1 February 2013, Zero Corruption Coalition.
The Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC) is a coalition of CSOs and individuals committed to the fight against corruption. ZCC was formed in 2001, and it was incorporated in 2007 to work towards a Nigeria society with Zero-tolerance of corruption by re-establishing the culture of transparency, accountability, integrity and respect for human dignity in order to attain good governance and social justice.
The ZCC is worried with the rising profile of official corruption in Nigeria under this administration. The systematic failure has its root in the manifestation of corruption at all level which undermines development and promotes insecurity and poverty in our country.
We are particularly shocked by the scandalous judgment delivered by Justice Abubakar Talba on Monday 28th January, 2013 when he sentenced a former Director of Police Pension Board Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf to a two-year sentence on each of the three-count charge with an option of paying a paltry fine N750,000, a sum promptly paid by the convict to regain his freedom. The development was sequel to the guilty plea entered into by Yusufu in admitting that he stole N23 billion from the police pension funds.
The ZCC considers this judgment appalling, regrettable and a display of judicial recklessness and complicity in perpetuating corruption in the nation. This is coming at a time when the sanctity of the judiciary in Nigeria and the integrity of our judges is on a steady decline, making us a laughing stock among the comity of civilized nations.
We are disappointed that the judiciary has continued its shameless attitude in spite of its humiliation by the outcome of such cases like the trial of ex-Delta State Governor James Ibori who was convicted in the UK for the same offences for which he was acquitted by a Nigerian court, and the outcry that followed the perpetual injunction shielding the former governor of Rivers State Dr. Peter Odili from prosecution for corruption while he was in office.
The ZCC finds it nauseating that a judge would pronounce such ridiculous punishment for such a high profile multibillion Naira thief, one less than that given to ordinary citizens accused of stealing goats, vegetables and domestic items. We consider such arbitrary abuse of discretion justified by whatever law relied upon, a dishonour to the bench, a betrayal of the highly noble profession and an insult to the sensibilities of the Nigerian people. This is even more disheartening because the judge, in his statement while delivering the judgment admitted that the culprit’s crime was akin to amonster of white collar frauds which have denied Nigerians of better living conditions.
We welcome and commend the promise by the Chief Justice of Nigeria that the National Judicial Council will look into judgment. We also commend all the stakeholders who have unanimously arisen to condemn it in the strongest of terms and some patriotic groups that have staged peaceful protests to amplify the outcries.
The ZCC reminds the EFCC and other anti –corruption agencies that deterrence is the basis for criminal prosecutions and if corruption is to be overcome, offenders must be charged under appropriate laws to secure maximum penalties.
We wish to place it on record that the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary is at its lowest ebb and this does not augur well for our democracy as anarchy and lawlessness are the consequences of judicial abuse, perversion of justice and tacit endorsement of corruption and criminality which is what this type of judgment portends.
We call on the EFCC and AGF as matter of urgent should appeal the judgment of Justice Abubakar Talba of the FCT High Court in the case of the State Vs John Yusuf and others, and pursue a stronger sanction using every available legal provision. We also call on them to discard to employment of the plea bargain method as it has proven to be incompatible with our societal norms and values having only resulted in lenient treatment of high profile thieves which is antithetical to the nation’s fight against corruption.
The ZCC calls on the National Assembly as the peoples’ representatives to immediately commence the process of amending the penal code by strengthening its sanctions mechanisms to make it sufficient to deter prospective looters of public funds by prescribing graduated punishments that takes into cognizance, the gravity of offices and the impact on society
We call on CSOs, the media and other stakeholders to sustain advocacy for the overhaul and reform of the judiciary and criminal justice system until it aligns with the collective aspiration to complement the fight against corruption by adequately punishing anyone found guilty of pilfering our collective wealth.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa
Chair Steering Committee
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