By Femi Ogunshola
Nigerians from diverse backgrounds have rejected the suggestion of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Waba, that public officials guilty of corruption be killed.
“If capital punishment is introduced and worked elsewhere to eliminate corruption, then we are for it,” he said at a rally to support the anti-corruption fight of President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, Professor of Criminology, Femi Odekunle, observed that death penalty could not be enough measure to curb corruption.
According to him, someone who is dead does not know anything and will not feel the pulse of the punishment.
He said that death penalty for corruption would only relieve those who are to face the punishment of their guilt.
“Let them serve 30 years in prison with hard labour to serve as the consequence of their offence; this is the only way corrupt people will bear the burden of their corruption and not through death sentence,” he said.
In his view, Peter Ameh, the National Chairman of Progressive People’s Alliance, noted that although corruption had become endemic in Nigeria, death penalty might not be only solution to stop it.
“Death penalty cannot prevent people from stealing or from being corrupt, to curb corruption in the country, everybody will have to work to create a society where people’s rights will be protected,” he said.
He urged Nigerians to have change of attitude, insisting that nothing could be done to address the issue of corruption without attitudinal change.
The Nigerian Bar Association President, Augustine Alegeh, in his view, observed that while other countries were moving away from capital punishment, Nigeria should not be drifting towards such outdated law.
He noted that government should evolve pragmatic measures to prevent people from looting the treasury.
“The Treasury Single Account is a good measure in the right direction that will curb the menace of corruption.
“The international trend is that every country is moving away from capital punishment. So, where the world is moving away from, why are we going there?
“In corruption cases, the focus is on recovering of the money. Let us recover that money and use it to develop our country and not to kill the man.
“Because, if you kill the man and his family members have the money, have we made any progress? So, let us go for what is right,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Wahab Shittu, a Lagos-based lawyer, said fighting corruption effectively would involve sentencing corrupt public officers to long-term imprisonment.
“I don’t agree that the consequences of looting should be death penalty, but there should rather be long prison terms for corruption, at least a period of not less than 25 years, plus the forfeiture of the proceeds of corruption.
“The punishment should not be such that a corrupt person is now deprived the right of existence.
“Once someone dies, he’s gone and would not even be alive to witness the consequences of his action,” he said.
In the same vein, Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a non-governmental organisation, noted that although corruption was a serious crime, recovery of loot rather than death penalty should be emphasised.
He stressed that death penalty would not help to stem the tide of corruption in the country, adding that he had remained an advocate of abolition of death penalty for all kinds of offences.
Mr. Mumuni, however, suggested that the government should concentrate on loot recovery and ensure that anyone found guilty of any corruption cases should forfeit all his ill-gotten wealth.
Similarly, Olabode Towoju, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Party, said that death penalty for corrupt officials was no longer popular globally.
According to him, Nigeria has not developed to the level where it can use death penalty as punishment for corruption as most public officers are still involved in the politics of bitterness.
“Anyone found to be corrupt should be compelled to forfeit his or her asset and should not be allowed to hold public office again,” he said.
Mr. Towoju called for the strengthening of the relevant anti-corruption agencies in the country and laws that would prohibit any corrupt practices.
He said that no amount of offence would worth sending someone to death because such person can come out to be useful to the country after rehabilitation and reorientation.
“No one can make or create life except God, so killing anyone because of corruption which can be tackled by relevant law is amounting to usurping the power of God,’’ he observed.
By and large, concerned citizens observe that although death penalty may dissuade potential corrupt officials from engaging in corrupt practices, it may not be adequate to end corruption.
They, therefore, urged the government to provide basic infrastructure, good welfare package, good salary for its workers and make living meaningful for Nigerians, among others, to effectively tackle corruption.
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