Posted By: PAUL OMO OBADAN on: September 27, 2015.
Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, CACOL sheds more light on the call to introduce capital punishment against corrupt officials in this interview with Paul Omo Obadan
A lot of people feel capital punishment jeopardises our sense of the dignity of life. What is your take on that?
And even eliminating will be a source of brutality on the minds of the generations that are just growing up. They will no longer look at the sanctity of life as being sacrosanct. They will believe that killing people does not mean anything. So if people offended them, their minds will have been brutalized to the extent that after all, those who offended the country were killed. So killing will not make much meaning to them.
Killing them will make it easy for other citizens to forget them and forget the atrocities they have committed that landed them in trouble. If you kill them you have covered up their deeds. We should put them behind the bars. Special prison yards should be created for corruption criminals. So that at the end of the day, school children that are just growing up, that are yet to be co-opted to the cohorts of corrupt practitioners, would be taken to the prison yards to see the kind of people who have pillaged the commonwealth of this country. That made their tomorrow uncertain; those who made it impossible for us to have regular power supply; those who made it impossible for us to have good free and qualitative education, good things of life, and so on and so forth. Schoolchildren should be taken to such prisons to see them and they would have double shame because those children will now look at the faces of those who have committed such heinous crime and they would not want to be treated as such. It would deter the school children more than for them to show them their graves.
Is the purpose of our prison system retribution or rehabilitation?
Every prison ought to be rehabilitative. These elements can practice one trade or the other. They belong to one professional group or the other. If they are lawyers, they can do legal drafts behind the walls. If they are carpenters, they can do carpentry. If they don’t have any skills, they could be thought how to farm and be taken to farms routinely to provide food, a meal a day for school children. They should be well fed so that they would have energy to work. Accountants can practice accountancy behind the walls; those who don’t have trade can be trained to make hats and the likes. Factories can be established behind the walls and these people will work in the factory.
These periods should be the time they should take school children on excursion to see the richest people of yesterday and now the manual laborers behind the walls. This will be more deterrent than for anybody to just say convict them and kill them. So it is more advantageous to keep them alive to serve as deterrent to others, to be more productive, to increase the GDP of the Nation than just to eliminate them and be forgotten like that. At the level of Coalition against Corrupt Leaders, we also cherish the sanctity of human life. We believe that nobody is completely useless; at least they will serve as bad examples. So basically, we don’t believe that Nigeria should lose its property in terms of the money that are stolen and other property they might have acquired through corruption, and still lose human power. Because whether we like it or not, these corrupt elements they provide some man power to the economy of Nigeria. If they have not been providing it before, by the time they find them guilty, Nigeria can make them more productive. They should be put behind the bars for the rest of their life. Everything they have acquired in their life time should be deemed to have been proceeds of corruption and such should be confiscated by the federal government. That means that even if they have benefitted from corrupt practices, Nigeria would have recovered what has been stolen. We should not think that somebody cannot change for better. No matter how bad the situation is at the very moment that you are, everything about life is dynamic and change is the only thing that is permanent. The good ones today can change to bad next day, the bad ones can change to good next day. So we should give them the benefit of the doubt that they can change for the better even if they have to serve jail terms behind the walls.
Is it a major concern that innocent people may be wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to death?
A lot of people have been calling for death penalty for corrupt officials, but it was made louder by the Nigerian labour Congress during their protest in favour of the anti corruption drive of the Buhari regime. CACOL disagrees with them. We have a couple of reasons why we disagree with them. Ordinarily, when you look at the ravaging jeopardy that corrupt people have thrown Nigeria into including the battering of our image and the loss integrity within the comity of nations, you would want to say we should completely eliminate those who have brought us into that state of shame and disrepute. But on a second thought, you would want to think that a trial judge can make mistakes, people can be set up, and for those who want to set people up, they are very clever at it. So it might be difficult for the trial judge to get the truth beside the evidence that is before him. And if death penalty is the punishment, somebody would have been killed even when the truth might come out much later. And that would not be reversed.
A lot of people feel plea bargaining should be abolished because it is unconstitutional?
It is the way plea bargaining is applied in Nigeria that is adding to corruption because a situation whereby you have the Igbinedion brothers who stole nothing less than N25billion each and they were made to pay N3million. That means they were able to go with N24.7b naira from what they have stolen. That is not justice. That is travesty of justice. Look at Yakubu Yusufu. He actually confessed that he stole more than N27bn and he was fined N750,000. Go and sin no more. That is travesty of justice. These are the reasons why people are skeptical about plea bargaining. Plea bargaining should be a good thing that will save us a lot of money, hassles and energy, if you enter into it with all honesty of purpose. But a situation whereby prosecutors will take money from the same accuse leaves much to be desired. But look at Ibori’s case. He was able to find his way through using trial Judge Awokuleyin. Awokuleyin dismissed 171 count charges at the Asaba Federal High Court. He ran from Ohara his village to United Arab Emirate and was repatriated to the United Kingdom where he promptly arraigned. His lawyer convinced him that it is better you plead guilty on these offences. And these are part of the charges that were leveled against him in Nigeria that he pleaded guilty on in the U.K. and was promptly convicted.
You know why? In U K, if a Lawyer wasted the time of the court unnecessarily, that lawyer is going to lose his license. And if you as a judge allow frivolous applications that will delay the course of justice, he is likely to lose his job. So the earlier the better that an accused pleaded guilty to charges that you know cannot stand the test of the judiciary. In the U K, what you get is that if you plead guilty at the initial stages, you will be given almost 75 per cent discount on the punishment that should accrue to you. On the contrary, you will have maximum penalty if you refuse to plead guilty and you allow the state to spend money gathering evidences, getting witnesses and so on and so forth before you now discover there is no longer any escape route. Then you must be ready to face maximum penalty. But if you are humble enough, and you know that hiding place again, and plead guilty at the first count, they can even give you up to 80 per cent discount or more. So that is the way it should have been applied in Nigeria.
So many public officers and politicians are enmeshed in the business of corruption. The capacity of all the anti corruption agencies combined cannot get them prosecuted within four year term of any regime. So the best way would have been to enter into plea bargain, that there would be discount on your punishment. Instead of having seven years in prison, you would be given one year or less.