When Justice Becomes Negotiable

The magnitude of the unchecked corruption that took place in Nigeria under the previous administrations of the ousted People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is yet to be fully comprehended by Nigerians, especially the wanton and unbridled dip into the nation’s treasury that took place under the auspices of former President Goodluck Jonathan. 

Amidst an unprecedented economic recession occasioned by drop in oil price and low savings of past administrations, we have been hit by another news of return of cash by the former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko. He was reported to have returned about =N=1bn cash out of the =N=40bn reportedly diverted under his watch between August 2009 and August 2015. Given that the refund may have been in tranches, yet we are talking about an individual refunding =N=1bn!

As if that wasn’t enough, former Minister Musiliu Obanikoro was also reported to have returned =N=100m, even though EFCC rejected it, obviously feeling it was too small an amount compared to what Obanikoro got as part of the ‘Dasuki missing $2bn’. It has been tales of refund since this administration took over. We have become a nation of ‘refunders’, where past public officers are now returning a fraction of their loots after they have been discovered. 

Yet, our former President Goodluck Jonathan unashamedly attempted to downplay the allegations against Dasuki and the corruption under his administration. This he did right in the presence of ‘Oyinbo’ people in Oxford. Wonder what he was trying to do, re-launder his image? Of course, the former President’s fantastic comment earned him fantastic rebukes from Nigerians!

Dikko’s refund is like the proverbial case of ‘we have not finished delivering the prophecies of Ifa Oracle and they are already playing out’. Former President Jonathan spoke in defense of his administration barely two weeks ago, yet another evidence of his maladministration just played out. It is such a shame what we have turned to and how greed has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. 

To the thrust of this piece, given the unending cases of refunds and returns that have been reported since the inception of this administration, I am beginning to wonder whether our judiciary system still have the  moral justification or ‘locus classicus’ to continue to try and jail petty thieves and robbers who steal to survive. It appears that stealing big is encouraged while petty thieves are treated like poisons. If petty thieves are deserving of the kind of jail terms judges slam on them, then these looting public officers should not just be made to refund but also put behind the bars for life.

Our sense of justice seems to have become warped individually and collectively. If someone is caught stealing a Nokia set or snatching purse, he will likely be beaten to pulp and then set ablaze, yet when we see those who are looting our public resources we hail them and even accord them right of priority in everything. Just last week, Prof Pius Adesanmi  wrote about a Canadian Minister who had to refund $3700 to the government coffers after she was mollified by Canadians of overspending on limousine shuttles, and how in comparison, Nigerians protect their Chief Looters. Little wonder former President Goodluck deemed it fit to bestow National Honour on the late Alamiesegha. For a man to whom stealing is not corruption, even a Dasuki deserves royal treatment. 

The combined of stealing of the likes of Oyenuga, Lawrence Anini, Monday Osunbor and co is nothing compared to the looting that has taken place in Nigeria during the last administration. Did these people deserve the death sentence slammed on them? Sure they did. But if they were deserving of firing squad, these public looters deserve more than firing squads, they deserve total obliteration! Agreed that those notorious robbers took so many lives before they were caught, but these ‘refunders’ have taken the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians! They have stolen both the present and the future of both living and yet unborn Nigerian children. Public funds that should have formed part of our foreign reserves, which should have been used in protecting the lives of our children in the North, in providing good educational facilities for our children all over the nation, in building state of the art hospitals across the nation, and in putting our roads in passable condition, have been stolen by few elites and all they get is some days in EFCC cell and a refund of some fractions. When they are charged to Court, they used part of the rest of the loot to frustrate the trial process. If they are ever found guilty, all they get is NEGOTIATED JUDGEMENT. This is the tale of our corrupt system. This is our story!

Woe unto those who continue to celebrate and recommend thieves for public positions. Woe to those who benefit from the negotiation of true justice. When justice becomes negotiable, the law has surely lost its sting.

Adewumi Oni

Mowe, Ogun State

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