LADY justice, the symbol of the essence of the impartiality of justice, comes blinded-folded. She is not interested in the parties to disputes; her concerns are seeing justice dished out fairly to all. The blindfold denies her the opportunity of knowing whether litigants are high, low, rich, poor, strong or weak.
The blindfolded woman symbolising justice holds scales and a sword. The scales are for weighing truth, the strength of each person’s case, whether he is the complainant or defendant, the reasoning behind the actions. The two scales are meant to place the opposing matters on both sides to see the balance they create on the weight of justice.
When she downs the sword of justice, it slices through, without bothering with who is involved. The punishment is dispensed with disinterest in the winner or loser — justice is meant to be the winner.
Some of the decisions our courts have reached are suggesting that justice is discovering ways of lowering the blindfold to examine the importance of the personality against whom she would rule. Or the scales are becoming uneven and the sword falls too feebly on some and too strongly on others.
If that is not enough, Lady Justice now tightens the blindfold so strongly that it cannot notice the scales in a case.
Two recent cases, both prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which is gloating over its success in gaining convictions, point to the glaring disparity in the dispensation of justice and the apparent discarding of the blindfold, scales and sword.
Where is the justice in 48-year-old Olusoji Abiodun Ilori going to jail for three years (he was actually jailed 120 years, three years each on 40 charges, but the term runs concurrently) for forging scam letters that he had not even distributed? What type of law would put the man away for that long, under crushing circumstances while another has the privilege of spending a tempered term in a high brow hospital that has suites that are better than the best five star hotels in the country?
Ilori was charged for offences bordering on fraud, forgery and obtaining money by false pretence.
The judge said the jail sentence was to serve as a deterrent to the convict and others who may be nursing the idea of engaging in fraudulent activities. He hoped the three years the convict would be in prison would reform him. We hope so too.
Ilori was held since March 2009 when he was arrested at the Dugbe Post Office, Ibadan while posting over 200 scam letters containing forged United Kingdom documents meant to be delivered to unsuspecting victims.
He also had 213 letters purportedly signed by one Mr. Benson Nwosu of Fidelity Registrar, which Fidelity Bank Plc confirmed to be fake as the bank stated that it has no subsidiary company with the name Fidelity Registrar.
He also had 212 letters purportedly signed by one Neil Freeman, Centre Manager, Inland Revenue Centre for Non-Residents, Fitzroy House, Nottingham, United Kingdom.
The bad image advance fee fraud causes the country and attempts to impress the international community could be behind the type of sentence Ilori got. We must state that he deserves his sentence according to the law. We do not support fraud, no matter the reasons the offender gives. However, we wonder at the fairness of the law itself.
Days before Ilori’s sentence, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank was jailed for 18 months; she would serve only six months, as the term also runs concurrently.
EFFC alleged and secured convictions on the facts that she had amassed assets worth about N191 billion, purportedly at the expense of Oceanic Bank and its other owners.
The law, those who heard of Ilori’s case posit, was too lenient, considering the details of the two cases. Ilori just had letters that he had not distributed.
His could be rated attempted fraud, the other was alleged offence, since it was proven in court that the offence was committed.
Where was Lady Justice looking when it passed the sentences? Is it possible there was miscarriage of justice in the case of Ilori or that is how cases are decided for people of his class?
Mrs. Ibru is ill. One of the reliefs her lawyers secured for her was that she could spend the term in a highbrow hospital, comparable to a five star hotel suite, where she would undergo treatment.
Suppose Ilori is ill, would he be availed an opportunity to treat himself in a hospital of his choice, or left to the poor medical services at Agodi Prisons? Two years ago, inmates at Agodi Prisons went on rampage when one of their colleagues died without getting medical attention.
Mrs. Ibru is only just the most recent case of the tilted scales of justice. Retired Commodore Bode George is serving a term in Kirikiri Prisons and stories of his comfort in incarceration filter to the media. He too is a special prisoner.
Another is Reverend King, who was jailed for murder. He had to be moved to Kano Prisons, when his visitors (worshippers) kept pouring into Kirikiri Prisons as if it was his palace.
There are cases, just as there are more cases of ordinary people rotting in prisons, some for more than 10 years without trial, for offences that have less than one year terms.
It is up to judges to dispense justice. We agree. They must also note that justice loses meaning if the public perceives injustice in it or thinks justice has not been done. This must be why there is the injunction that justice has to be done and must be seen to have been done.