IN what will pass as a befitting climax to a trial drama that began five years ago, the long arm of justice eventually caught up with pension thief, John Yusuf, as the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Wednesday March 21, 2018 jailed him for six years and also asked him to refund N22.9 billion of the N32.8 billion police pension money he stole.
Yusuf thought he had escaped justice when, in 2013, he was sentenced to two years in jail, with the option of paying a paltry fine of N750,000 by Justice Abubakar Talba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court. Following Justice Talba’s ruling which understandably triggered national outrage, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had on April 26, 2013 approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the lower court.
The anti-graft agency had asked the appeal court to rule on “whether the trial judge exercised his discretion judicially and judiciously when, having convicted the respondent of a three count charge of conversion of over N3billion contrary to section 309 of the Penal Code, His Lordship imposed two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N250, 000 on each of the three counts”.
The EFCC questioned the judge’s discretion in imposing the sentence on the respondent who readily pleaded guilty and paid the ridiculous fine.
Ruling on the substantive matter, the Justices of the Court of Appeal held unanimously that having pleaded guilty to the three counts ( 17, 18 and 19) and converting the N24 billion to personal use, the sentence of the trial court does not, therefore, serve as deterrence to both the convict and others.
The position of the Appeal Court in this regard is certainly welcome. The John Yusuf corruption trial was a highly-celebrated one, but most skeptical Nigerians had felt that it would be swept under the carpet or allowed to fizzle out as usual. We commend the EFCC for its tenacity in pursuing the course of justice for the millions of Nigerian pensioners whose life-long savings had suddenly become a honeypot for crooked civil servants employed to manage it for the overall interests of the pensioners and the national economy.
This feat has demonstrated, once more, that the arm of the law is long and far-reaching, even in Nigeria. Nigerians have short memories on such big scandals. Many had already forgotten all about it, but the memory of the law is steadfast. That is because the law enforcement mechanism was alive to its responsibilities in this case. Kudos to the EFCC and also to the Court of Appeal.
We call on the anti-graft agency and the courts to leave no stone unturned until every recoverable kobo of this stolen pension is recovered to give the pensioners justice.