Justice J. Liman of the Federal High Court, Benin, yesterday fined Michael Igbinedion the sum of N3 million for stealing N25billion from the Edo state treasury during the period his elder brother, Lucky Igbinedion, served as governor in the state. The younger Igbinedion was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) rejects this pronouncement on the basis that it reflects gross travesty of justice. It is scandalous, laughable and anti-people. We see this as a mockery of the judicial system. This pronouncement must be reversed by an appellate court and a proportionate punishment meted out to the culprit.
We are heavily disappointed by this decision. Where is common law leading us in this country? This is the type of judgment which encourages corrupt politicians to siphon public funds without batting an eyelid. It is also used as excuse by armed robbers and kidnappers. They ask, “What has been done to politicians who steal billions with a stroke of the pen? How much do we steal in our robbery operations? Have we ever snatched up to one billion naira?”
A judicial system which sentences the poor man to six months imprisonment for stealing one tuber of yam but leaves the rich man who steals billions of naira to go scot free cannot be called fair in any sense of the word. Or how else can we describe the fine imposed on this over-pampered junior Igbinedion?
When will a Daniel come to justice in this country? What proportion of N25 billion is N3 million? The Nigerian judiciary has failed the jamaaheer (masses). Where is the money he stole anyway? Has it been refunded? Is he just going to refund N3 million out of it as fine and keep the remaining whopping N24 billion nine hundred and ninety seven million naira (N24,997,000,000.00)? It is preposterous!
Igbinedion was pronounced guilty as charged on counts79-81. Why then did the judge suddenly develop cold feet when it came to the pronouncement of sentence? Why is the sentence so light? How rational is a N3 million fine for stealing N25 billion? The fine is sheer chicken feed.
This man should have been made to rot in jail for years at least to serve as deterrent to other thieves like him in public office. Unless we start doing this, armed robbery and kidnapping will not stop because criminals use examples like Igbinedion as moral justification for their escapades.
Why can’t we learn from China? America has been forced to surrender the first position in the economic field to China. The communist state reached its present lofty height today because of its total war on corruption. President Xi Jinping has waged an unprecedented anti-graft campaign since taking office in 2012. Liu Zhijun, the former railways minister was sentenced to death in 2013 for stealing railway funds. Former deputy chief engineer of China’s disbanded railways ministry, Zhang Shuguang, was also sentenced to death for taking bribes of more than 47m yuan ($7.7m; £4.8m) over 11 years.
Nigerian leaders must fear Allah. The Glorious Qur’an warns against corrupt enrichment (Qur’an 2:188) and compares those who consume the tax-payers’ money to those who swallow fire into their intestines (Qur’an 4:29-30). Allah commands justice and fairplay (Qur’an 16:90) and frowns upon partiality on the part of judges (Qur’an 4:135).
Corruption will become a thing of the past in Nigeria the day we stop glorifying political kleptomaniacs. Thieves in public offices must not be allowed to enjoy their loot. The present situation in Nigeria in which the proletariat is overworked, underpaid and overtaxed is indeed worrisome. Workers take-home pay cannot take them home whereas political jobbers are overpaid, over-pampered and over-protected. Yet their only expertise lies in stealing the tax-payers’ money.
Conclusively, MURIC urges EFCC to appeal against this misjudgement and ask for a heavier punishment. We appeal to the Nigerian Judicial Council to show keen interest in this case which is capable of making a laughing stock of the judiciary.
We charge the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the incoming ruling party, to study the modus operandi of the Chinese Communist Party in its fight against corruption. While we are not calling for a communist manifesto, or a forceful seizure of assets belonging to the wealthy, we believe that Nigeria needs revolutionary change, a change in which anyone who steals public money, no matter how highly placed, will be made accountable, and very heavily too.
In this regard, we invite the newly elected lawmakers of the National Assembly to enroll in the new venture to clean the ‘mess’ called Nigeria.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)