Plea bargain in Nigeria: To be or not to be?

Since the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, only two high-profile corruption cases have led to convictions and sentencing. However, there is a belief that plea bargain, which is still a reduced sentence that involves conviction and in some cases shorter jail sentences, should be adopted in criminal proceedings especially for top corruption cases to improve loot recovery. In your view, can plea bargaining help secure the convictions that the criminal justice system has failed to secure?

ABIMBOLA AKOSILE

* As a way of helping loot recovery from semi-repentant corrupt officials, plea bargain is allowed; but as a deterrent to high-level corruption, plea bargain just doesn’t cut it. More corrupt officials will simply steal billions and return some percentage of same loot to a grateful government, lie low for a few years and then re-emerge again the warm embrace of a permissive society to spend their ‘profit’. Naming and shaming, long jail terms, and total assets forfeiture are better deterrents.

Mr. Olumuyiwa Olorunsomo, Lagos State

* Plea bargain is not the only option in the country, because it kicks against the legal jurisprudence to reclaim governments’ stolen funds and property. But it gives room for government to recover part of looted funds, save the government the money to prosecute and also save the accused the harassment of standing trials. To some expert, plea bargain is one of the most inappropriate ways to fight corruption in Nigeria.

Mr. Michael Adedotun Oke, Founder Michael Adedotun Oke Foundation, Abuja

* No. There is the tendency to ignore government, develop thick skin, run away into self-exile e.t.c. from past experience e.g. claiming immunity, relying on corrupt godfathers, criminal lawyers, etc. Advanced nations have perfected a notorious penchant for encouraging looters to hide such huge wealth in their custody shamelessly. Plea bargain can lead to abuse, waste of time, money, energy, resources or even violence. Apply the correct law strictly and now.

Miss Apeji Patience Eneyeme, Badagry, Lagos State

* It makes it easy to be corrupt and come out clean.

Mr. John Atoyebi, Ibadan, Oyo State

* Plea bargaining can only abet corruption. The government interest is that part of the loot fund is recovered from the looter, leaving part of it with him/her, which is nothing but encouragement for one to steal, since at the end it is what you forfeit to the authority. There should be a harsh punishment to all looters after the forfeiture of the looted sum. Nigerians fear punishment but are weak law implementers.

Hon. Babale Maiungwa, U/Romi, Kaduna

* It may help to recover some loot, and not fight corruption largely.

Ms Nkeiruka Abanna, Lagos

* Plea bargaining not only secures a guaranteed conviction; it ensures that trials are done away with in record time. It greatly reduces the cost of prosecution and reduces the load on an overstretched Judiciary. Contrary to popular opinion, plea bargaining ensures that you are not allowed to hold or run for public office ever again and you are considered an ex-convict. As it currently stands, as far as loot recovery is concerned, the Federal Government spends a lot of money on these trials without the required results. The advantage of plea bargaining is that you can never come back to court to say you never committed the crime. We need to evolve our own unique plea bargain system to suit our own peculiarities.

Mr. Buga Dunj, Jos, Plateau State

* l believe plea bargain is another way of encouraging corruption in leadership because it will give room for looting hoping that if the looters are caught they would go for plea bargain and return some money and take the rest to their comfort zone. Whoever loots the treasury should be taken to court to face prosecution in deterrent of others who may engage in looting the treasury.

Mr. Gordon Chika Nnorom, Public Commentator, Umukabia, Abia State

* No! Not in a society like Nigeria!

Mr. Sonny Okobi, Lagos State

* The use of plea bargain is open to abuse and I would advise against its widespread implementation. I believe the real key that’ll unlock the door of success in manacling corruption is the body language of government. Also, if the ordinary Nigerian sees tangible improvement in her/his existence, then there will be reduced resistance to the policies of government and public opinion will swing against the use of plea bargain because it’ll be seen as ‘soft landing’.

Mr. E. Iheanyi Chukwudi, Brainchild Academic Resources, Apo, Abuja

* Yes, plea bargain is the best option for our current situation today. In advanced climes government rely on plea bargain tremendously. It is a win-win situation for all concerned, whether the whistleblower, government or culprits. Monies, time, energy, resources love, unity e.t.c will be grossly saved. No sledge hammer is used to kill any fly while defaulters face the law irrespective of whose ox is gored. This is safer, cheaper, easier and better. Even if all criminals are forcefully annihilated globally a new set will emerge naturally. Plea bargain is wise.

Mr. Apeji Onesi, Lagos State

* Bargaining has only deepened to worsen corruption in a higher level. The more you see the less you understand. If one will steal billions of dollars, just to bargain to settle at millions of naira, is that encouraging or fighting it? Nigerians are seeing and watching what is happening. The earlier government address crucial national issues, the more it is a credit for her.

 – Mr. Dogo Stephen, Kaduna

* Plea bargain does not check corruption; rather it encourages corruption. Under plea bargain, the thief gets to keep part of his loot and is encouraged to steal more in order to cushion how much he releases to the law in order to gain freedom. Plea bargain is pro corruption. If you apply the full arm of the law, stolen loot can be fully recovered and proper punishment which will act as a deterrent will be meted out to the culprit. As for wasting time in court, that is a human factor which can be handled by the relevant authorities and laws.

Mr. Utibe Uko, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State

* What do they mean by plea bargain? All of them are the corrupt same.

Mr. Felix Ademola, Ibadan, Oyo State

* Plea bargain is a soft-landing for corrupt politicians. It promotes corruption since it becomes clear that the culprit will no longer suffer the full weight of the law for his offences. This encourages him/her to steal more knowing that if caught there is a soft-landing for him/her.

Mr. Francis Ugwoke, Online Publisher, Lagos State

THE RESPONSE

Yes, it can: 2

No, it cannot: 9

Others: 4

Radical tip: Jail all looters!

Total no of respondents: 15

Male: 13

Female: 2

Highest location: Lagos (6)

Next Week: Is the Anti-corruption War Back on Track?

Although the current administration has come under a lot of criticism for its perceived lukewarm stance on high-profile official corruption, contrary to campaign promises and citizens’ expectations, the recent sacking of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) by the President appears to be sending a different positive response to official corruption. In your view, is the war against corruption in Nigeria back on track? What else should be done?

 

Please make your response direct, short and simple, and state your full name, title, organisation, and location. Responses should be sent between today (November 2 & Monday, November 6) to abimbolayi@yahoo.com, greatbimbo@gmail.com, AND abimbola.akosile@thisdaylive.com. Respondents can also send a short text message to 08023117639 and/or 08188361766 and/or 08114495306. Collated responses will be published on Thursday, November 9