Is this really the Nigeria we live in. A nation (zoo) where people steal billions of naira in public funds, and go scot free, or receive presidential pardons or rewarded with high public offices?
Last week, an Ogwashi-Uku High Court in Delta Statesentenced a 23-year old student, Aruhor Ezekiel, to death by hanging for robbing another student of N2, 000 at gunpoint.
The convict was arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery and illegal possession of firearms, punishable under sections 1 (2)a and 3 (1) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act Cap R.II Vol. 14 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The prosecution led by Deputy Director in the state Ministry of Justice, Mr. E. Ferdinard, told the court that “Aruhor Ezekiel, on or about the 26th of July 2010 at Umu-Otu quarters within Ogwashi-Uku Judicial Division, robbed one Idakpo Friday of
his Nokia handset, MP3, wallet containing N2, 000, school identity card, clearance card and some complimentary cards while armed with a gun.”
In another incident, the same laws of the Federation of Nigeria, found a former official of the Police Pension Board, John Yakubu Yusufu, who was given a two-year sentence on each of the three counts with an option of N750, 000 fine, an amount the convict shamefully and promptly paid to regain his freedom.
Yusufu had admitted stealing N23bn out of the over N40bn, found to have been stolen from the coffers of the Nigeria Police Pension Fund between January 2008 and June 2011, but was let loose in a questionable judgment delivered by Justice Abubakar Talba of the FCT High Court, Gudu, Abuja.
Now, let’s juxtapose these two scenarios amidst other cases.
To most Nigerians (if not all), the ruling on the later, obviously is nothing but reference points for public office holders to steal public funds. At best, all the would-be thief needs to do is to just keep some for the settlement of fines. The manner in which Yusufu quickly paid off the fine and was chauffeur-driven out of the court premises has sent a wrong signal.
Secondly, the judgment has further exposed our several deficient laws that are out of tune with modern day realities. Or, of what use is a law that cannot deter a person from running afoul of the law?
In the same week (last week), while reacting to the shrewd ruling of Justice Talba, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, approved the suspension of Justice Abubakar Talba for 12 months.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who had charged Yusufu, had stated that Mr. Talba violated an agreement of all parties, adding that the former Police Pension Board official was to be jailed without an option of fine.
Based on his suspension, I would want to ask, what actually is the rationale for the suspension? What is it meant to achieve?
Although I do not condone any form of stealing, as an individual, when we contrast these two cases amidst others in the country today (past, present and future), it is pretty funny the way these rulings are granted, owing to some form of remunerations in various kinds by two privileged parties (giver and taker).
If I may ask, how can the student face death by hanging; whilst the “Executives” and “Legislatives” get away with looting our treasuries dry, at the detriment of the citizens. I just can’t help but wonder, what actually is the tool used in measuring or dishing out these sentences?
Isn’t that sheer madness or is the law actually insane? Musing on the entire episode, I think it will be proper and convenient for us to go back to our ancient time of legal system, where justice is meted out to the victim to the detriment of the accused, based on the gravity of the offence.
In the same vein, we should not be quick to forget the charges brought before the former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori who pleaded guilty to the same charge he was earlier discharged and acquitted for.
In reflection of these, I couldn’t help but ask how many lives have been lost and families ruined by individualistic rulings of most of these judges?
In questioning the role of judges as reflected in the Yusufu ruling, not a few people hold the opinion that Justice Taliba might have been compromised with the judgment, by settling for the most controversial alternative. In the entire saga, the Judiciary got the most bashing.
If the Judiciary can no longer serve as the bastion of hope for the people, this portends a grave consequence for our polity as judges are made to feel indebted to a particular politician or senior Judge who appointed them. Until then, we would continue to rabble in the dark for answers on legal decisions.
This is the reality of life in the Zoological Republic of Nigeria.
Culled from report written by Brisibe Perez