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Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Law To Ban “Option Of Fine” For Convicted Nigerian VIP Thieves

The Federal Government will soon submit an anti-graft bill that rules out the option of fine for people convicted of corruption to the National Assembly, SUNDAY PUNCH authoritatively reports.

The bill, which is aimed at ensuring that only proportionate punishments are meted out to very important persons convicted of corruption, will be sent to the National Assembly before the end of the first quarter of the year.

A reliable source in government told SUNDAY PUNCH over the weekend that the initiative was spurred by the light sentence given to an assistant director of the Police Pension Office found guilty of by an Abuja Federal High Court.

The court, on Monday, had sentenced John Yakubu Yusuf to a two-year jail term or a fine of N750,000 for his involvement in fraud totalling N27.2bn. He was, however, given an option of fine in the sum of N750,000 for the three offences he pleaded guilty to.

Justice Abubakar Talba had also ordered that the accused person should forfeit 32 houses in the Federal Capital Territory and Gombe as well as N325m which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said were proceeds from the crime.

Investigations by our correspondents on Friday showed that the presidency was concerned by Talba’s verdict and its impact on the image of the country.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, confirmed that a new bill was in the works.

Okupe said:

I am aware that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Justice is preparing a bill on the administration of criminal justice, which I believe will soon be submitted to the National Assembly.

Are you aware that if a case is going on at the high court and the judge is promoted and a new judge comes, the case will start afresh? What kind of justice is that? These are the issues that need to be corrected.

This issue of the pension scam made us unhappy. The judgment was shocking. When we found out that the maximum sentence for the offence was two years, I was upset. So, even if the judge had exercised the maximum punishment, it would still not be enough; it would still and not be alright.

A top source at the Federal Ministry of Justice, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the new bill would not contain an option of fine for anyone that was indicted for corruption.

The source cited sentences given to some very important persons, who were convicted of corruption as one of the reasons that prompted the amendment.

Such cases include that of the former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru; and a former Edo State Governor, Mr. Lucky Igbinedion.

“Such cases will no longer have the option of fines once the bill is passed by the National Assembly. Anyone found guilty of corruption goes to jail. It should be ready before the end of the first quarter of the year”, he said.


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