Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has condemned “the manipulation of the justice system to favour influential politicians facing corruption charges in Nigeria.”
Falana stated this, yesterday, in a paper, titled, ‘Sentencing Rich and Poor Convicts In Nigeria: An Unbalanced Scale’, delivered as the Inaugural Public Lecture of the Department of Public and International Law, Faculty of Law, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State.
Falana said: “Some personalities in the society seem to be the ‘untouchables.’ Since they have the money, they can influence and manipulate the justice system in their favour. Consequently, such persons commit crimes and get away with them. Owing to corruption and abysmally compromised system, they could even have the backing of the government.”
He said: “Some persons convicted and sentenced and jailed were never found in any correctional centre, while unemployed young people serve prison terms in lieu of rich convicts.”
Falana, who faulted the attitude of the government in cases involving the rich, said: “For political reasons, the trial and conviction of the rich are often interfered with.”
The paper reads in part: “Judges could even be coerced into favouring those rich offenders against their own will. But there is often no one to speak for the poor, who often have no voice of their own. On the few occasions that the rich are convicted, the president and state governors usually grant them pardon.
“Corruption is one of the major issues affecting the fair administration of justice in Nigeria. Oftentimes, rich defendants engage in dilatory tactics, which frustrate and compel the state to enter into a plea bargain with them.
“Judges award lighter sentences to convicted rich defendants or resort to technicalities to free them. Otherwise, how could someone that embezzled pension funds worth billions of naira be sentenced to only six months imprisonment, but another who stole a cheap telephone handset be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment?
“There is obvious injustice against the poor. More attention is being paid to cases involving the rich as opposed to the poor.”
MEANWHILE, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has suspended the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over an alleged N80 billion fraud.
The suspension, which was conveyed via a letter with reference number, HMFBNP/AGF/ SUSPENSION/5/2022, and dated May 18, 2022, said the action became necessary to allow for proper and unhindered investigation into the serious allegation, in line with Public Service Rules 030406.
The letter reads in part: “Following your recent arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations of diversion of funds and money laundering, I write to convey your suspension from work without pay effective May 18, 2022.”
“During this period, you are not expected to attend your place of work or contact any official in your office except for any disciplinary hearing that may be advised.
“It is expected that you will strictly comply with any instructions that will be forwarded to you in your current location or your known recorded address as stipulated in the extant rules.”