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article imageNigerians debate ACF proposal of death penalty for corruption

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 15, 2012 in World
Abuja - The demand by the northern Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) for the death penalty in cases of official corruption has stirred a controversy in Nigeria. ACF recommended capital punishment for corruption in a proposal submitted to the National assembly.
The ACF proposal follows a recent Gallup report, "Global States of Mind: New Metrics for World Leaders," that showed that Nigerians rated their government the second most corrupt in the world. The report said that 94 per cent of Nigerians believe there is widespread corruption in government. Kenyans had the highest perception of their government as corrupt with 96 percent of Kenyans saying there is widespread corruption in government.
The Daily Post quotes extensively from the proposal submitted to the National Assembly:
"The law classifies crimes according to the severity of their consequences both on the individual victim, the community or the country. If crime holds a high potential to gravely harm or kill its victim, the more severe the punishment, which was designed to punish and deter offenders.
“This is to say that punishment must always fit offences. One crime that has proved capable of gravely harming or killing its victim, Nigeria, is corruption.
“Sadly, our laws have not recognised corruption for what it is. ACF recommends that corruption be recognised as a capital offence and made to carry capital punishment.
“Corruption is regarded as commonplace among the country’s political class and men of power and efforts to stem it have been handled with kid gloves notwithstanding the establishment of anti-corruption agencies.
“Only few notable Nigerians have been tried and sentenced for corruption."
Many groups have expressed their views on the ACF proposal. The Punch reports that the Ndigbo youths in Ohaneze voiced discordant views on the matter. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) supported the proposal. In a statement, CPC said it supports the suggestion because official corruption is a problem that requires drastic measures.
The president of TUC, Mr Peter Esele, supported the proposal, saying: "Capital punishment is the law in China. You know something graver than that is happening here today. Or let me put it this way, there was a time in China when they had a similar threat of corruption.
“The Chinese decided to introduce capital punishment to deal with corruption-related cases. That step has streamlined their society and cleansed their community. I think our own has got to that level.
“If the introduction of capital punishment would help to reduce corruption, it is a welcome development. Anything that will reduce corruption is welcome.”
According to The Punch, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), legal counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said he supports the proposal. Jacobs said Nigeria should follow the example of the Chinese. In a telephone interview with The Punch, he said: "If you have been to a psychiatric hospital, you will notice that the drug they are using for those patients are not the normal drugs that are administered on regular patients.
“I think corruption in Nigeria has reached that level. If the Chinese were able to fight theirs by making it a capital offence, Nigeria can also do that. Unless you want a revolution in Nigeria, something drastic has to be done.”
Jacobs said that in spite of the fact that Nigeria has enormous oil wealth, “we are producing thousands of graduates every year and there is no job for them. A revolution is inevitable unless a drastic step is taken. Corruption should become a capital offence, I wholeheartedly support it."
A constitutional lawyer Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) and the Ijaw National Congress(INC), all opposed the proposal, saying it will not deter corruption.
Itse Sagay said making corruption a capital offence is "rather extreme." He said: “I think that is rather extreme. The sentiment is that it would deter corruption but nothing will happen.
“Now we have just imprisonment for corruption and nothing is happening. Is it when we make it a capital offence that something will happen? I don’t think so.
“I think what we need is the enforcement of the current laws.”
The Ijaw National Congress (INC) described the demand for death penalty by the ACF as a ploy to distract the nation from the Boko Haram sect violence. Victor Burubo, INC spokesman, said he would prefer that ACF address the problem of Boko Haram insurgency in the north. He said that at the moment, Boko Haram violence in the north was a more urgent issue than death penalty for corruption.
Afenifere, the Western Nigerian socio-political group, opposed the proposal, saying it would do nothing to deter official graft. In a telephone interview with The Punch, Chief Seinde Arogbofa, Secretary General of the group, said a jail term on corrupt officials was sufficient. He explained, “We in Afenifere do not agree with the death penalty proposal for corruption. It is not the solution to corruption except where it involves those who take life.
“As to corruption, death penalty is not realistic because where do we start from? It’s the common knowledge that most of our former leaders are corrupt. Is the law going to be retroactive?"
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Yusuf Ali, said he had always supported the death penalty for corruption. In his opinion, corrupt officials all wish to live and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth and would think twice if they knew that they stand the risk of facing the death penalty. He said: “I have been one of the earliest advocates of capital punishment for corruption and I hope that very soon it will become a reality. Capital punishment should be the penalty for corruption. It will be a deterrent because nobody will want to steal and not be alive to enjoy the proceeds. People steal because they hope to be alive to enjoy what they stole but nobody will steal if they know they might not be the beneficiary. If corruption becomes a capital offence up to 50 per cent of those involved will desist from it.”
Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, CPC National Publicity Secretary, also supported the ACF proposal. He said: “Corruption was higher in Ghana until the coming of Jerry Rawlings, who in one day killed many former heads of state for corruption. Since then, the quality of governance has been high in the state. We don’t have democracy in Nigeria. What we have is civil rule. This government is corrupt and will not allow the killings of corrupt people. The recommendation must be enshrined in the constitution. We need drastic measures to curb corruption in the country. We support that corrupt people be killed.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the ANPP, Chief Emma Eneukwu, opposed the proposal. He said, “That recommendation is barbaric. We should rather send them to jail. Killing people now is primitive. No civilised country kills its people anyhow.
“Instead of doing that, we should rather send such people to long jail terms like 20 years and also make sure that they lose their ill-gotten wealth to the state. If this is done, corruption will be minimized in the country.”
The President of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said she objects to capital punishment on grounds of principle. However, she admitted that corruption has grown to frightening dimensions in the country. She suggested a life sentence instead: “While I have issues with capital punishment in general, the dimension corruption has taken in Nigeria is so frightening and it is becoming clear that we require to look at drastic measures to combat it. This is why people are calling for capital punishment. I will stick with life imprisonment because of my principled objection to death sentence.”
In spite of the conflicting views expressed, all agree that corruption is endemic in Nigeria and drastic measures need to be implemented.
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