Prominent lawyers have called for the amendment of the constitution to recognise corruption as a capital offence that will attract death penalty just as armed robbery.
The lawyers said this while reacting to the death sentence passed by a Jos High Court on 26-year-old Obinah John last Thursday for robbing someone of N1,705 and two rolls of sachet milk, valued at N400, at gunpoint.
In separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH, the lawyers argued that, since the law recommended death sentence for an offence like armed robbery, corruption should also attract such harsh penalty.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, said as far as the law was concerned, the punishment for armed robbery was death by hanging, irrespective of how much was stolen.
According to him, Nigerians should demand an amendment of the constitution to ensure that those who steal public funds face similar penalty.
Oyetibo said, “The judge was right since it was proven that the person robbed with a gun. Unless the constitution is amended, those who steal public funds to the tune of billions of Naira would continue to get lighter penalty.”
Also, activist lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, described the Nigerian constitution as “unfair.”
He said that with the number of high-profile corruption cases in the country, he would have struck out the case, if he were the judge.
He said, “The judgment showed there is no even-handed justice in Nigeria. The law seems to be serving the interest of the elite. Judgment was in conformity with the constitution but not with the common sense.
“The law is supposed to the fair with everybody. What of the oil thieves indicted in the fuel subsidy probe report? Are they not some of those who created the condition that forced that man into armed robbery?
“I recommend that corruption should be treated as a capital offence in the country with a stiffer penalty.”
Another lawyer, Fred Agbaje, argued that even though responsible citizens should not condone criminality, there should be equality in the dispensation of justice.
He said, “The constitution is about equality, justice and freedom. If a man is found culpable of armed robbery, he must face the death sentence. However, a court that was in a hurry to sentence an armed robber who stole N1, 700, should also be prepared to attend to corruption cases, which has become an economic crime.
“The corrupt however hide under the umbrella of plea bargaining to pay their way out of punishment. There is a gross inequality in the administration of justice in Nigeria. The system deserves a comprehensive surgical overhauling.”
Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), also advised Nigerians to demand the amendment of the constitution to establish stiffer punishment for corrupt public officials.