The Ruling On Nnamani And The Nigerian Criminal Justice | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Ruling On Nnamani And The Nigerian Criminal Justice

Posted: Jul 16, 2015 at 3:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Magnus Ugwubujor  –  Lagos


For keen observers of current development in the fight against corruption, there is a seeming wave of arresting and arraigning past politicians who were, at one time or the other, found culpable of corrupt enrichment while in office by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The anti graft agency had recently arrested three former governors over allegations of corruption and money laundering. The three former governors are Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Muritala Nyako of Adamawa and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State.

However, one other politician who has been in the news and whose case was decided lately is Mr Chimaroke Nnamani, a two- term former governor of Enugu State during the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration between 1999 to 2007. After suffering so many hiccups, Mr. Nnamani’s corruption case was recently revisited, as it was re-assigned to Justice Mohammed Yinusa of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on a 105-count charge of money laundering and economic crime to the tune of about N4.5 billion.

Mr. Chimaroke Nnamani

Mr. Chimaroke Nnamani

Like the others, not a few Nigerians thought that the corruption case against the Enugu state former governor had been quashed. This was why some political observers were taken aback when the news of Justice Yinusa’s ruling on the case broke.  The erstwhile Enugu governor was ordered by the court to forfeit his multibillion Naira properties to the Federal Government after being found guilty of the charges leveled against him.

However, political pundits are polarised on the development. While some argue that the development underscores President Muhammadu Buhari’s resolve to nip corruption in the board, others posit that the ruling is inadequate in the sense that the forfeiture of properties is not an adequate punishment for a character that allegedly stole Enugu State blind. Indeed, this confirms something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice.

Analysts find an irreconcilable conundrum in a criminal justice system where an ordinary Nigerian is often slammed with long sentences, while politicians who divert colossal amount and impoverish their people in the process get mild sentences. That is if at all they end up being convicted. There are concerns in certain quarters that the property forfeiture ruling on Nnamani would not do much in deterring others.  In fact, observers argue that until such characters begin to serve jail terms for such high profile fraud and insensitivity, the fight against corruption in governance would remain a sham.