A pro-democracy non-governmental body, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned as patronising and insensitive the lenient sanction imposed on the brother of erstwhile Edo State governor by a Federal High Court over huge heist of public fund.
HURIWA therefore asked the National Judicial Council (NJC) to immediately probe the Judge and sanction him for bringing the integrity and credibility of the Nigerian court system into disrepute “with this laughable verdict.”
HURIWA has also advocated comprehensive reforms of the criminal justice system to outlaw the current softlanding and discriminatory lenient sentences usually meted out to affluent persons in conflict with the law who are accused of compromising the integrity of the nation’s judicial system.
“The Nigerian Court System as currently constituted is a respecter of the rich and affluent who are willing to buy justice whereas poor accused persons are allowed to perish in the over congested and poorly maintained prisons “, HURIWA affirmed.
The rights group recalled that Mr. Michael Igbinedion, brother of former Edo State governor Lucky Igbinedion got a slap on the wrist over the N25 billion money laundering charge for which he was convicted Wednesday.
The group said that this comically lenient sentencing of accused persons who allegedly cornered humongous public fund has ridiculed the nation’s judicial system in the eyes of right thinking persons globally and has further graphically depicted Nigeria as a Banana Republic whereby might of money is always right.
It will be recalled that at his sentencing on Thursday, Michael Igbinedion was fined N3 million by Justice J. Liman, re-enacting a similar abysmally scandalous sanction read out to the erstwhile governor Mr. Lucky Igbinedion a few years back, by Justice Abdullahi Kafarati, then of the Federal High Court, Enugu.
Justice Kafarati then fined Lucky Igbinedion N3.5 million, instead of sending him to jail.
In a media statement endorsed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA has also called for fundamental overhaul by the incoming national legislature of the enabling law setting up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to include very stringent sanctions including death penalty for such monumental corrupt enrichment crimes by political office holder.
HURIWA also called for the probe of the prosecution team handling cases for the EFCC because it appears that a particular law firm has gained monopoly in matters of prosecution of alleged theft of public fund and in most instances the suspected thieves are not vigorously and competently prosecuted to come out with very stringent judicial sanctions for serious cases of corruption by government officials.
“How come that only watered down sections of the anti graft law are applied in the prosecution of highly successful politically exposed persons but this same EFCC somehow succeeds in obtaining harsher sentencing for petty crooks such as rogues who engaged in advanced fees fraud?” it queried.
The rights group said it was laughable that whereas some lower courts have sentenced alleged thieves of as little as bread to long prison terms whilst indicted erstwhile politically exposed persons and big time contractors end up receiving ridiculously lenient verdicts in the Federal High Courts.
‘These comical errors and well ochestrated undermining of the anti-graft war through subterfuge and compromise of the court system must be halted now or the people will stop trusting the Nigerian court system’, HURIWA warned.