Needed – fast but fair prosecution of persons with corruption charges.

By Noel A. Ihebuzor Crimes 1_Tough on crime crimes 4   Most Nigerians are unhappy with both the pace of criminal prosecution and rate of conviction of persons  with corruption charges in Nigeria.  They are also unhappy with the punishments that have meted out by the courts in the few cases of completed prosections  with convictions. The impression gaining ground is that all three of arms of government are not walking their talk of being tough with corruption. Yet corruption has been rightly identified by all and sundry as being one of the key retardants of our development as nation. I am sharing my reflections on this sad state of things in what follows below. I end with a few suggestions on the problems identified could be solved. The aim is to encourage reflection which lead to badly needed positive changes in this area.   Crimes 3

  1. Our criminal justice system is annoyingly slow. Even snails crawl faster than it.
  2. The rate of criminal convictions especially for corruption cases is notoriously low.
  3. Examples are there all around us for all to see.
  4. Since the oil subsidy scam scandal broke out, only very few persons have been successfully prosecuted.
  5. There are persons on trial for well over one year for money laundering who are still walking free and making noises.
  6. There are persons with accusations of abuse of office and corruption  (land grabbing and conflict of interest, for example) in the disposal of public assets who are still walking free
  7. Only very few persons implicated in the pensions funds scam have been convicted.
  8. Some of the reported convictions have left the public with a sour taste in the mouth because the severity of punishment has not matched the enormity of the crime committed.
  9. The public now feels that there is some disconnect between crimes committed and the puny sentences that have been handed out to convicted persons.
  10. This disconnect between crime and punishment is fuelling a genuine sense of moral outrage
  11. Our justice system should reflect our morals
  12. Morality should be the basis of laws, but alas most times it takes back seat and allows arid technicalities to hijack the driver’s seat and to drive the process.
  13. The application of such arid technicalities and the exploitation of loopholes have meant that in a number of cases, offenders have gotten away free.
  14. When arid technicalities dominate, legal procedures become more like sterile debates and logic and less about morals.
  15. Judicial systems must achieve the blend of blend morality and legality. This is one way to ensure that the public’s expectation that the guilty should be punished and swiftly too is met..
  16. The public is right in expecting punishment. Punishment is not an end in itself but a means to an end.
  17. The purpose of punishment is to correct, reform and deter offenders and thus protect society.
  18. Punishment purifies the offender
  19. Punishment also provides some consolation to victims or their relations and thus enables some closure.
  20. All the foregoing notwithstanding, judicial processes still remain painfully slow and inefficient.
  21. There are several reasons for this – incompetent prosecutors, poor evidence, corrupt justice system
  22. Other reasons include exploitation of technical loopholes by the defence lawyers, time wasting gimmicks, inadequately staffed judiciary and collusion between defence and prosecution teams.
  23. Remember that guilty defendants have an interest in delay and use a number of processes to achieve this.
  24. One popular delay tactic is the repeated requests for adjournment.
  25. Another delay tactic is dilatory or diversionary moves
  26. All the above is sad and the result is that criminal and corrupt persons roam free and wide.
  27. All of this is sad and puts a big question mark on the seriousness of our anti-corruption campaigns.
  28. Is there a danger in snail pace trials and poor conviction rates?  Yes, there are several
  29. Is there a compelling case for speeding up trials and improving conviction rates? Yes, there are several
  30. In our specific context, the society demands such speedy and fair and are right in demanding such.
  31. Though the public is aware of the doctrine of separation of powers, it will blame the executive for the failure and lapses of the judiciary.
  32. The over-riding public interest in these matters of prosecution of corrupt officials is in speedy but fair trials leading to an early closure.
  33. In the prosecution of corrupt public servants, delay is dangerous, and for several reasons
  34. With delays, the passage of time softens feelings and affects memory and recall
  35. Time wasted has a potential to erode vital evidence
  36. In many ways, justice delayed is justice denied.
  37. Closeness between crime date and conviction is a strong deterrent to future offenders
  38. Speedy trials convey seriousness and drum the fear of the law into the hearts of criminals and corrupt officials.
  39. Speedy trials are fair to all as they lessen the period of any pre-conviction incarceration
  40. Conviction rate is a good measure of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system
  41. Speedy trials lessen worry, anxiety and costs caused by the judicial system.
  42. Speedy trials lessen disruptions to personal life.
  43. Delays in trials could lead to non-availability of witnesses
  44. Delays in trials could lead to disappearance of evidence
  45. Delay in trial could lead to key witnesses being threatened.
  46. Delay could lead to witnesses retracting their evidence.
  47. Delays in trials lead to unrepentant offenders becoming cocky.
  48. Delays in trials could lead to politicization of trials especially when the accused persons during the wait period sign up to an opposition political party!
  49. Speedy and fair trials are sound indicators of a sound judicial system
  50. High conviction rates of the guilty indicate thoroughness, dedication, effective and methodical investigation and prosecution.
  51. High conviction rates of the guilty are indications of a judiciary worthy of its name
  52. Are there solutions? Yes, I believe so and here are a few from the perspective on a layperson:
  53. Set up special courts – this has been done in India with positive impacts
  54. Increase the number of courts – this has been done in the UK and in India
  55. Set and enforce time frames and time limits for completion of prosecution from charge to verdict. This has been done in India and the UK.
  56. Only in exceptional cases requiring complex investigations should any elongation be allowed
  57. Establish minimum conditions and requirements for acceptable prosecutions. Share these with public prosecutors. Severely punish public prosecutors who fail to meet these conditions and requirement.
  58. Establish the essential evidence needed for conviction ensuring however that the principles of justice and fairness are not sacrificed at the altar of speed.
  59. Judges must stand up against time wasting gimmicks and imprison defence lawyers who try to do this.
  60. Last words?
  61. Our sanity as a nation and perceptions of us in the international arena are at stake because of our failures so far to deal in a fast, fair, credible and robust manner with criminal prosecutions.
  62. It is time, we reversed this sad trend, and if these lay rambles by a non-learned citizen can provoke a movement in redeeming our image and in restoring honour and credibility to our judicial system, then I would not have written these in vain.

