Kaduna State Government has proposed life sentence for rapists in the new Child Right Bill forwarded to the State House of Assembly for passage into law. Deputy Director, Civil Litigation in the state’s Ministry for Justice, Mr Irimiya Samson, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna. Samson explained that the development became necessary, following incessant cases of rape, particularly of minors, being recorded daily in the...

Photographer TY Bello Returns To Music, Drops New Single

After a brief hiatus, Singer and Photographer Toyin Sokefun-Bello, better known as TY Bello, is making a return back to music. She's released a new single titled Land Of Promise (It is well). A comforting song with a sound that resonates across humanity itself. In her own words, she writes. "I finished writing this song on my travel to the destroyed parts of Northern Nigeria. I saw first hand what it means to lose hope and how powerful and...

Afe Babalola University Prohibits Smartphones on Campus, Twitter Users react

In a new notice released on the 28th of August 2016 via the website of Afe Babalola University, fresh and returning undergraduate students for the 2016/2017 Academic session were briefed on new rules, including the ban on smartphones. In their words, "Mobile Phone ; The University would allow students to use telephone but limited to non-smartphones. Any TELEPHONE aside the University’s specification, inclusive of TABLETS or IPADS shall be CONFISCATED and the Student shall be SANCTIONED"

Married Airport Worker Dies After Sex With Girlfriend In Her Lagos Apartment

A clearing agent, Mr. Sikiru Olanrewaju, has lost his life after leaving his wife and children at home to have fun with his girlfriend in the Abule Egba area of Lagos State. PUNCH Metro learnt that 37-year-old Olanrewaju died shortly after having rounds of sex with his lover on Surulere Street. The lover was said to have raised the alarm which drew the attention of residents, including the landlady, who reported at the Oke-Odo Police Division. The victim’s corpse was deposited in...

Julius Agwu Dismisses Brain Surgery Rumours

Popular comedian Julius Agwu was rumored to have undergone a brain surgery in some sections of social media today. His manager, Bishop, has dismissed the rumors, stating that the 43-year-old survivor of brain surgery in 2013 only went for a medical checkup in London, United Kingdom during the weekend. His words: "That's not true. It's nothing serious. Julius just went for a checkup. He was grounded on routine visit to the Doctor on Friday because he hadn't been having enough...

Six Storey Building Collapses in Abuja, 5 Casualties Involved

A six story building which is under construction has collapsed in Abuja. The building, a projected world class hotel, located at 444 Crescent, Citec Villas, Gwarimpa trapped a number of construction workers estimated to be numbered about 5 when in collapsed this morning. Meanwhile, efforts are on ground by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA to rescue the trapped victims.

Port Harcourt lawyer Ken Atsuete Murdered by Unknown Gunmen

A popular Port Harcourt lawyer, Barrister Ken Atsuete, has been murdered by armed assassins at his residence in the Rivers State capital. Reportedly, a number of armed men apprehended the lawyer around 8PM on Sunday before shooting him several times. Ken is a counsel to former chairman of the Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, before his untimely death.

Ondo APC Headquarters Splashed With charms, Deji of Akure Fumes

The entrance of  the All Progressives Congress (APC) party secretariat in Akure, Ondo State was laced with assorted charms as stakeholders of the party were said to be in loggerheads. The diabolic items were discovered on Sunday night and hasn't been removed as of the time of filing this report,  blocking people - who believed they will be harmed by the charms - from accessing the secretariate. Meanwhile, the Deji of Akure, Oba Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, Odundun II,...

Man Sets Wife, Son, Daughter Ablaze Over Property

A 43-year-old teacher, Gbemisola Edward, and her 11-year-old daughter, Dolapo, have been confirmed dead at an Ogun State hospital after suffering from severe burns. The woman’s husband, Joshua, was said to have poured petrol on her, their daughter, and his seven-year-old son, Samson, and set fire on them. It was learnt the incident happened on Thursday on Augustine Street, Ire Akari Estate, in the Ifo Local Government Area, Ogun State, after a disagreement between the couple.