In a development that most Nigerians will find welcoming, the Federal House of Representatives has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to appeal the rather light judgement of an Abuja High Court on Police Pension fraud where the accused pleaded guilty to embezzling over N23bn.
It will be recalled that Justice Abubakar Talba had recently sentenced John Yusuf to two years imprisonment (after he was found guilty) with an option fine in the sum of N750,000 that was promptly paid. Meanwhile, while expressing displeasure over the ruling, the lawmakers stressed the need for stricter punishment for the culprits. In addition, they resolved to commence the process towards the amendment of Section 309 of the Penal Code and Criminal Code to reflect present-day realities.
The resolution was reached as the lawmakers adopted a motion under a matter of urgent public importance sponsored by Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, who called for the intervention of the House. According to Osagie “We cannot keep silence and allow this monumental fraud go unnoticed because it has the propensity of assuming monumental dimension in future.
“If we are committed, we will ensure that appropriate punishment is meted out to those who deprive the people of the common wealth for their own private use. Notwithstanding that appropriate government agencies are making moves to appeal the judgement, the National Assembly should make a resolution judgement as well as amend the Penal and Criminal code.”
Another Lawmaker, Jerry Manwe argued that the judgement would further entrench the scourge of corruption among public office holders who will in turn set some of the ill-gotten wealth aside for settlement of fines by the courts: “My appeal is that the National Assembly should look into the laws and amend it so that people don’t come into public offices to steal with impunity and get away with it,” Manwe said.
On his part, Femi Gbajabiamila, the minority leader blamed the judge, saying the provisions if the law give the adjudicating officer the option of fine, that is to use his discretion and it is left to him to use it reasonably. He wondered why the discretion was abused to that level: “To exonerate the Judiciary is wrong; the blame should be placed squarely on the judge and not the National Assembly… I believe that those that crafted the laws never in their wildest imagination contemplated that someone can steal that much. While the debate is not a review of the judgment, what we are doing is looking at the judgement with a view to tidying up the law.”