Noel @naitwt   crimes 5 crimes 8

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Review of Biko Agozino’s “Today na Today”

By Noel A. Ihebuzor

Title – Today na Today

Author – Biko AGOZINO

Biko Agozino 2

Publishers – Omala Media Ltd, Awgu, Enugu

Year of Publication – 2013

I have just been privileged to read a collection of poems  most of them in pidgin English by Biko Agozino. Onwubiko Agozino (Biko), is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA

The collection, titled “Today na Today” is made of 36 poems, 31 of which are in pidgin English and the last 5 in standard English. The poems treat a broad range of contemporary social issues in Nigeria from life in our typical urban ghettos characterised by “face me- I face you” type of accommodation to protests over the conditions of host communities in the oil rich Niger delta of Nigeria. The issues covered are indeed broad but a common thread of social relevance unites them all. Take the poem “Fire the devil”. Here Biko slams with very biting wit the rise in a theology that seeks explanations for social failings in the unceasing interference of the devil. Or consider “Black sperm” where the poet describes and takes issues with the social consequences of new developments and possibilities in fertility management and reproductive choices, especially the whole issue of sperm banks and artificial insemination.. “Time na Money” starts off innocently on the title of a song by Okri but ends up with a deep and shattering broadside on an enlarging cult of materialism. Poor people pay more is particularly disturbing and contains lines that etch their words in the minds of the reader

“Them fit prospect for oil self right inside we wife and daughters’ thighs

We only beg make them rub small oil for we cassava leaves make them shine”

These are strong words. These are powerful condemnations of the activities of the oil companies in the Niger Delta  (ND) whose failures and negligence along with other failures explain the abject poverty of the ND.

