Life is not fair, based on circumstances, some are wont to say. The same way it is easy for a magistrate to convict and sentence a hungry goat-napper to six months in prison with no option of fine, likewise it is equally easy for a judge to grant a billionaire looter or highly-placed corrupt convict six months suspended jail sentence after parting with a chunky part of the stolen loot. Both instances have happened in Nigeria before, and both are most likely to happen again.
Back when this reporter was a judiciary reporter at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja division, he observed how the high and mighty virtually â€˜got away with murderâ€™ at the courts. Among the fabled EFCC corruption cases which reportedly ended in favourable plea bargains were a top police boss and a female bank chief, where both were let off the hook after relinquishing large portions of their pay to the government, through the anti-corruption agency.
Now although the scale of corruption has risen dramatically, the preference of the government and some foreign anti-corruption organisations is to prevent corruption before it happens, and when it does occur, to resolve the cases or trials in the quickest manner possible, without â€˜wasting the time of courtâ€™ or the tax-payersâ€™ money, rather than apply serious punishment.
Given the penchant of those top officials involved in high-profile corruption cases to delay the court proceedings through incessant adjournments and other frivolous processes, plea bargain seems a cost-effective strategy. But what is good for the goose is also good for the gander; for example asking a goat thief to do menial work for the owner of the stolen goat for six months instead of jail time. That may help balance a lopsided justice system…just pondering
- Abimbola Akosile