How corrupt people are punished in other climes

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Chux Ohai

The light sentence handed to a director in the Police Pensions Office, Mr. John Yusuf, by a Federal High Court in Abuja is still the subject of what is gradually turning out to be a nation-wide debate on the moral substance of the ruling.

Yusuf was convicted for defrauding the Office of the sum of N27.2bn alongside six others, an offence punishable under Section 309 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria, 2007. He was subsequently sentenced to a two-year jail term.

Apparently worried that Yusuf, like a few other public office holders convicted for graft before him, had managed to negotiate this light sentence through the doctrine of plea bargain, many Nigerians have wondered if the judiciary is actually deaf to outcries against corruption and the present campaign to rid the country of the evil.

The decision of the presiding judge, Justice Abubakar Talba, in not responding positively to the plea of the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, to sentence Yusuf as stipulated by law, has further weakened public confidence in the ability of the judiciary to uphold the principles of justice and fairness.

Among other examples, American businessman, Bernard Madoff, is currently serving a 150-year jail term. The former stockbroker, investment advisor and financier had pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and admitted to turning his wealth management business into a massive Ponzi scheme – which defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam are a few examples of countries where brutal measures, as officially prescribed by law, have helped to drastically reduce the incidence of corruption.

In April, 2012, a Chinese court in Beijing sentenced a prominent politician, Song Chenguang, to death with two years reprieve for bribery.

Song was convicted for bribes worth the equivalent of $2m (about N300m) between 1998 and 2010. A statement by the Intermediate People’s Court of Tai’an city said that in exchange for the money he had helped about 18 companies and individuals to gain access to government contracts, projects, sales permission and promotions.

The court had ruled that considering the amount of money he received, Song must be severely punished. But the two-year probation of the execution was granted after he confessed to his crimes and was expelled from the CPC and removed from office.

In China, as with most other Asian countries, corruption attracts a capital punishment. The reason may be due to the fact that like Nigeria, China has lost billions of dollars in public funds to corrupt government officials.

One of the cases of graft involved a former chief executive of the Bank of China in Hong Kong, Liu Jinbao. He was given a suspended death sentence for embezzling, solely or in collaboration with others, more than $1.7m.

Such is the gravity of the offence in that country that a statement published by the China’s Ministry of Commerce says more than 4,000 officials have fled the country, taking with them nearly $50 bn.

In November, 2012 the Chinese leadership warned of a possible collapse of the state due to endemic corruption and urged the ruling Communist Party, as well as patriotic Chinese to rise up to the challenge.

Nigeria faces a similar situation unless the country’s leaders stop paying lip service to the current fight against this social cankerworm. The government must lead the way now by providing an effective solution corruption. The people must be freed from the cumulative yoke of corruption. The only way to do this, no doubt, is to ensure that those who steal from the public treasury are properly and severely dealt with.

Needless to add, endemic corruption poses a grave danger to the continued existence and progress of the country. With each passing day, it threatens to severe the fragile cord that still binds what is left of this nation together. Corruption, openly abetted by the glaring absence of an effective strategy from the Federal Government to combat it, has reached a point at which nothing short of drastic measures must be introduced to put an end to its menace .

Obviously angered by the impunity with which public office holders embezzled funds meant for the nation, the Arewa Consultative Forum recently urged the National Assembly to introduce the death penalty as punishment for graft. Although the call had predictably ignited a controversy, the import was not lost on genuinely concerned Nigerians.

The search for a most appropriate legal solution to corruption may continue for a long time unless the government takes a cue from some countries around the world and deal squarely with it.


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