One cannot in a short review of this nature cover all the poems in the collection but a few deserve special mention – Dialectical dialogue, Yabbis, Capital punishment, Slum dwellers, Odyssey, Below sea level, Too Much Generals, Knowledge be privilege, Again born again, You be witch and Brain drain all stand out. Each in its special way takes up an aspect of our social life and our experience of it, be it as voluntary emigres in God’s Own country or as forced prisoners/participants in the gaols of our country where social services are almost comatose, social inequities and cleavages are on the increase, misery and despair so palpable and a tendency to play blame games on the ascendancy and dissects this with a blend of humour, sarcasm, irony, wit and some compassion. But for my concern not to enflame current sensitivities concerning the Igbos and the Nigerian state in the 1967-70 period and even beyond, I would also have mentioned “Forgive” as one of the poems that stand out given its plea to the Igbos to forgive the wrongs done them during the civil war. I will keep clear of that. The topic is too delicate, but the theme of Victory song, a poem which celebrates the victories of the ANC and Mandela among others, is not. Read it and rejoice with the successes of the liberation struggles. Read it but please do not say “Cry, the beloved country” for some of the failed dreams, unfulfilled expectations and matters arising in the present from those brave liberation struggles of the past.

The last five poems in standard English (is there such a thing, by the way) – Abu jah, Say Sorry, Massa day done, Con and Blue – are a delight to read. Abu Jah is troubling as it reveals all the shenanigans and shoddy dealings in our new capital city, a city, where for example, one family gets allocated 8 plots of choice land out of 16,000 plots in a country of 160,000, 000 people and the person who was principally involved in making the allocation is either unable or incompetent to recognise his guilt and to say “Sorry”! “Say Sorry” is a listing of our failings in society, failing we should be sorry for and to turn away from. I could go on but it is best I stop here to allow the reader discover and enjoy this collection of poems where art is used to project social conditions, contradictions and challenges for herself or himself as I have done.

Biko has certainly enriched the literary world with this collection of poems. Some of the poems betray his Igbo origins in their choice of words, cadence and rhythm! “My water pot it done broke” in its form, structure, especially repetitiveness of lines, has all the elements of the akuku ufere –  akuku ifo  (poem tale usually with a refrain) we used to chant as children during moonlight plays –  “Ebele mu akuwala”.

I just have one problem with Biko’s efforts to write in pidgin – Biko him pidgin no trong at all at all – him pidgin na oyibo pidgin. Him pidgin na “ajebo” pidgin.  He mixes correct English forms with pidgin forms (he uses “them” instead of dem, for example). This is a weakness and a “corruption” of our “ogbonge” pidgin. But we can pardon this “corruption”once we realise that this professor of sociology and Africana plus poet at Virginia Tech, VA, grew up inside Naija but has lived outside the country for more than 20 years in places like the UK, the Caribbean and the US. (Incidentally, his  pidgin orthography is similar in many ways to the style of Chinua Achebe who used ‘them’ instead of dem in many of his novels).

The collection is published by a small publishing house, Omala Medsia, based in his home town, Awgu in Enugu State, Nigeria, and it can be ordered from www.lulu.com but I look forward to when this collection can be re-published by a more renowned publishing house but this is beyond the control of Biko or any of us. Decision for that lies with the publishing houses whose choices on what to publish are driven less by literary worth of a manuscript but by consideration of economics and market realities. But here, I stray and dabble into the difficult waters of the sociology of publishing. Happy reading.

An additional treat is that Biko Agozino recorded nine of the poems, mostly at Harry Mosco Studios, Lagos Nigeria with just one recorded at Paramount Studios in Nashville, TN. To listen to the recorded poems, follow the link here.  Enjoy.

Noel A. Ihebuzor

@naitwt on Twitter

Madonna vs Joyce Banda: Celebrity Deathmatch (Philanthropy Edition)

Miff, Tiff and Spat!

