Lopsided Bargain

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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 ‘got away with murder’ 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 ‘wasting the time of court’ or the tax-payers’ 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