Garba Ogbede? You might be wondering. I won’t blame you if you don’t
know him. You are probably not an Abuja based criminal, journalist
The man is a Judge
who sits in an Abuja court. The same city where some politicians,
military officials and government contractors are currently going in
and out of court with hoards of lawyers attending to their adjourned
Unlike the Judges presiding over cases regarding looting of public
funds, diversion of state resources, bribery of election officials
and money laundering,
Garba Ogbede presides over cases of stealing by common thieves and
he wastes no time with them or on their cases.
recently made news for sentencing an unemployed 30-year-old
bricklayer to three months imprisonment for stealing two packets of
Maggi cubes, albeit with an option of 15,000 Naira fine.
Yes, three months imprisonment for stealing two packets of Maggi
cubes! The value of the latter, they tell me is about seven hundred
Garba Ogbede is not
new to such judgments.
Before then, the same Judge made news, in March this year, for
student, to three months in prison for snatching a bag valued at
N25,000 and containing a cell phone worth N12,000, two pairs of
canvass valued at N8,000 and N10,000 cash. In that case, the Judge
ordered the felon to also restitute the items stolen.
In April, the same
sentenced a 20-year old mechanic, to a three-month jail term for
stealing a mobile phone worth N11,500 and also ordered the
restitution of the looted sum of N11,500.00.
sentenced a 22-year-old businessman, to three months prison time
with an option of fine in the sum of N20,000 for stealing N3,060.
Naturally, the Judge also ordered the convict in this case to
restitute the money stolen.
Three points are worth noting in the listed cases and more.
Number one is the duration of the cases. In Mr
Garba Ogbede’s court, cases do not seem to go on for more than a
Within twenty-five working days the prosecution comes
to court, pleads its case; the accused party does the same and the
Judge decides. Accused persons do not fall ill in Mr
court and they don’t have the need to go abroad for medical
treatment, health issues or to visit their families. Their crimes
and penalties are very made in Nigeria and they do not have the
voice to invoke witch-hunting, political motivated persecution or
similar extrajudicial motives.
The second feature is the constant restitution of loots. A convict
is not only jailed and or fined; he or she is actually asked to
return what was stolen. A very
sense of judgment, most will agree. Clearly Mr
Garba Ogbede does not seem to believe that looters should return
only part of what they looted. In his own court, a thief must return
everything he stole plus do some time or pay a fine.
Bitrus A. Mallam, a former cashier with the Kaduna State Local
Government Pension Board, who got a fine of 100,000 Naira for
stealing 8.6 Million Naira must be thanking his stars that he did
not end up in Garba Ogbede’s court.
The third point has to do with the severity of his sentences, and
here we begin to judge the Judge.
Generally, how do you feel about a judge that hands down
imprisonment for stealing two packets of Maggi cubes? Are we to
consider his sentences harsh or just right?
do you make of a judge that passes such sentences in a country where
some accused’s court cases are taking forever? How do you react to
news headlines about stolen billions of Naira, frozen assets and
properties worth over billions in our national currency? What does
one make of the type of justice reserved for the poor unemployed
miserable thieves that mostly plead for mercy and understanding when
caught and the justice reserved for the rich powerful looters that
lie, fight and cry foul when caught?
We really need to make up our minds as a people and as a government.
We need to decide if the outlier
Garba Ogbede is an aberration that needs to be eliminated from
the system or a benchmark against which other Judges should be
measured and a level to which they must aspire.
It is legally
unjust and morally indecent to have a system where the poor and very
wretched amongst us are speedily and severely punished for petty
crimes whilst the powerful and privileged are allowed to play with
Whining or even
discussing the tendencies of highly paid lawyers to frustrate the
judicial process is not an acceptable option or exercise.
Frustrating court cases is a legitimate position for defense
counsels. It is the Judge’s duty to ensure that such does not happen
and it is the duty of the prosecution to make a convincing case
pointing out where the defense is wasting the court’s time.
Join me if you can @anthonykila
to continue these conversations.