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

madonna-malawi-1We had been studiously avoiding coverage of Madonna’s latest trip to Malawi, but such is the deliciousness of the excoriating 11-point press release put out yesterday by Joyce Banda that we couldn’t resist wading in. These two had previous — Madonna’s people had scapegoated Banda’s sister over a botched school project — and the latest visit was something of a surprise as the singer was widely supposed to have been declared persona non grata. Last week Madonna sent Banda a weird overfamiliar hand-scrawled note which seemed to piss Banda off to the extent that she immediately leaked it. Finally, enraged by Madonna’s whining to the international press about having to check in on departure at the airport in Lilongwe, Africa’s second female president totally lost it and laid down the presidential smackdown with a furiously sarcastic tirade in which she lectured the would-be do-gooder on the meaning of kindness…

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The Call of Spring

By Noel Ihebuzor

In response to Susan Daniel’s here

 

at last

spring’s sprites arrive

the earth stirs, bodies heave to season humming

 

at last, at loving last

sleeping daffodils snap

to life to wave, to touch, beckon,

to stir spring worshippers

 

at last, at sweetly loving last,

the long waiting withheld voices

of people and poets spring to life

singing, celebrating, dancing to

this new external unfolding,

internals awakening to joyous stirrings

all the senses humming

The precursors of Boko Haram

The article here by Professor Wole Soyinka

Prof Wole Soyinka

 

see link was written in 2009 but the contents are still very relevant to the challenges we face today. The article is long but it is worth reading in its entirety.

Here is a very revealing excerpt from the paper –

Boko Haram is not really about a detestation of Western or other forms of education, but the expression of a malignant outcrop of fanaticism, intolerance. It is, above all, the will to dominate, to control, to enforce conformity – in this instance, conformity of the most sterile, uncreative kind.

Enjoy the rest of the article.

Noel

Chinua Achebe: A Poet of Global Encounters

Africa is a Country (Old Site)


The first time I met Chinua Achebe I had just started teaching at Bard College, where I had been hired as Director of Africana Studies. I saw Chinua one evening at a campus event and nervously approached to introduce myself. I did not expect his humor or his humility. Instead of exchanging a quick word or two, he engaged me in a long conversation about the state of Africana studies and my research in Ghana. I tentatively began to seek out his company and realized that, while he was one of the most important living writers in the world, he was also lonely living in upstate New York. Over the next six years I spent as much time as I could at the house on the Bard campus where Chinua and his wife Christie lived. Sometimes I was invited but eventually I just started showing up; for food and conversation…

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“Things Fall Apart” and we are “No Longer At Ease”, an Unworthy tribute to the Iroko of African Literature

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Chinua-Achebe1

 

The titles of Chinua Achebe’s early works “Things Fall Apart” and “No Longer At Ease” (borrowed from the works of WB Yeats and TS Eliot respectively) aptly describe the condition of things in our dear country. I try to play with these titles in my observations on why things are the way they are as my unworthy tribute to this literary giant. I have also proposed a few initial suggestions as to how we can begin to move forward and beyond our present morass.

Please read and let me have the benefits of your comments.

