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

Troops Rescue 103 Hostages From Boko Haram Terrorists (SEE PHOTOS)

Troops of 151 Task Force Battalion of 21 Brigade rescued 103 civilians held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists. Also, troops of AHQ Special Forces on patrol to Yole came across Boko Haram Terrorist's camp at Bulagana, cleared it and rescued 40 more civilians. The Nigerian Army disclosed this via its Twitter handle. See photos below:

Kylie Jenner Lands 7 Figure Deal As Puma’s New Face

Us Weekly reports this morning that Kylie Jenner has signed a big-bucks contract to be the new face of sportswear brand Puma. Her role will technically be as an "ambassador" — though not at the same level as Puma's global brand ambassador Rihanna, thxvm, because she'll just be wearing the clothes, not designing them. While neither Kylie's team nor Puma have officially confirmed the news, she has occasionally been spotted in staged-looking paparazzi...

Ark Of Noah, Tower Of Babel Are In Ile-Ife, Says Unconfirmed Twitter Handle Of OOni

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, has disclosed that the Ark of Noah and Tower of Babel are in Ile-Ife. This was disclosed in an unconfirmed twitter handle of the Ooni. The handle, @OoniAdimulaIfe, though not verified, is known for tweeting activities of the king. https://twitter.com/OoniAdimulaIfe/status/697124955104919554

Nigerian Court Jails Two Nigerians Caught Smuggling $5.4m Cash

Two Nigerians, Ojukwu Nnamdi Rowland and Ngene Linus Chibuike, arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, while attempting to smuggle $5, 424,270 USD out of the country, have been convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment respectively by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos. Mr. Rowland was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on October 22, 2015, for being in possession of cash in the sum of US$2,917,272 (Two Million,...

UK Donates £6.7m To Support Boko Haram Victims

The British government has donated the sum of 6.7 million Pounds in support of humanitarian assistance for the 2.2 million victims that were displaced by the Boko Haram insurgents in northeast Nigeria. The donation is coming on the heels of the visit of the British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Anelay, who arrived Nigeria on Tuesday. The Press and Public Affairs Officer of the British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr Joseph Abuku, said...

Dasukigate: Metuh, Wife Bought N500m Property In Banana Island– Witness

A prosecution witness, Junaid Sai’d, on Tuesday told Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja how the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, bought N500m property in Lagos. Mr. Sa’id said the money was allegedly transferred to Daniel Ford International Limited in two tranches of N200m and N300m for the purpose of buying a landed property at Banana Island, Lagos. Mr. Metuh is being prosecuted by the Economic and...

2016 Budget Passage Not Possible In February– NASS

The National Assembly says its proposed date of February 25 for the passage of the 2016 budget is not feasible. Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje and Representative Abdulmumin Jibrin said the February 25 target for the passage of the 2016 budget is no longer realistic. The two lawmakers said that the National Assembly observed during the ongoing budget defence...

Alleged Recruiter Of Terrorists For ISIS, Others, Arrested In Nigeria

The State Security Service on Tuesday announced the arrest of one Abdussalam Enesi Yunusa alleged to a recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In a statement, the SSS through a statement by one of its officials, Tony Okpuiyo, said Mr. Yunusa was arrested in Kano on January 17 after he “completed arrangements to embark on a journey to join an ISIS terrorist training camp in Libya, with other Nigerians whom he recruited...

Kogi State Deputy Gov. Announced & Sworn In

Simon Achuba has been sworn in as the Deputy Governor of Kogi State. His swearing in took place on Tuesday in Lokoja the capital of the north-central state. Mr Chuba filled the vacuum in the deputy governorship position after Mr James Faleke refused to be Governor Yahaya Bello’s deputy. Mr Achuba last year defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and he is a former Deputy Speaker of the...

How Gunmen Massacred 50 Villagers In Zamfara

About 50 persons were reportedly killed on Saturday night by a group of unknown gunmen suspected to be cattle rustlers. The armed bandits who besieged Kwanar Dutse community under Maru local government area of Zamfara state also razed half the number of houses in the community. Witnesses said the gunmen attacked the community while majority of the residents were asleep. A resident, Salisu Musa, said the bandits came prepared to wreak havoc. “I...

