30 January 2013

Nigeria: Atiku Calls for Stiffer Anti-Corruption Law

A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to make the anti-corruption laws stiffer.

Mr. Abubakar, in a statement by his media office, Wednesday, said stiffer anti-corruption laws will serve as deterrence against white-collar criminals in the country.

Reacting to the public outrage that greeted the two-year sentence passed on a pension crime convict, John Yusufu, the former Vice President explained that the issue brought to light the major defects of the anti-corruption laws.

Mr. Yusufu was freed after paying fine of N250, 000 on each of the three counts charge he pleaded guilty to. He was tried alongside five others on a 20-count charge of stealing N33 billion.

Mr. Abubakar said the anti-graft law used was too weak and more than a decade after, it is high time the provisions of the law are reviewed to strengthen the commission and the anti-graft war.

"President Obasanjo submitted a stiffer draft law which, however, was watered down by the then National Assembly," Mr. Abubakar said.

He said rather than trading blames, Nigerians should also look at the weaknesses in these laws and call for urgent review of the laws.

Mr. Abubakar said the purpose of punishment is deterrence and the ultimate desire to produce remorse in the hearts and minds of offenders. This, however, could not be achieved when the punishment is made so light as to make criminality attractive, he said.

He said the situation where majority believe the law is designed to suppress the poor or petty offenders is bad for the campaign against anti-corruption. He particularly warned that the recent outrage over the light conviction of the pension offender could send the wrong signal to the international community about the seriousness or sincerity of Nigeria to fight corruption.

The former Vice President maintained that the existing penal provisions of the anti-corruption laws make it impossible to impose punishments that fit the gravity of the offences committed by white-collar criminals.

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