In Nigeria, it is a crime to be poor and venture into crime. If you want to be a criminal, aim for the rooftop of a skyscraper and not of a bungalow.
Imagine the criminal, Happiness Meschach Eboh, who was last week sentenced to five years in prison “with hard labour” by Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court, sitting in Osogbo Osun State – apologies to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who insists that he is the Governor of the State of Osun and not Osun State.
But I digress.
I am sure the parents of Happiness Meschach Eboh will today be wondering how they made the mistake of giving him the name Happiness. All he has brought to the family is Sadness – first by being poor; and, worse, by being a petty criminal.
His offence: Conspiring with two other low lifers to dupe job seekers. According to the charge sheet, Happiness (better renamed, Sadness!) conspired with the two others and “obtained a sum of N5,000 from one Issa Musa under the false pretence of assisting him in securing employment with the NSCDC, thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 8 (a), (b) and (c) of the Advanced-Fee Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria”.
What an embarrassment! Is that what a criminal should aim for? N5,000? To give a job to people in NSCDC, when he could have asked for N5 million each to help people secure jobs in the NNPC, the Mint, or some other juicy appointments.
My anger: Our inimitable Professor Jerry Gana has always taught us, “whatever you do, do it well. If you are a teacher, teach well, if you are a marketer, market well; a thief, “thief” well” – I add.
This Happiness (Sadness) should have known that in Nigeria, if you are a petty crook, the instrument of state will be brought down on you, mercilessly. Decisively.
If you are a well-heeled criminal, you will belong to all the exclusive clubs in the country, be given the front seats in churches and mosques, bag chieftaincy titles and you will never be caught.
In the most unlikely event that you are caught, you will get the Gabriel Igbinedion Family treatment – a slap in the wrist even if the offence for which you are convicted is most egregious.
Arraigned at the Federal High Court, Enugu, on a 191-count charge of fiscal rascality while in office, the EFCC reduced his charges to two. Lucky chap. His name is Lucky, anyway. He quickly pleaded guilty and was fined N3.5 million.
Last week, his younger brother, Michael, also got his share of Lucky’s luck. Although convicted for another financial crime perpetrated while Lucky was in power – put at a paltry N25 billion – another Federal High Court simply told the younger Igbinedion to pay N3 million and enjoy his peace.
To date, the EFCC has not given any indication that it will appeal the judgement.
See why no serious person should pity Happiness (Sadness?) in Nigeria.