Nigeria: My day in Talba’s court; The Judge that set free convicted pension fund loooter

By IndepthAfrica
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Jan 31st, 2013
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by Okoi Ofem Obono Obla
Today I fortuitously  appeared before Honourable Justice Abubukar Talba presiding over in Court No. 13 of the High Court of Justice of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.  Honourable Justice Talba is in the midst of a huge controversy and national out cry over a judgment he delivered early this week in the case involving one of the Civil

Servants involved in the stealing of over N32 billion belonging to the Police Pension Funds.

The suspect, John Yusuf Yakubu  had admitted guilty to the charge of misapproriating of N23 billion  belonging to the Police Pension Fund was sentenced to six years imprisonment with option of fine by Justice Talba.

The felon promptly paid the fine of N750,000 and walked home a free man. The sentence has triggered a huge revulsion in the country.

This afternoon a huge demonstration was staged in Abuja by activists protesting against the judgment of Talba, J.

When I realised after looking at Counsel’s copy of the Court Cause List that I was before the man in the news I
was taken really aback. But I couldn’t help not feeling sorry for the man.

I was wondering aloud if we are really fair to him. Does he deserve the avalanche of criticisms and abuse which we have thrown and heaped on him?

However, as I lawyer I will reserve my comment until when I am able to obtain a copy of the judgment to study in order to find out the circumstances under which the sentence was passed.

Honourable Justice Talba caught the picture of a well groomed jurist who is at home with the mechanics of the law.
He also appear to be very firm and does not tolerate flimsy application for adjournment by Counsel.

In the case that brought me to his court he bluntly refused to indulge the Counsel on the other side, who subtly find a motion filed by a third party as a umbrage (who had applied to join the case but was not in Court) to apply for adjournment. However,Justice Talba firmly refused the application for adjournment and he went ahead to hear us.
I was really impressed. I then wondered what went amiss in John Yusuf Yakubu’s case? Was the law under which John Yakubu charged an obsolete one? Did the prosecution prepare it case well ? Judges are forbidden to come into arena and do the case for one of the parties in the case. So a judge decides a case based on the facts presented by a party before him. The Judges is duty bound not to show partiality to either of the parties before him.

The Penal Code (Northern States) Federal Provisions Act, Cap. P3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 that operates in the 19 Northern States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja was modelled after the Sudan ese and Pakistan Criminal Codes.
It came into force on the 30th September 1960.       It was a compromise between Common Law and Islamic Law (Maliki variant of Islamic jurisprudence) .

In other words, the Penal Code is design for a heterogeneous society like Northern Nigeria.

It was enacted more than 60 years ago when society was not as complex and sophisticated as today.

Law must change to reflect the dynamics of society.      Law must conform to the prevailing social, economic and political milieu.

It is axiomatic that most of the laws in our statute books were adopted from the United Kingdom and incorporated into our statute books.
Some of these laws were made in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the 20th
Century.

These laws were made for a society which is markedly different from ours.

It is surprising and a sad commentary  that more than 53 years after attainment of independence we still have some of these obsolete laws in our statute books.

Unfortunately the National Assembly rather than amending these obsolete laws such as the Penal Code is busy chasing contracts and extorting money from corrupt bureaucrats in Abuja under the guise of oversight functions.
It was under this obsolete and archaic law that John Yusuf  who stole N23 billion from the Police Pension Fund was arraigned that conveniently gave the Judge the umbrage to create an escape route for this felon who is really mindless and heartless taking into account the huge account he stole  .
It is a good thing that the light sentence passed by Justice Talba is generating so much furore and controversy so much so that the Judge has come under unrelenting attacks and condemnation by traumatised Nigerians. This is an indication that Nigerians are becoming conscious and alive to their civic responsible of demanding accountability and responsibility from those in authority. It also a manifestation of how revolting the acts of  graft and corruption  being perpetrated by the officialdom is becoming to the average Nigerian.

Okoi Ofem Obono Obla” < okoiobla@hotmail.com

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