  1. Things fall apart when…corruption overruns the land and the souls of men are at the soles of their feet.
  2. Things fall apart when…chaos and anarchy become normal
  3. Things fall apart when alienation and a sense of anomie invade and overpower the land
  4. Things fall apart when…expediency and opportunism become elevated to state religions.
  5. Things fall apart ….when “agbero” culture and violence install and become the determinants of social engagement.
  6. Things fall apart …when thugs become agenda setters for political discourse.
  7. Things fall apart …when the noisiest and the rowdiest struggle to seize the centre stage and set the agenda.
  8. Things fall apart …the voices of moderation and balance are dimmed and drowned in the angry howls of the crowd.
  9. Things fall apart when destructive tension replace creative tension and wreak havoc on the polity.
  10. Things fall apart when ambitions bind us and blind us to the truths.
  11. Things fall apart when ambitions make us inflexible.
  12. Things fall apart …the best have lost all their conviction and found solace in silence
  13. Things fall apart…ethnic considerations have displaced professional ethics in choices and decision making.
  14. Things fall into place for good when all pull together.
  15. Things fall into place for good when a culture of positive and constructive engagement replaces our predilection for destructive discourse.
  16. Things fall into place for good when an ethos of deeds replaces our compulsive greed and grab mentality.
  17. Things fall into place for good when personal pride and loyalty to tribe cede places to love of others and nation.
  18. Things fall into place for good when we renounce and defeat alienation from our nation.
  19. No longer at ease in a country marred by corruption, nepotism, graft and “egunje”.
  20. No longer at ease in a country that celebrates mediocrity and eviscerates excellence.
  21. No longer at ease in a country that spawns mediocrity and spurns excellence.
  22. No longer at ease in a country where religious bigotry and extremism are described by some as crusades for social justice!
  23. No longer at ease in a country where violence and insecurity cripple the economy
  24. No longer at ease in a country where fear stifles and chokes the population
  25. No longer at ease when “black is white and white is black” depending on who is looking.
  26. No longer at ease…when all political parties share a common ethos of exploitation and people expropriation.
  27. Ease and contentment will return when we say “No” to greed.
  28. Ease and comfort will return when we enthrone virtue and renounce vice.
  29. Ease and comfort will return when we create incentives to reward virtue and punish vice.
  30. Ease and comfort will return when we embrace positive values.
  31. Ease and contentment will return when we all come together to foster cohesion and rebuild social capital.
  32. Ease and comfort will return when we replace destructive with creative tension
  33. Ease and comfort will return when we abandon hate and discord and seek courses that advance our common cause.
  34. Ease and comfort will return when we live as people of conscience.

Noel @naitwt

+ John Cardinal Onaiyekan’s 2013 Easter message

His Eminence + John Cardinal Onaiyekan was kind enough to share a copy of his Easter message with me and I am sharing it through my blog to extend its reach. The message speaks to key social issues and challenges of our time. Please read and share. Remain blessed, Noel.

2013 EASTER MESSAGE

By +John Cardinal ONAIYEKAN, Archbishop of Abuja

GOD’S MERCY AND HUMAN PARDON

Introduction:

  1. There is a well known saying which goes like this:

“God always forgives, human beings sometimes forgive, nature never forgives”.  This statement is an expression the fact that the issue of forgiveness is quite complex and not so straight-forward as it may appear to be.  In this message I intend to talk about the mercy of God and human pardon.  I leave for a different forum the discussion on nature and its implacable laws.  All that we need to say in this regard is that we can never consistently go against the law of nature and expect to go scot free.  This is a lesson which modern science must learn as it delves into ever new areas of life. Similarly, contemporary democratic developments must take the natural law into serious account: man must not presume to approve and “legalize” what God has condemned in the natural law. Current cases in point are the debate over the legalization of abortion and same sex unions.

  1. In this Easter season, in this message, I wish to reflect on the issue of God’s mercy and human pardon, especially in the light of two recent news items which have raised considerable debate in our land. The first is the call for amnesty for Boko Haram terrorists allegedly made by His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar. The second is the announcement by President Goodluck Jonathan of a presidential pardon to certain high level convicted persons, in particular, the case of the former Governor of Bayelsa State. That the discussion has been rather chaotic is largely due to the fact that there is little or no clarity in the terms of the debate.  I believe therefore that we need to carefully analyze the issues at stake.

I: GOD’S MERCY.

