Lawyers in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT yesterday expressed mixed feelings over the Federal Government’s decision not to consider plea-bargain being contemplated by treasury looters and their cronies.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Attorney General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, had declared that the Federal Government was more interested in recovering to the last kobo, all public funds stolen and stashed away by top politicians and their cronies under the guise of arms purchase.
The government said that such plea bargain only allowed looters to go away with stolen public assets.
Speaking with NAN in Abuja, a lawyer, Mr Silas Onu, said that government’s stand was in order because plea-bargain was unconstitutional.
“Plea-bargain is not in Nigerian laws and so the refusal of the government to subscribe to it is not misplaced; government is only strictly following the laws.
“If you remember, the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, spoke about the illegality of plea-bargain.
“EFCC just invented a legal proceeding that is not known to our laws; and the way we even apply it in Nigeria is not as it should be.
“Plea-bargain has been used in Nigeria as pardon for criminality; but plea-bargain shouldn’t be like that.
“It should be as is operated in America, where it should only earn you a reduction in punishment; it shouldn’t set you free,” Onu said.
Mrs Uche Asiobi, another lawyer, who holds a different opinion, stated that plea-bargain should be considered if it will be to the benefit of the members of the public.
“I think sometimes you have to lose something to win something.
“I agree that it is hard, particularly when you are thinking of the economy and what has happened.
“You will think that these people should pay the full penalty, but if you take that angle, you might not get the full justice you require.
“So, if you realise that you will gain more through plea-bargain, it is better to apply it and recover more funds.
“Remember that even with plea-bargain the reputation of these people is already tarnished.
“So, plea-bargain should be used if the generality of the public will benefit from it instead of just one individual pocketing the loot,” Asiobi said.
Another lawyer, Ms Grace Ehusani, thinks that though the Federal Government would prefer to uphold justice, applying plea-bargain would encourage more treasury looters to confess.
“When you provide an opportunity for people to confess and admit to their crimes knowing that because they confessed, the punishment will be lighter, they will be more willing to come to an agreement with the government,” she said.
The former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and several others are currently being investigated and are facing prosecution over alleged diversion of $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms.