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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Capital punishment for corruption: How desirable?

Capital punishment for corruption: How desirable?

Written by Bukunmi Ogunsola

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Capital punishment or death penalty is as old as society itself. It involves beheading, stoning, crucifixion, drowning or the burying alive of criminal offenders. In modern times, it takes the form of shooting in private or public glare, electrocution, hanging, use of poison gas, injection of lethal substances, etc.

In the olden days and even presently in some countries, capital punishment was/is not applied solely for the most serious crimes.

Death was/is the repercussion for a variety of minor offences. For instance, Libya considers the importation of alcohol and trading in foreign currencies as capital crimes.

The supporters of capital punishment say that it will ensure the safety of other citizens and that “the ultimate penalty of death is necessary for the punishment of terrible people who commit terrible crimes because it provides the most complete retribution and condemnation.” They also believe that it could serve as an effective deterrent to the potential criminals because death is feared than the restriction of liberty.

Many countries regularly carry out capital punishment of offenders.

In America, there is a complex fusion of a legal system that authorises execution of criminal offenders and that which is characterised by the utmost respect for individual rights.

In Asian countries, particularly China, South Korea and Islamic nations, capital punishment is a routine, while the majority of countries in Africa practice capital punishment.

Before the World War II, all the major countries in Western Europe carried out this form of punishment.

According to the Amnesty International, a total of 1,813 prisoners were executed in 31 countries in 1999 while China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States carried out 85 per cent of all these killings.

Over the years, however, there have been debates over the desirability or otherwise of this form of punishment, with opponents describing it as “brutal and dehumanising.”

Opponents argue that life imprisonment could serve as an effective punishment and detterent to others and that it has been proved that capital punishment has no direct correlation with the elimination of crime.

The issue had become so controversial that by the 1990s, the nations of the world had become almost equally divided with respect to the death penalty issue.

Shortly after, over 70 countries abolished capital punishment while another 13 countries applied the death penalty only for exceptional crimes like crimes under military law and crimes committed in exceptional circumstances, such as during wartime.

Presently, however, of all developed nations, only the US and Japan still retain the death penalty, while the practice is prevalent in underdeveloped nations.

In Nigeria, this form of punishment appears to have been abolished with the exit of military governance.

But the issue has, again, assumed the front burner of national disourse in view of the monster called corruption that is gradually but steadily eating away the fabric of the nation.

In Nigeria, those who aspire to run the machinery of government do so essentially for the purpose of self-aggrandisemest and not because they want to serve the people or the nation.

Politicians and public office holders have “cornered” the common wealth for themselves and their generations yet unborn, leaving the over 150 million populace to wallow in abject and debilitating poverty.

The ultimate effect of this is that Nigerians are dying because they cannot eat well and cannot afford good health.They are exposed to all sorts of waterborne and airborne diseases because there is no good housing and potable water. They have become generally disenchanted, disillusioned and frustrated, and may have seen no reason to continue to live, all because some selfish public officials have stolen the wealth of their nation.

And despite all efforts by certain governments to eliminate or, at least, eradicate corruption among public office holders, it appears to be gaining ground.

The question then arises, if a few people have chosen to “sentence the people to death” by their greed and avarice, why should they themselves be spared? Should corrupt public office holders be subjected to capital punishment?This was the poser by the Nigerian Tribune to a cross section of Nigerians.

Mr J.Ebri said he does not support death penalty for corrupt politicians. He argued that corrupt enrichment is disobedience to civil law and not a capital crime. Capital punishment, he observed, is for capital crime like murder.

He reiterated:“Check all the statute books. Capital punishment is only meant for capital crime. I suggest that corrupt politicians should be clamped into jail. And by the time they come out, they would be too old to contest another election.

“I learnt that one former governor who was removed by the court after spendig three years in the saddle as governor says he will no longer contest the governorship race. My question is, why would he want to contest after he had stolen enough money. This kind of people should be clamped into jail along with all his cohorts” Ebri opined.

Mr Niyi Ogunjemilua also opposed capital punishment as a form of punishment for corrupt officials. He suggested that instead, such people should be made to forfeit all that they have - money, assets, etc. while their names should also be written in the nation’s black book.

Said he “Capital punishment is not the solution. Government should take over everything that belongs to the corrupt politician -- whether acquired legitimately or not. His name and those of his children and the extended family should also be written in the nation’s black book with the implication that none of them would be allowed to vote or be voted for. They would also be denied appointment whether in the public or private sector for the rest of their lives. I believe if this is done, the culprit’s children would by themselves kill their father.”

Ogunjemilua further argued that capital punishment has not served as an effective deterrent to capital crimes adding, “It is no longer news that cases of pick pocket are usually recorded in places where mass public executions for theft and other crimes are carried out. So, capital punishment is not the appropriate way of dealing with corrupt politicians.”

Mrs R. Sanni is, however, of a different opinion.“I support capital punishment. This is the only way to prevent the politicians from sentencing other Nigerians to death by taking away what belongs to all of us. Ghana did it and today they are the better for it. I believe if there’s anything more than capital punishment, these politicians deserve it.

“Nigerian politicians steal our money and invest same in foreign countries by building business empires and when they eventually die, these empires are taken over by the host countries, while millions of Nigerian graduates roam about the streets begging for alms or taking to armed robbery because they cannot find jobs to do. When these graduate armed robbers kill fellow citizens while trying to rob them, who bears the blame? Is it not the politicians? Corrupt politicians do not deserve our mercy”

“We would be jumping the gun if we advocate capital punishment. We are deviating from the real issue and we might not win at the end”Charles Oni reasoned adding that, “What we should be talking about is appropriate punishment. The punishment should tally with the offence committed.”

Akinloye Babatunde opined that capital punishment is a sin. “There are other ways of handling the issue of corruption among public office holders” , he said highlighting such alternative ways as: Freezing of account, impounding properties and placing a ban that would prevent such persons and their families from holding public offices in future.

Inasmuch as we cannot give life, according to Mr. Success, we have no justification to take life. He noted that apart from the punishment meted out to criminals, there’s also the law of karma which would most certainly catch up with them.

Adebayo Lana said:” I am a Christian and there are some crimes for which the Bible prescribes capital punishment. No matter how wise human laws pretend to be, they cannot be wiser than the Bible. Corruption is worst than armed robbery and anybody found guilty must be hanged. Corruption mortgages the future of our children. Some people blame God for their poor material conditions instead of seeing it as a result of the greed of certain people. If public office holders are found guilty of corruption, they should be hanged or made to face firing squad. However, government should be generous enough to make them choose either to die by hanging or firing squad. Corruption is responsible for our poor social infrastructure and national economic stagnation.Nigeria is 50 years yet, it has nothing to show for it.”

“Capital punishment might be considered extreme because in the real sense of it, the people who are supposed to make the law are the law breakers rather, I would support an independent body like Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who would prosecute offenders and freeze their assets thereby making them irrelevant to the society”, opined Robinson Osagie.

Speaking on the issue, a sociologist, Dr Akeem Akinwale, of the Sociology Department of the University of Ibadan averred that capital punishment negates the principal purpose of punishment which is basically about reforming the criminal. He argued that a criminal after undergoing rehabilitation has the chance of contrubuting positively to the development of the society while a total condemnation will not give such a person the opportunity to do so.

The question was asked: Can someone who is advanced in age be made to change his ways? The don replied:”Of couse yes. Human beings learn until death. There is no end to learning. Human beings are capable of change.Even professors still learn. All humans are capable of change”.

Dr Akinwale disclosed that it has been proved that capital punishment does not serve as a deterrent to crime but rather it leads to increased criminality.

The don however, lamented the dehumanising state of our prisons, where reformation of criminals are supposed to take place but of which the reverse is the case. “Our prisons should be reformative.Prison officials should be able to work on the psyche of criminals to make them changed persons. But the prison condition is so dehumanising such that criminals leave the place worse than they went in”. the don surmised and blamed the nation’s faulty social structure for this shortcoming.

Additional report by Bukunmi Ogunsola.

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