N27bn fraud: Lawyers, activists condemn lenient sentence

January 29, 2013 by Niyi Odebode and Ade Adesomoju

President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin

Some lawyers and members of the nation’s civil society have condemned the two-year jail term passed on a director in the Police Pension Office, Mr. John Yusuf, who was said to have been involved in a total fraud worth N27bn.

Justice Abubakar Talba of a Federal  Capital Territory High Court on Monday sentenced Yusuf to two years imprisonment with an option of N750,000 fine after the accused pleaded guilty to the charge.

The convict was also ordered to forfeit about 325m cash and 13 houses.

However, lawyers and civil rights activists who spoke with our correspondents on Monday described the punishment as a slap on the wrist judgment and not sufficient to deter such corrupt acts.

Chairman, Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani called for urgent amendment of the Penal Code, which in his view, does not impose punishment sufficient enough to deter corruption.

He said, “If that is the provision of the Penal Code I think the National Assembly, without wasting time, should amend that particular code immediately. It will encourage people to move towards North to commit fraud in billions and then spend three years in prison.”

Another lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, said the sentence had only portrayed Nigeria as a nation that is not serious to fight corruption.

“We need to amend our laws so that it gives punishment to people who steal our resources and mess them up so terribly,” the lawyer said.

Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, who described the sentence as “a slap on the wrist judgment”, said it was another indication that the Nigerian “system is not serious about fighting corruption”.

On his part, spokesman for Save Nigeria Group, Yinka Odumakin, dismissed the judgment as no sentence at all.

“There was no sentence, the guy was just given a pat on the back for a job well done for stealing so much,” he said.

The President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said, “it is a sign that the anti-corruption war is a farce”.

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