Nigerian activists said on Friday that those who had looted Nigerian resources and were now returning them should still be punished to serve as deterrent to others.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, was reacting to reports that the former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, had returned one billion naira to the Federal Government and he might now go scot-free.
In Nigeria, returning stolen money to the government is called “plea bargain”. Many had said plea bargain was better than lengthy trials that only enrich lawyers and judges and often lead to nothing but big headlines.
Still, others have said that plea bargain was not enough deterrent to prevent thieves to be from perpetrating the same crime, knowing that if caught, they would just return the money to the government without punishment.
Mr. Debo Adeniran, the Executive Chairman of CACOL, who spoke on behalf of the Coalition Nigerians should understand the details of what constitute the ‘plea bargain’ being offered to some suspects of corruption or the ‘go and sin no more’ attitude which is apparently being applied as in Dikko and some other suspected corruption criminals’ cases.
The former Comptroller-General was reported to have returned N1bn to the FG, just as a former Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, has signed an undertaking with the EFCC to return N480m as ‘ill-gotten gains’ under their watch while in office.
The ex-custom boss has been under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, for diverting about N40bn during his administration as head of customs between August 2009 and August 2015, while Obanikoro’s case is about his alleged role in the diversion of N4.7bn from the imprest account of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Adeniran, CACOL’s leader, expressed dissatisfaction with the developments given the gravity of the crimes in question.
He said “our Coalition has always insisted on punishing culprits of corruption to serve as deterrent to other corruption criminals and the potentially corrupt persons in the country. The non-application of punitive measures against persons guilty of corruption would make the whole anti-corruption war a huge joke, a waste of time, energy and resources.”
“We are aware that part of the conditions for plea bargain, given to accused persons, who are penitent, are forfeiting of properties and pleading guilty. We acknowledge the necessity to differentiate between penitent corruption criminals and recalcitrant ones, but we insist that the return of loots is not far-reaching enough if the war against corruption will achieve enduring success.”
“Our position is that, it is correct to treat those who admit their guilt voluntarily and those that make the state to expend resources energy and time before their conviction is achieved differently, we agree to that extent. But our position is that those that opt for plea bargain should nonetheless not be allowed to go scot-free; they should hence be stripped of all their properties and monies as well as honours that could have been bestowed on some of them – they should be made to start life anew. All of their material possessions should be deemed as proceeds of corruption and therefore confiscated by the state. Then they can be told to ‘go and sin no more’.”
Continuing, he said, “as for the recalcitrant ones of should of course be made to face the full constitutional and judicial consequences of their crimes. They should be put in jail according to size of their loots, even up to life imprisonment.”
CACOL is suggesting life imprisonment for convicts that stole any amount above 1 billion naira, and they should be made to work diligently for their own upkeep via whatever skills they possess previously or has been able to learn behind the bars. ‘’They should be used as objects to educate the young, the youth and all when they go on excursion to the prisons, seeing former corrupt leaders in such situation will certainly serve to deter the potentially corrupt. Furthermore, whatever assets traced to such convicts should be deemed to be proceeds of corruption and confiscated by the Nigerian state.’’ The Executive Chairman of the Coalition concluded.