30 January 2013

Nigeria: Prison Sentence for Ex-Pension Director Ridiculous - NBA

Ibadan — The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan branch, says the two years prison sentence handed to former Director of the Police Pension Board, John Yusufu, by an Abuja High Court is ridiculous.

The Chairman of the association, Mr Oluseun Abimbola, stated this in an interview in Ibadan on Wednesday.

Abimbola said that the sentence was not in any way commensurate with the crime, adding that it would be difficult to say that justice was truly delivered.

"To say that it borders on the ridiculous is an understatement. If someone steals billions and you are asking him to pay a fine of a few thousands and he forfeits assets of a few millions, which he disclosed to you, there is probably a lot more than that undisclosed to you that he gets to keep and you call that justice?"

Responding to the plea bargaining legal tool purported to have been considered in determining the said judgment, Abimbola called for caution in the manner it should be applied.

"Some people who have supported the plea bargaining structure without a proper knowledge of how it functions in other jurisdictions would be defending that?

"In other jurisdictions where you have plea bargaining, it's not meant to be a slap on the wrist. It is not meant to be a push behind the head and told to go and sin no more. It is meant to deter.

"If your crime is such that entitles a court to sentence you to a maximum term of whether life or 25 years, what happens in other jurisdictions, particularly cases that ordinarily would have entitled you to 25 years, you will do 10; you will do 7 years not months."

He argued that if care was not taken, the plea bargaining structure would become part of the corruption the nation would have to deal with, especially on the part of the prosecution.

Abimbola also called for a review of some of the nation's laws prescribing the different sentences and terms of imprisonment, describing them as deficient.

Yusufu confessed to embezzling N23.3 billion and was sentenced on Monday to two years imprisonment by an Abuja High Court.

He was, however, given an option of N750,000 fine on the three-count charge he pleaded guilty to, while he forfeited his property valued at N325 million. (NAN)

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