Ibori’s sentencing lacked compassion

“So to give him 13 years is savage and malicious. It looks as if the British government is taking it personal. He is going to return all the assets in question. I am not saying he shouldn’t be punished, but there should human face in the punishment.”

Professor Itse Sagay (SAN)

One of the perennial and perpetual conflicts in the world of legal jurisprudence is the evident chasm between law and morality, the harsh dictates of applying the cause of justice versus the graceful compassion of an erudite sitting judge. Indeed, for the British and more specifically English, such conflicts in the dispensation of the rule of law, led to the separation and eventual formation of the Courts of Equity, as a distinct temple of justice, apart from the original Common Law Courts, the idea being the insertion of human element in the austere provisions of law, as against the normal application of timeless legislative postulations.

For every student of the Nigerian legal system, with sufficient familiarity in our law of contract, the name of Itse Sagay is synonymous with the intricate principles of a Legal Binding Agreements, the fundamental ethos of which is the honorable resolve of a gentlemen adhering to a signed and sealed promise. Thus, when such an individual, despite all the universal acclamation of the judgment, condemned the sentencing of James Ibori, as an exercise in premeditated travesty of justice, the world, and indeed the nation needs to listen, even more so as he is a favored member of the silk shirts, otherwise  called the Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

As Justice Marcel Idowu Awokulehin, the judge who acquitted Chief James Onanefe Ibori would wont to say, under our distinctive territorial jurisdiction, the essential demands of satisfying the burden of proof are quite different, for while an accused in Nigeria must be proven to have committed an infraction of the law beyond reasonable doubt, under the British system of the administration of justice, all that is required to be proven is essentially the probable commission of an offence.

Indeed one of the apparent confusion with the judgment, and technically with the accompanied condemnations of the sentencing, is the presumption of an attempt to severe the umbilical cord between the Nigerian legal system and its common law progenitor, since, as we all know, the historical source of Nigerian laws are the norms of common English tradition. 

Thus, in a circumstance which compels the application of different legal facts, people are expectedly pondering whether the right course of justice has been diligently followed, more so as the Nigerian has the dubious image of a corruption society notorious for subverting the rule of law. This is further compounded by the fact that the original crime was committed within the jurisdictional confines of Nigerian state despite the fact that the huge and unaccountable money transfers breeched the existing monetary laws of the United Kingdom. In a manner of speaking, therefore, the context of the crime remained singularly against the Nigerian people.

The jurisprudential difference exhibited from the case aside, the points of convergence between the unsuccessful execution of the process in Nigeria, and the successful interdiction in Britain are as follows: the evidence presented before the judge, the personality standing trial, and the inferred motive of a crime against the Nigerian people. To be sure there are interesting points and lessons. For instance, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, built the core of its case theft and fraudulent stealing of government funds, the British premised their conviction on attempted money laundering offense. Obviously, proving the act of criminal stealing is a much tougher take. For one, it requires not only the proof of the removal of such funds from its legitimate accountable place of abode, but the prosecutor must also show that the intention of movement of the funds was with criminal motive of fraud.

In the case of the British charge of money laundering, no such tedious requirement is needed, in so far as the funds in question were moved to the British banks and the accused individual in question, cannot validly account for the funds under the expectation of his or her legal income. Simply put, an individual on an annual income of less than a million dollars, cannot legally launder hundreds of millions of dollars without showing cause as to how he came into ownership of such funds. To this extent, therefore, the burden of proof shifts to the defense, as against the Nigerian norm where it is the prosecution that is burdened with the obligation of prove.

Thus taking the case on the premises of its facts, which is purely amoney laundering conviction that was obtained on the basis of a pleadeal upon a convict that has accepted guilt, and by so doing has saved the court the hardship of a long and costly trial, the sentencing of 13 years is certainly not justifiable.  Further, as a trial court is not only a temple of affirming the moral ethos of the society, but an avenue and a platform to deliver justice according to the proportion of an offense, which in these instant case is not really an act of theft, but an illegal transfer of unaccountable funds.



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  • Naija212

    You’ve got to be kidding me….”not an act of theft”? Really? That’s why the country will not progress. People making excuses for criminals. This is the same man that lied about his age and claimed that he was never convicted of anything in England before, right?!

  • What a load of rubbish. Knobs like you are the reason why our country will continue to be plundered of millions by the greedy cows like Ibori. In fact you need to be sentenced to 13 years yourself for stupidty. Where was his own compassion for the starving Nigerians who he stole from. RUBBISH article.

  • Busuyi77

    Mr. Jurist, I also believe one the reason for punishment in law is to send a message to would be perpetrators that the law is no respecter of persons. If Ibori is punished with a slap on the wrist what message are you sending to would be offenders? 2. Don’t forget also that Ibori wasn’t a first time offender, hence the reason for applying the full weight of the law. Please try to look at these things from all angles before you write about them.

  • M

    What a load of excreta you have just rusled up as an article.

    Firstly, it wasn’t a “Plea Deal” as your waffling suggest. Under the British court system, if you admit guilt before a full blown trial (after seeing the prosecutions case), you get a lighter sentence. Ibori was facing 24yrs behind bars…but for the wise decision of admitting guilt.

    Secondly, under your loose interpretation of the Nigerian judicial system, NOBODY will ever be convicted of looting…as Nigeria has turned out to be. Point of clarification not to hood-wink your readers, Ibori was convicted based on irrifiutable evidence of looting ie, numerous properties, cars, monies in bank account, etc which his income couldn’t account for. It’s ONLY in Nigeria that clear evidence of theft is totally ignored by dishonourable courts and flimsy technical excuses will be the bases for delivering judgement in an “Open-And-Shut” case.

    Finally, if you call 13yr jail term inhumane, Ibori himself will refer you to China where the “Death Penalty” would have been his portion if he had the slightest trace of Chinese blood in him.

    Nasiru Suwaid, if Premium Times have given you the undeserved honour of publishing your article, at least respect yourself by appearing to have articulate reasoning. People reading off the internet typically have very short time-span for rubbish. Wasting Premuim Times precious internet traffic is a crucifiable offence in the maner of speaking.

    Next time you find yourself holding a pen…Think carefully before writing grafiti, which just happen to be legible to read.

  • Avram

    This article totally sucks, what nonsense!!! people are suffering and dying while fools steal money meant for the masses, and you Mr Nasiru with no shame can write such crap, I hate you and mr Ibori and all the other fools staealing our money!!!

  • bonifacejoe

    May be he shared part of the loots, hence this crocodile tears.A man who did not show compassion in looting public funds, how can you show compassion in sentencing him to jail.

  • Demola Abanikannda

    How could the Premium Times printed this uninformed article? To assert that in the UK, unlike in Nigeria, all that is required to secure criminal conviction, is a defendant’s probable commission of the crime, is not only regrettable but is manifestly illiterate! How much did this guy collect from the Ibori people?