AREWA Consultative Forum's demand for death penalty for corruption cases stirred a controversy on Wednesday.
While the Ndigbo youths in Ohanaeze were divided on the propriety or otherwise of the demand, the Trade Union Congress and the Congress for Progressive Change hailed the ACF demand and submitted that corruption in the country required such a drastic measure.
A lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the suggestion was in order, but an eminent constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN); the All Nigeria Peoples Party and the Ijaw National Congress dismissed the proposal, saying it would not reduce corruption in the country.
The northern umbrella body, ACF, in its proposal on constitution review submitted to the National Assembly, had recommended capital punishment for corruption.
"One crime that has proved capable of gravely harming or killing its victim, Nigeria, is corruption. Sadly, our laws have not recognised corruption for what it is. ACF recommends that corruption be recognised as a capital offence and made to carry capital punishment," ACF said in its proposal, a copy of which was obtained by The PUNCH on Tuesday.
Afenifere says no
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, on Wednesday however disagreed with the North's proposal and insisted that it would not solve official graft in the country.
The Secretary General of the group, Chief Seinde Arogbofa, while reacting to the issue in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said imposing a life jail term on corrupt individuals would suffice.
He said, "We in Afenifere do not agree with the death penalty proposal for corruption. It is not the solution to corruption except where it involves those who take life.
"As to corruption, death penalty is not realistic because where do we start from? It's the common knowledge that most of our former leaders are corrupt. Is the law going to be retroactive?
Death is it -TUC
Supporting the ACF, the TUC president, Mr. Peter Esele, said corruption had got to a level where it should attract capital punishment.
He said, "The capital punishment is the law in China. You know something graver than that is happening here today. Or let me put it this way, there was a time in China when they had a similar threat of corruption.
"The Chinese decided to introduce capital punishment to deal with corruption-related cases. That step has streamlined their society and cleansed their community. I think our own has got to that level.
"If the introduction of capital punishment would help to reduce corruption, it is a welcome development. Anything that will reduce corruption is welcome."
You want revolution?
The EFCC counsel, Jacobs, said Nigeria should follow the example of the Chinese by prescribing the death penalty for corruption.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the telephone, Jacobs said, "If you have been to a psychiatric hospital, you will notice that the drug they are using for those patients are not the normal drugs that are administered on regular patients.
"I think corruption in Nigeria has reached that level. If the Chinese were able to fight theirs by making it a capital offence, Nigeria can also do that. Unless you want a revolution in Nigeria, something drastic has to be done."
He regretted the fact that despite being a country with enormous oil wealth, "we are producing thousands of graduates every year and there is no job for them. A revolution is inevitable unless a drastic step is taken.
"Corruption should become a capital offence, I wholeheartedly support it," he added.
A real deterrent
On his part, Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) explained that he had always canvassed the introduction of the death penalty for corruption, even before the ACF came out with the recommendation.
He noted that the classification of corruption as a capital offence would deter many Nigerians because those involved in the act wished to be alive to enjoy their fraudulently acquired wealth.
Ali said, "I have been one of the earliest advocates of capital punishment for corruption and I hope that very soon it will become a reality.
"Capital punishment should be the penalty for corruption.
"It will be a deterrent because nobody will want to steal and not be alive to enjoy the proceeds. People steal because they hope to be alive to enjoy what they stole but nobody will steal if they know they might not be the beneficiary.
"If corruption becomes a capital offence up to 50 per cent of those involved will desist from it."
Put it in the constitution
Also, the CPC National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said that the ACF's proposal was a welcome development.
He said, "Corruption was higher in Ghana until the coming of Jerry Rawlings, who in one day killed many former heads of state for corruption.
"Since then, the quality of governance has been high in the state. We don't have democracy in Nigeria. What we have is civil rule. This government is corrupt and will not allow the killings of corrupt people.
"The recommendation must be enshrined in the constitution. We need drastic measures to curb corruption in the country. We support that corrupt people be killed."
Make it life sentence
The President of the CD, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, noted that the dimension of corruption in the country was frightening.
She, however, said that she would prefer a life sentence because of her objection to death sentence.
Okei-Odumakin stated, "While I have issues with capital punishment in general, the dimension corruption has taken in Nigeria is so frightening and it is becoming clear that we require to look at drastic measures to combat it. This is why people are calling for capital punishment. I will stick with life imprisonment because of my principled objection to death sentence."
The National Publicity Secretary of the ANPP, Chief Emma Eneukwu, also faulted the call for capital punishment.
He said, "That recommendation is barbaric. We should rather send them to jail. Killing people now is primitive. No civilised country kills its people anyhow.
"Instead of doing that, we should rather send such people to long jail terms like 20 years and also make sure that they lose their ill-gotten wealth to the state. If this is done, corruption will be minimised in the country."
Itse Sagay also disagreed with the ACF, saying making corruption a capital ofence would mean going to the extreme.
He said, "I think that is rather extreme. The sentiment is that it would deter corruption but nothing will happen.
"Now we have just imprisonment for corruption and nothing is happening. Is it when we make it a capital offence that something will happen? I don't think so.
"I think what we need is the enforcement of the current laws."
No death penalty please
The Ijaw National Congress described the demand for death penalty for corruption by the North as a distraction from the level of destruction caused by members of the Boko Haram sect.
INC spokesman, Victor Burubo, explained that it had been difficult to understand why the North that refused to speak against the destruction of lives and property by the violent Islamic sect would suddenly suggest death penalty for corruption.
He explained that Nigeria did not need death penalty to address the issue of corruption, adding that the laws were enough to handle any form of fraud within or outside government.
Speaking also, a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ken Njemanze, (SAN), disagreed with the call for the introduction of capital punishment for corruption related offences.
Njemanze said that studies had revealed the world over that the death penalty had not been found to prevent people from committing crimes in the society.
He argued further that the nation's criminal laws were designed to deter intending criminals from committing such heinous acts.
He suggested long jail sentences for those found to have committed corruption-related offences, adding that capital punishment would not give a second opportunity to a convict who could even be reformed while in jail.
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