Pension fraud: SAN faults Talba’s suspension

Now while most ordinary Nigerians are happy over Justice Abubakar Talba’s suspension over the ‘lenient’ sentence meted out to one John Yusuf, (a former Director who was part of a scheme that embezzled police pension funds worth 27. 2 Billion naira), the legal community is shaking its head at the National Judicial Council claiming the Justice only interpreted the laws as recommended by Nigeria‘s justice system and should therefore NOT have been suspended. Several have actually pointed fingers at the EFCC for causing the whole mess by charging the man with an offence wherein he would get lenient punishment. Anyway, as the finger pointing continues, read the article below. Its food for thought.

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Justice Abubakar TalbaJustice Abubakar Talba
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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Jibrin Okutepa, has faulted the 12 months suspension slammed on Justice Abubakar Talba’s by the National Judicial Council.

The legal luminary said the NJC merely played to the gallery by taking that decision.

The suspension followed Justice Talba’s “controversial judgment” in respect of pension thief, John Yusuf, arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over an alleged N32.8bn Police Pension fraud.

Yusuf, who pleaded guilty to the three counts of theft of the funds, got a two-year jail term or an option to pay N250, 000 fine on each of the charges.

Following the outrage that greeted the court’s decision, the NJC, through the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, approved the suspension of Justice Talba.

However,  Okutepa, a Makurdi-based legal luminary, who addressed reporters after delivering a paper entitled ‘Bail: scope, purpose and limits’, at the 2013 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association in Kaduna on Tuesday, faulted   the NJC’s decision.

He argued that such suspension was not only bad but also an action that could breed corruption among judges.

He insisted that the NJC, in arriving at the decision, failed to take into consideration the fact that the judge was able to recover N327bn and a forfeiture of 32 landed property from the accused person.

Okutepa said, “The suspension of Justice Talba was uncalled for, it was unjust and there was no basis for it. There was no evidence as far as I am concerned that the judge took bribe, neither was there any evidence that he went outside the law.

“The NJC cannot punish a judge for exercising the discretion vested in him by law. Section 309 of the penal code provided for a maximum of two years, the judge sentenced, and the judge gave that maximum.

“It provided for an option of fine without specifying any amount which he also gave. The convict forfeited N327bn and 32 landed property in Abuja. Those were what the judge took into account in awarding the fine.

“Under our criminal jurisprudence, the law says that once a person pleads guilty to a crime, you give him the least punishment. He gave the maximum, which was two years and a fine of N250, 000 for each count and for the three counts that amounted to N750, 000.

“My contention is that if there are eight accused persons and you recover N327bn and 32 landed property from one, there are still other accused persons. In any case, the man was not accused of eating the money, but accused of aiding and abetting the disappearance of the money.

“My fear is that if care is not taken, we will soon produce what I call judicial zombies and that will be bad for us and all Nigerians. If judges cannot exercise their discretion, then we are finished.

“I am worried that if we are not careful with the way we subject our judicial officers to disciplinary proceedings before the NJC on purely issues of exercise of judicial discretion, we may infuse timidity into our judicial officers.”

 

Culled from http://www.punchng.com

 

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