19th April, 2012
In Nigeria, where James Ibori stole about N40 billion from the coffers of Delta State Government, Justice Marcel Awokulehin acquitted him. In the United Kingdom, where he laundered his loot, Justice Anthony Pitts jailed Ibori for 13 years.
Ibori’s conviction Tuesday in a foreign land and his shameful acquittal in Nigeria for the same crimes, has again demonstrated that the Nigerian judicial system is a joke.
It is a sick system where judges are easily bought and justice is hardly served on the big thieves. It is a system where victims are rarely vindicated and Nigerians who have no money languish in prisons for years without trial, for minor offences they might not even have committed while the big thieves walk the streets free.
State governors, who were arraigned in court for stealing billions from government, are still walking the streets free, years after they left office, with some even making laws for us at the country’s National Assembly.
Joshua Dariye, Uzor Kalu, and 16 other former governors who have been arraigned since 2005 for alleged corruption are enjoying their loot, instead of languishing in prisons and serving as deterrent to other potential elected thieves in the corridors of power.
They are a painful remainder that Nigeria is a country where there are no rights for the weak, only freedom for the strong, the corrupt and the big thieves.
Justice Marcel Awokulehin who absolved Ibori of all the 170-count charge of corruption and money laundering brought before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Justice Ibrahim Nyaure Buba who granted Dr. Peter Odili a perpetual injunction never to be prosecuted by the EFCC and a cornucopia of other unqualified and corrupt judges must bury their heads in shame and bow out of the judiciary.
Judges must be honourable people who serve justice to all without fear or favour and those who compromise must be booted out.
We believe that Ibori’s conviction in the United Kingdom is a landmark verdict in the global fight against corruption and a proof that the world is now smaller for government officials who still thought they could loot their country’s resources with impunity and stash away in foreign bank accounts.
We agree with Human Rights Watch that “by prosecuting Ibori, the UK authorities have struck a blow not only against financial crimes at home, but also against impunity for corruption around the globe.”
Between 1999 and 2007 while he was governor of Delta State, Ibori’s government received billions of naira from oil revenue. Yet there was very little on the ground to justify the huge oil windfall.
The state’s public schools were dilapidated, healthcare collapsed and jobs and development were not visible.
It is shameful that while politicians plunder our resources, maternal and infant mortality rate in Nigeria are among the world’s highest and poverty rates continue to climb. Nearly 100 million Nigerians are said to live in squalor and hopelessness and public funds that could have been used to improve our standard of living have instead been squandered and siphoned off.
Politicians who plunder our resources and judges who collaborate with them must understand that justice will catch up with them someday in Nigeria or abroad, the same way it did with Ibori.
They must also understand that Nigeria is our country and their children will inherit the shameful and callous legacy they are leaving behind.