February 2012
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Archive for February, 2012

CJN and AGF on Plea Bargaining

CJN and AGF on Plea Bargaining
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, came down hard, last week, on the practice of plea bargaining in the nation’s judiciary; describing it as a practice without locus in the nation’s jurisprudence, which has inadvertently turned the judiciary into a laughing stock and sanctuary for highly placed criminals. He was particularly irked that a practice without basis in the criminal justice system of the country should be so conveniently and pervasively used in handling high profile financial crimes in such a manner that it emboldens, rather than deter would-be offenders of the anti-graft law. Justice Musdapher is of the view that the practice of plea bargaining is not only alien to Nigerian jurisprudence, it is inclement to the battle against graft, as it gives emotional aid and comfort to the perpetration of financial crimes. It should, therefore, be completely discontinued and discarded with.
Yet, previously, the serving Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Justice Mohammed Adoke, had applied plea bargaining in prosecuting a number of graft cases involving former top government functionaries such as ex-governors and multinational companies, and had stoutly defended the practice as a convenient legal strategy for recouping a substantial part of stolen public fund in return for a mitigated sentence or soft penalty for offenders; insisting that it was in accord with international best practice in advanced jurisprudence; and that, at any rate, the judiciary didn’t have much option in the matter when it found itself on the horns of dilemma, between the devil and the deep blue sea, between the severe limitations of archaic jurisprudence and the unparalleled volume and quantum of graft being perpetrated by highly placed persons; requiring, as it were, some pragmatic judicial intervention that would save both time and cost.
In truth, plea bargaining, as a form of judicial practice, is not new, though Read the rest of this entry »

Of Cabals and Subsidy Removal

Of Cabals and Subsidy Removal
I watched with amused interest the Newspapers’ Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) sponsored workshop captioned: “Removal of Petroleum Subsidy: In Whose Interest?” transmitted by local Television Stations at 8pm on the 25th of December, 2011. My amusement did not arise from inaccurate presentation of facts and figures on the topic by the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who canvassed what he called the economic argument; the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Dezziani Allison-Madueke, and the Minister of Finance and the Federal Government Co-coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Least of all was I amused by the brutal presentation of facts emerging from the exploits of the new management of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) by no less a person than the aggressive Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana.
My amusement stemmed from the fact that two critical issues – what it costs to refine a litre of Read the rest of this entry »

Between Painful Remedies and Anarchy

Between Painful Remedies and Anarchy
Having fought a gallant and winsome battle against the seven months old government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on oil subsidy removal, I think that the time has come for all Nigerians – civil society groups inclusive – to sheath their sword and give Mr. President the benefit of the doubt. This appeal also goes to entrenched political interests that have unleashed their venom on the Nigerian State since Goodluck Jonathan mounted the saddle in May last year.
I had consistently argued in previous interventions, as with many public spirited Nigerians, that at the root of the intractable problems bedeviling the country is the web of corruption intricately woven around all institutions of state and society. Goodluck Jonathan is not the fundamental problem facing the Nigerian State. But President Goodluck Jonathan has identified the payment of fuel subsidy as a national albatross and the queen of the termites of high profile fraud, which must be dispensed with at all cost, and the point of departure from which to launch the mother of all battles against the hydra-headed monster of corruption.
The subsidy removal was sudden, unilateral and painful. But you do not cure gangrene with lavender; there are no quick-fix, painless, remedies for intractable problems of sharp practices piled up and compounded by the greed of successive governments since the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in the country. Even so, the Jonathan government bought our argument for palliatives and structures to manage a post-subsidy dispensation, and also conceded a reduction in price and a gradual, rather than outright, phasing out of subsidy.
We need trust, faith and hope to walk the Jonathan narrow path to economic freedom; not that the antecedents of past leaders have been particularly impressive in these regards. Trust can be betrayed; faith may not lead to the promised emancipation, and hope may be dashed. But we need those metaphysical articles in times of utter helplessness and despair to cope with the absurdities and meaninglessness of life. In our circumstances, having faith and trusting government to deliver on its promises is not something that President Jonathan can absolutely guarantee, even if he is honest and has the best of intentions.
In his time as military head of state, General Abdu salami Abubakar was cited as haven refused “to open the Pandora’s Box of the criminal neglect of the refineries.”How is a Goodluck Jonathan responsible for that refusal of a military head of state to act decisively on the question of the refineries, over a decade ago? But as elected President, we can insist that he should open up that Pandora’s Box, and let the nation get to the bottom of the matter. That is the sort of thing that civil society groups should be protesting about, not the payment of oil subsidy to fraudsters who imported nothing.
If an anti-graft agency, such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), fails to prosecute a Dimeji Bankole successfully, not because he did not allegedly collect billions of Naira illegally, but because of the absurd requirements of archaic criminal justice system, angry people would heap abuses on a President Jonathan. Just last week, N151billion fraud was uncovered in Pension offices nationwide. Jonathan was not in those offices. People involved are the ones that are defended by human rights lawyers who insist on the protection of the rights of the accused, until the offense committed is proved beyond reasonable doubt. There are too many discordant tunes on corrupt practices played everywhere. How could a President Jonathan act in such a situation to make civil society happy and be fair to the accused persons simultaneously? How is that his responsibility, anyway?
I agonize about the unintended hardships occasioned by fuel subsidy removal, as we are all affected by it. Every aspect of our lives is connected to petrol; and until the booby-trap set around it by the wicked profiteers in that industry is dismantled, all of us will continue to be trapped in it. I expect the fight we are putting up in the petroleum industry to rid it of the debilitating corruption that has crippled it to be carried to the power sector. Until the energy sector reforms comes on stream, and there is regular, uninterrupted, supply of electricity across the nation to effectively power industries and buoy economic activities, the Nigerian people will continue to bear the yoke, which a monolithic product imposes on its consumers.
We have put up the good fight against subsidy removal. The next stage of civil protest should be tenaciously directed, not against the Jonathan government that has made a commitment to dismantle the fortress of corruption – the oil sector – but against any institution of state or parastatal fingered for corrupt practices. I salute civil society and organized labour for prompting the state to action, and even the Jonathan government for allowing good sense to prevail; for ultimately, it is better to go through the pains of gradual subsidy removal than risk total anarchy.

Prof Jim Unah’s Books.