Court Rejects Kanu’s Request For His Seized Passports, Money

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed an application by leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and founder of Radio Biaf?ra, Nnamdi Kanu, for the release of certain items, including his British and Nigeria passports, which are in the custody of the Department of State Service. Justice James Tsoho dismissed the application made orally by Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Chuks Muouma (SAN), who had sought the release of the items because they would not...

Man Sets Himself On Fire Near Prince William, Kate’s Palace

A man set himself on fire in the early hours of Tuesday outside Kensington Palace, the central London home of Prince William and his wife Kate, and later died of his injuries, British police said. Two fire extinguishers could be seen next to a police tent set up at the scene of the incident near the large windows of the palace’s Orangery. Two people in white forensic suits put a green petrol canister in a...

45 Per Cent Increase In Electricity Tariffs Will Violate UN Ruling– SERAP

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has advised the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, to “ensure that regulatory authorities are not allowed to get away with 45 percent increase in electricity tariffs by promoting compliance with the November 2013 ruling on the matter by two UN special rapporteurs.” This followed a nationwide protest on Monday by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress against the increase in electricity tariffs, demanding an immediate reversal of...

Prosecutor Closes Case In Metuh’s Trial

The prosecution has closed its case against the spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Olisa Metuh. The case was closed after the 8th prosecution witness briefed the court on how Mr Metuh had destroyed his statement during investigation by the anti-graft agency. Under cross examination, the witness, Mr Junaid Sa’id, said that after Mr Metuh had written in his statement that the monies he received from the Office of the former National Security...

Corruption: ‘Nigeria’s Most Wanted Suspect Lives In UK’ – Buhari

In far away London, United Kingdom, and despite reports that he is on a five-day vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari told Daily Telegraph that one of the biggest suspects in the ongoing probe of corruption in Nigeria lives in their midst. Buhari, who refused to mention any name, said this in an interview with the United Kingdom-based newspaper, Daily Telegraph . He also spoke about Boko Haram, saying that his administration was ready to discuss with them on the missing...

News Alert!! Arms deal: ‘Metuh Got $2m In Fresh $47m Shared By Dasuki’ – EFCC Investigator

An investigator of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Junaid Sa'aid on Tuesday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh might have received extra $2 million from former National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Col. Sambo Dasuki. At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Junaid Sa'aid, was asked under cross examination by defence counsel Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) whether Metuh received any amount, beside the N400m his...

Timaya Takes Us Back To How His Life Used To Be

Dem Mama Records boss, Timaya, today reflects on how his life used to be and hashtagged back in the days. Counting his blessings he posted the photo below and captioned : This was so me #backinthedays. Lol... Blesssss

‘EFCC Is investigating Diezani Alison-Madueke, Kola Aluko’ – Magu

The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, says the former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke and her associate Kola Aluko, are all on the investigating radar of the commission. Magu said this while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes to defend the agency's 2016 budget. He told the committee that the agency will soon move into the petroleum sector. A member...

See 25-Year-Old Woman Who Paid $14,000 To Look Like Disney Princesses

Sarah Ingle has taken Disney princess impersonations to an entirely new level. The 25-year-old from Denver, Colorado, has spent more than $14,000 on custom-made costumes for the nine princesses she transforms herself into: Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Aurora, Rapunzel, Merida from Brave, and Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Sarah, who works as a marketing manager during the day, owns 17 different outfits and 16 different wigs for her princess...

INSPIRING: A Syrian Couple Took Wedding Photos Amid Ruins Of War-Torn City

Newlyweds Nada Merhi, 18, and Hassan Youssef, 27, took a series of striking wedding photos in Homs, a city in Syria ravaged by the ongoing civil war. The bride wore a traditional white wedding gown and the groom, a soldier in Syrian President Bashar Assad's army, wore his uniform as they posed amid rubble and bombed-out buildings. Homs was once a bustling city with a population of over 600,000, according to the Washington Post. When the rebels opposing Assad took...

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Reacts To Alleged Investigation By EFCC

Former Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has reacted to reports that she's allegedly being investigated by the EFCC for embezzlement, calling media headlines misleading and untrue. Her statement below.. We want to clarify that some of the media reports alleging that the EFCC is investigating former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are misleading and untrue. This is clear from eye witness accounts of the Budget 2016 presentation by the EFCC at the House of Representatives and...