In 2013, an Abuja High Court judge stunned the whole world when he convicted a staff of Police Pension Office, Yakubu Yusuf, who was established to have stolen N24billion. The trial Judge imposed 2 years jail term or a fine of N250,000 in lieu of the jail term for each of the three counts.
Several legal ‘experts’ came to television screens to insult our sensibilities saying that was what our law books prescribed. To them the Judge did no wrong (although he saw wrong duly done) since that was what our law prescribed. About the same time and in another Nigerian Court, a person who stole a telephone set was jailed two years without an option of a fine. Under the same Nigerian laws.
EFCC appealed the Abuja High Court judgement.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal in Abuja reversed the sentence on Yusuf and made new pronouncements as follows:
“I hold that the sentence of fine of N250,000 in lieu of imprisonment for a term of two years for each offence is unreasonable, unjust, unfair, irrational, arbitrary, and contrary to judicially established principles as it is not the result of a judicious and judicial exercise of the trial court’s sentence discretion,”
“Considering the humongous amount stolen, the nature and gravity of the crime and its destructive effect on the country and its impact on retired police officers and the grave breach of public trust, a severe sentence that would deter the further commission of such a crime and prevent the convict from retaining any part of what he stole to avoid him obtaining financial benefit from his crime should be imposed.
“The sole issue raised for determination in the appellant’s (EFCC) brief is resolved in favour of the appellant.
“On the whole, this appeal succeeds as it has merit.
“I hereby quash the sentences of two years imprisonment or a fine of N250,000 for each of the offences in counts 18, 19 and 20 and substitute them with the following sentences for each count as follows:
“Count 18: The convict is sentenced to two years imprisonment and in addition a fine of N20bn.
“Count 19: The convict is sentenced to two years imprisonment and in addition a fine of N1.4bn.
“Count 20: The convict is sentenced to two years imprisonment and in addition a fine of N1.5bn.
“The prison terms shall run consecutively and the monetary fines cumulatively.”
The Appeal Court judges also relied on our existing laws. When we say judgement is purchasable in Nigeria some people tell us we are talking rubbish.