Thursday, February 02, 2012

Justice: Crime and Punishment

Many remark justice is blind; pity those in her sway, shocked to discover she is also deaf.  - Unknown

Lady justice is blind but should she be? Justice is synonymous with fairness and the notion of getting what one deserves. That said, these are interesting times for Nigeria’s judiciary. In the last week, Patrick Ekeh was sentenced to death for stealing a car stereo and Al-Mustapha and Lateef Sofolahan were also sentenced to death for their roles in the murder of Kudirat Abiola. Both cases demonstrate the unnecessary delays that occur in our judicial system and just how blind justice is.
It is disheartening that the Nigerian State has laws that make petty armed robbery punishable by death- see section 402 of the criminal code while armed robbers in high places are not penalized.
First, why are offenders punished? Offenders are punished as a form retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, or condemnation. The factors are taken into consideration during sentencing for crimes.
However, laws and sentences such as this reveal not only the economic but the social inequalities that exist between the “haves”- especially the illegitimate ones- and the “have-nots”.  There are many stories in our society of punishment not being commensurate with the crime. I remember the story of a man that was jailed (I don’t know if he is out now) for stealing a shoe! At the time I heard his story, he had spent about five years in jail.
I wonder if our justice system is a reflection of our values as a society. Still in my wondering state: in what country are thieves rewarded with national awards, elected, and hold government positions and someone is to die by hanging for stealing a car stereo? (I am not trying to justify the crime but…)
Objectivity is not neutrality or blindness. It is time for madam justice to open her eyes well and be truly just.


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