  1. Pardon, forgiveness, amnesty: these are beautiful concepts.  It is often said that “to err is human, to forgive is divine”.  Pardon, forgiveness and amnesty belong to the divine.  Of course God is just but he is also merciful.  It is precisely through the Omnipotence of God that He can reconcile His justice with His mercy.  The Old Testament says clearly that God shows His almighty power above all by his mercy, offering a forgiveness that wipes out our offences as if they never took place. Only God can do this.  It is also a basic tenet of the New Testament and of our Christian faith that we worship a God that is a God of mercy.  I understand too that in Islam, the mercy of God is a most important aspect of His qualities and appelatives.
  2. God’s mercy however, is not without condition.  Normally God forgives whoever is repentant. Repentance includes the commitment not to repeat the offence, as well as a readiness to amend the havoc caused by our bad behavior.  This is very clear in the New Testament.  The prodigal son whose story is well known, (Lk 15:11-32) was forgiven by his father the moment he realized that he had made a big full of himself and decided to go back to beg his father for forgiveness, “I have sinned against heaven and against you, I do not deserve to be called your son”. (Lk 15:21)  That was what he said when he met his father, who however, immediately embraced him and welcomed him fully into the family household.
  3. The forgiveness from God also entails that we make up our minds not to sin any more. The story of the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel is instructive in this regard. (Jn 8:3-11) After all her accusers had gone because none of them had the moral credential to accuse her, Jesus who could have condemned her said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”. (Jn 8:11)  Yes, go and sin no more! While Jesus was very lavish with his mercy for this woman, he also demanded of her that she should not continue in her sinful ways.
  4. As regards restitution and amendment, we have the story of the call of the tax collector, Zaccheus. (Lk 19:1-10) As soon as he repented, he promised: “If I have cheated anybody, I will pay him back four times the amount.” (Lk 19:8)
  5. To continue to wallow in our sins, claiming forgiveness of God because of his mercy is tempting God and running grave spiritual danger.  Under the right conditions, God’s gate of mercy is always open.  The Psalmist tells us that our God is “slow to anger and rich in mercy”. (Ps 145:8) There are no limits to the number of times that God can forgive us.  Our new Pope Francis referred to this in his first Sunday Angelus to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s square.  He reminds us that God is always ready to forgive our sins, never tired of forgiving us.  Therefore, we, he says must not be tired of asking for forgiveness.

II: HUMAN PARDON

  1. What about human pardon?  This is highly recommended, in imitation of God’s own virtues of forgiveness but also in consideration of our own indebtedness not only to God himself but to one another. This is clearly spelt out in the famous Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”, where we ask God to “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. (Lk 11:2-4) It is as if we are giving God himself a condition to forgive us namely that he should forgive us only if and to the extent that we forgive those who sin against us.  The seriousness of this commitment is perhaps not well appreciated by many who recite the Lord’s Prayer so often.  Christ further teaches this in the parable of the unforgiving servant, who after receiving a most generous pardon from his master, refuses to forgive a minor debt owed to him by a fellow servant. (Mt 18:23-35) Jesus teaches this in very clear terms when he says: “If you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.” (Mt 6:15)
  2. As human beings, we have to pardon whoever comes to us repentant.  Pardon wins us friends.  The alternative of pardon is to seek revenge. But unfortunately, revenge does not cancel our hurt; it rather increases enmity. That is why even the non-repentant should be forgiven. Someone once said: “If you think forgiveness does not work, try revenge”! Even from point of view of the dynamics of human relations, revenge can only try to create a balance of injuries and anger, while pardon neutralizes the venom of hatred and builds friendship and harmony. It is also in line with the supreme example of Jesus, who on the cross prayed for his murderers; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. (Lk 23:34)  In other words, we must try to find excuse for those who hurt us. Perhaps they are acting out of ignorance or error of judgment.
  3. Of course we have a right to seek justice and to claim our rights when we are injured. But to pursue vengeance is quite another thing, because vengeance deepens and doubles the hurt.  God himself says: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay”. (Dt. 32:35-36)  We know that this is easier said than done, especially in cases of grave injury which calls for redress in one form or the other; whether by just punishment or by seeking vengeance.  But there is a limit to the redress that we can obtain for grave injury done to us. Have can one adequate redress for the life of a dear one taken in cold blood? Killing the murderer will not bring back the dead. At the end of the day, the full balance can only be restored through an element of gratuitous forgiveness.

