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Date Published: 06/28/10

The Proposed Death for Stealing: A Rejoinder By Abubakar Othman


      It is a flagrant falsification through over simplification to define corruption as a mere stealing, the way one Josef Omorotionmwan is wont to belief in his article of This Day Thursday, June 17, 2010 (Page 18) Captioned: The Proposed Death For Stealing. The article was a reaction to the statement made by the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, who was ostensibly overwhelmed by the irrationality of some corrupt Nigerians that she found them not only abnormal but also sub-human; such that she suggested death penalty as the best remedy for these obnoxious, despicable, morally deranged human beings.

      However, Mr. Omorotionmwan belittled the seriousness of the crime by translating corruption into stealing. Stealing is a mild crime compared to the dastardly act of corruption. In fact, oftentimes, Stealing is treated as a Pathological disease, e.g Kleptomania, and hence legally excusable.

      In the article he referred to his late uncle whom he described as ‘a first generation Politician of his time’, who told him that “no one was born as a wayo man but that wayo is a game you play to meet up with the weather”. Wayo here stands for stealing which the Uncle explained through an example: “He cited a good example: The children have gone to school. You are aware that when they return from school, they will ask for food. But right now there is nothing at home. Why wouldn’t even the most honest of all men in that type of situation develop itchy fingers…”

      “Itchy fingers” is his Uncle’s metaphor for stealing which he suggested for an idle but ‘most honest of all men’ to do in a situation where there is no food in the house. This is an abnormal psychology that justifies idleness as state of dire need. If there is no food in the house what the man would do is go out and work for it before the children come back from school, and not to develop itchy fingers and go to steal from his neighbor who has gone out to work and bring home food for tomorrow.

      That Omorotionmwan accepts his Uncle’s psychology of stealing as axiomatic, to the extent of extending it to corruption, is a reminder to Mrs. Farida Waziri that the fight against economic and Financial Crime in Nigeria is not only judicial but also psychological. It is not only the duty of law enforcement agents, lawyers and Judges, but more importantly, the work of Sociologists, Psychologists, Career guiders and Counselors.

      I find Omorotionmwan‘s article morally disturbing in its smarmy acceptance of stealing as a necessary condition for survival in our contemporary society. Even in the days of your great Uncle there was stealing and there were institutions to checkmate stealing. The fact that in the days of your great Uncle there was no need for EFCC or ICPC was not because things were still good then but because the thieves were very few to be noticed.

      You may be right to say that a President who was pointing accusing fingers at corruption is himself swimming in corruption, you maybe right to say that state Governors are misappropriating Public funds, and local Government Councils have become the major stealing centres of the nation, but you must also be honest enough to say that the momentum is fizzling out since the inception of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. You are worried about who to cast the first stone at corruption, according to you, the entire nation has gone berserk in corruption. I dare say that EFCC has indeed cast not just the first stone but several more stones at corruption since its inception. Indeed, the present EFCC under the leadership of Mrs. Farida Waziri the fight against Corruption is not only real but, that, actually NO BODY IS ABOVE THE LAW. Please go to our website and other publications and you will be stupefied by the names of those so called Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) the EFCC has prosecuted, and other high profile cases still in courts.

      The fight against Corruption under Waziri’s leadership is one that embraces all facets and faces of Crimes and Criminals; utilizing all techniques and tactics including the psychological techniques of public execution which you find repulsive. There are many Nigerians like you who are genuinely worried about Corruption, especially by our elected leaders and representatives. Hence, many of you are justifiably impatient with the pace at which the EFCC is pursuing the Criminals. We here in the EFCC are equally concerned, perhaps more than other Nigerians because they all look up to us for solutions. We in the EFCC wish that there will be swift and certain punishment for offenders just the way you expect of us. I agree with you that the goal of deterrence cannot be achieved by inviting offenders to EFCC Headquarters for chats and leave the files to gather dusts in the office. But the delay is not in the EFCC Headquarters, we do not keep files here to gather dusts.

      The EFCC in its operations is guided by the rule of law and equally inhibited by the judicial process. Usually, the EFCC acts upon reports or petitions on Financial or economic crimes coming from victims or stakeholders, even though sometimes we do act on impulse. In either case, a thorough investigation must be done by the operation department of the Commission and there after prepares case file for the legal department of the Commission. It is the legal department that determines the actionability or otherwise of any case, and we have a world standard caliber of detectives and legal luminaries in the Commission, and Senior Advocates as Counsels. However, most of the cases under go suffocating delays when they get to the Courts. Defense Councils and presiding Judges spend more time on preliminary issues than the substantive matters. And don’t forget that Defense Councils are usually stupendously paid than the Judges and prosecuting Counsels. Therefore, unless Nigerians come to accept Corruption as an abnormal Crime, and impress upon their elected representatives as law makers to approve the establishment of special Courts for this special Crimes, the likes of Omorotionmwan will have to continue to suffer the pains of seeing these Criminals walking freely among them while the judiciary amuses itself with verbal legerdemain at the expense of speedy dispensation of Justice. 

ABUBARKAR OTHMAN Is the Special Assistant to the Commission’s Chairman on Publicity and Enlightenment. 


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