Of Convictions And Convictions

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Nigeria was perceived to be one of the most corrupt among 60 countries in the 2016 Best Countries rankings. In the recent past, she had the notoriety of consistently holding the global record as the most corrupt country according to the annual Global Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. When will Nigeria join the civilized world and eradicate corruption or reduce it to the barest minimum? Shall we ever proudly hold our heads in the comity of nations and say we’ve arrived as an honest, transparent and accountable country? When will sanity prevail in both our local and international business transactions?
In the world, today, sanitising the polity takes different forms and dimensions. While some countries deploy the rule of law to send their corrupt leaders to jail, others employ martial tactics to enforce death penalty. This was particularly what happened in Ghana under President Jerry Rawlings when nine former Ghanaian Heads of State were shot at a beach in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. In China, anyone that as much as defrauds, steals or embezzles $5,000 is surely headed for the gallows.
History is, therefore, replete with political leaders that ended their political careers with jail terms. This was the case with Benito Mussolini, a former Italian Prime Minister (1922-1943) who was jailed in 1945; Antonescu Ion, a Romanian Prime Minister (1940-1944), who was sent to jail in 1944, and Indira Ghandi, India’s two time Prime Minister (1966-77, 1980-84) who went to jail in 1977. Others were Celal Bayar, a former Turkish Prime Minister (1937-39), who was jailed in 1960; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistani Prime Minister (1973-77) who was sent to prison in 1997; Ferdinand Marcos, former Prime Minister of Philippines (1978-81), who went to jail in 1988; Manuel Noriega of Panama who was sent to prison in 1990; Nawaz Sharif, a two time Pakistani Prime Minister (1990-93, 1997-99) was jailed in 1999, and lastly, Benazir Bhutto, another two time Pakistani Prime Minister (1988-90, 1993-96) went to prison in 2007.
Nearer home in Africa, many leaders went to prison at the end of their tenures or within; they included Emperors, Prime Ministers and Presidents. Prominent amongst them were Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of Congo (1960), who was sent to jail in 1960; Ahmed Ben Bella, Algerian President (1963-65), who went to prison in 1965; Modibbo Keita, Malian President (1960-68), who was jailed in 1968, and former Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1930-1974), who went to prison in 1974. Others were former President Francisco Marcias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (1968-1979) who was jailed in 1979; Jean Bedel Bokassa, both President (1966-1976) and Emperor (1976-1979) of Central African Republic, was jailed in 1986; Moussa Traore, former Malian President (1968-1991), was sent to prison in 1992; Kenneth Kaunda, former Zambian President (1964-1991), went to prison in 1997, and lastly, former Liberian President Charles Taylor (1997-2003), was jailed in 2012.
I have gone to this extent to show that politics, just like any other profession, has its hazards; it has sweet and bitter parts. Thus, the conviction of former Adamawa State Governor Bala James Nglari for five years by Justice Nathan Musa of the Adamawa State High Court, Yola, did not come as a surprise; rather, it only opened the floodgate for more sentences and the expected mother of all convictions!! Besides, his sentence has set tongues wagging on some fundamental issues. For one, this is the first time an ex-governor was sentenced and sent to prison in Nigeria in almost a decade. Secondly, Barrister Nglari is the first ex-governor from Northern Nigeria to suffer this fate. Third and lastly, his conviction has raised a number of questions on the propriety of the heavy penalty he got earlier than others who were arraigned before him. The former governor was prosecuted and sentenced within six months while many ex-governors prosecuted earlier across the country, some for almost a decade, still have their cases pending. Why did his case got accelerated hearing while others still drag on? Did the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 take effect with his case? Or has his case a special message for Nigerians on the renewed war on corruption?
Former Governor Nglari was arraigned on September 21, 2016, and was convicted on four out of the five-count charge and slammed with a five year prison term on March 6, 2017.
Between 2007 and 2010, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted most of the 36 state governors in the country and arraigned them in court immediately they left office, although only two of them were convicted and jailed for gross financial malfeasance. The remaining bulk still have their cases pending in courts.
The anti-corruption war in Nigeria is recording success upon success under Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC, although it suffered resounding defeat in the past decade with no high profile convictions despite the numerous cases in court. Between January and December, 2016, alone, the EFCC recovered N102.9 billion, $8.2 million and 12.4 million pounds sterling and secured a total of 135 convictions across the country. Despite this great achievement, Nigerians are still disillusioned and wonder what is happening to the much heralded anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Nigerians are tired of the looting of state and national treasuries and the hauling of the huge sums into private homes or foreign accounts; they’ve suffered enough deprivations and indignities as a result of this mindless theft and gross leadership insensitivity. Therefore, the law should take its due course and pronounce more and more convictions of heartless leaders who deprive their compatriots of socio-economic development and condemn them to lives of penury, hardship and misery.

 

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