III. STATE PARDON.

  1. Human pardon is not only personal. It can also operate on the basis of group relationship.  This brings us to the issue of state pardon.  The duty of the State is to ensure justice, rewarding good behavior and punishing evil actions. It starts with making just laws to regulate good relationship within the society and to apply those laws justly. In a democratic setting, this is the noble role of the legislature: a duty that must be taken seriously. The greatest source of injustice is when bad laws are imposed on the people. It is a sacred duty for the legislators to ensure that our laws are just and fair to all, especially to the weak and the voiceless. This is important not only in the content of the provisions but in the form and procedure of administration of justice.
  2. It is the duty of the judiciary to exercise the office of judging, to acquit the innocent and convict the guilty. The autonomy of the judiciary is precisely to enable it to freely carry out this duty, without undue interference from any quarters. If judges at any level fail in this duty, acquitting the guilty and convicting the innocent, passing judgments out of fear or favour, good order cannot be sustained in the society. At times, judges have the prerogative of tempering justice with mercy, reducing a sentence or commuting it to a lesser punishment. But even then, they should act in the spirit of the law. Tempering justice cannot be allowed to become tampering with the law.
  3. Normally, it is not up to the State as such to be issuing forgiveness and pardon to those who have broken the laws of the land. Justice definitely is necessary if good order is to be maintained in the society.  State pardon has to be under very clear conditions.  In the first place, where the innocent has been condemned, State pardon is not only permitted but necessary to restore justice. The innocent who has been unjustly condemned must be restored to their full liberty.  Our legal system is so faulty that many innocent people are languishing in jail.  They ought to be released without further delay.  It is highly to be commended that members of the judiciary occasionally visit our prisons to find out how many are there for no just cause, especially those in the crowded awaiting trial cells.
  4. State pardon also becomes relevant when we have cases that are either totally or partly political.  We know that very often people are considered criminals because of the political positions that they have taken.  The State often has to seek reconciliation by offering pardon to those who may have been condemned under particular political circumstances.
  5. In our country Nigeria, a special case is that of those who have been involved in plotting coups, especially during the military era.  Theoretically, to stage a coup is to commit treason against the State since it involves overthrowing a legitimately constituted authority.  In fact, when coup plotters fail, they are generally lined up and shot.  The dilemma of Nigeria however is that when plotters succeed, we never ask the question of whether indeed they have respected the right of the State not to be overthrown.  Instead, the successful coup plotter becomes “President and Commander-in-Chief” and is accorded or takes upon himself the highest titles and honour of the land, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, (GCFR).  Under such circumstances, it is obvious that we are not operating on the basis of any moral norms but rather on the accident of who succeeds in the dangerous game of military take-over. Until we are able to condemn all unconstitutional take-over of government, including the successful ones of the past, it is only fair that the nation be ready to pardon those who tried and failed.

 

IV: PRESIDENTIAL PARDON.

  1. Finally, let us now look at the two cases with which we started these reflections. These, in my opinion, are cases where moral issues are at stake, where people are condemned, or liable to be condemned, for breaking the law and going against moral norms.  The Boko Haram may claim to have all kinds of grievances. But the fact is that they have killed innocent people.  How does the state forgive murderers?  How can the government grant amnesty to people who have killed innocent citizens, some in their places of worship?  The pardon to politicians who have been convicted of criminal misuse of power and massive corruption raises the issue whether the State should pardon someone who has stolen public funds, our money.  Obviously, the State must handle very carefully whatever powers it has to forgive criminals otherwise, the whole structure of law and order in the society will be seriously compromised. There may be political considerations but these cannot be allowed to overthrow moral imperatives.  This does not mean that the State cannot forgive moral wrong doing. It has been done in other countries that claim high level of democratic culture. But it seems to me that in order to do this, there must be at least two conditions, namely genuine repentance and a sincere effort to make amendments as far as possible.  Let us see how this applies to the two cases under discussion.
    1. As regards the case of an offer of amnesty to the Boko Haram I believe that we should not throw away outright the consideration of such amnesty. Faced with an intractable problem, we have to explore all possible avenues of solution. The security response in terms of arms, gadgets and trained personnel is useful and necessary, but obviously not enough on its own. Government does well to reach out to all political forces and currents, so that the nation can be on the same political page and jointly address this common menace, which terrorism is. The issue of poverty and unemployment, which is cited as an excuse, needs to be addressed – and this boils down to the critical issue of good governance, at all levels, Federal, state and local government. The growing danger of community polarization gradually tearing the nation apart must be urgently and effectively tackled, on both the ethnic and religious bases. Here comes the important role of traditional and religious leaders. And finally, and most important of all, all these have to go together and government must take on the duty and responsibility to encourage and coordinate such initiatives, to ensure maximum overall effectiveness. Under such an atmosphere of common efforts, the call for amnesty would seem to me quite appropriate and even necessary. I therefore see the call of the Sultan as an invitation to further discussion and dialogue among Nigerians to sharpen the focus of government action in this matter. That discussion has started, for which we should thank the Sultan and his courageous proposal. In every conflict, a time comes when dialogue and talking must be brought into the equation, in view of final solution. It would seem that for Boko Haram, that time has come.
    2. But before the Boko Haram can be seriously considered for amnesty, they must meet the two conditions mentioned earlier for forgiveness, namely repentance and amendment. Before they are eligible for any amnesty, they must at least admit that they were wrong to be killing innocent people, whatever may have been their grievances.  If this is not done, they could well continue to feel that they did the right thing and perhaps, it is the rest of us who ought to beg them for pardon.  As for amendment, it is impossible to bring back those who have been killed. But at least a gesture of repentance and apology goes a long way to assuage the sorrow, the hurt and wounds of those who have been gravely hurt and bereaved. The modalities of how, in practical terms, the conditions of repentance and amendment are to be met can itself be a matter for discussion and dialogue. In such a dialogue, government would be well advised to involve the right kind of people, across the board. It should certainly include religious leaders. Furthermore, we need not wait for every terrorist to surrender before engaging those who are ready to repent and reconcile.
    3. As for pardoning people with cases of corruption on their heads, again, there ought to be some form of repentance which should be clear to everyone. Furthermore, a sincere effort must be made to pay back as much as possible of what has been stolen.  It is alleged that a lot of the stolen money is not lost. It is said to be somewhere invested in one way or the other.  That money belongs to the Nigerian people and it must be given back to them.  How this will be done should be part of the conditions that would have to be worked out in the process for pardon.
    4. Whatever government decides to do in this matter, it must not forget that the issue of massive corruption in high places is of major concern to Nigerians. Much has been said about fighting corruption. But people are fast losing confidence in the sincerity of government to turn the tide. Pardon for high profile corruption cases will certainly reduce further whatever is left of the confidence of the people. This has serious political and social fall-out that government cannot afford to ignore.  We must tell the truth that anger is mounting in the land, especially among the youth whose patience is running out. The clock of social tension is dangerously ticking towards explosion. The nation is in danger. What is needed are clear and visible gestures of reassurance that a real change and genuine transformation for the better has started.

 

CONCLUSION

A lot of evil has been committed in our nation.  The two most serious ones have to do with insecurity and massive corruption, both of which are destroying the nation.  We have to find ways of getting ourselves out of the tight grip of these two evils.  It will require not only legal approach but also wise political moves and quiet diplomatic efforts as well as the impute from the spiritual leadership of the country. This means that the problem of Nigeria is the problem of all of us and we must find a way of putting our heads together to change our ways of doing things so that a great nation can emerge.  The period of Easter is a good time to reflect on this because Easter means the victory of goodness over evil, of truth over lies, of justice over injustice and of life over death.

May the blessing of Easter be with us all. Amen.