by Lekan Olanrewaju
Former Delta state governor, James Ibori was on the 17th of April sentenced to 13 years in prison for several corruption and money laundering charges. His sentence was delivered at the Southwark Crown Court in London, by Judge Anthony Pitts.
He had, however, before being sentenced in the UK court, been tried in a Federal High Court in Asaba, and acquitted on all 170 charges.
Since his conviction in the UK last week, the original ruling has been the subject of much criticism, with Mallam Nuhu Ribadu expressing to the BBC his disappointment at the fact Ibori had originally been acquitted in 2009, and a social justice advocacy group, Spaces for Change, speaking out and demanding the judge in charge of that be dismissed and prosecuted. The judge, Justice Marcel Idowu Awokulehin, has now responded to the criticism, stating that there is nothing to be worried about “once your conscience is clear”.
“Let me give you an instance,” he said. “I read a column in This Day newspaper over my ruling in the case involving James Ibori. The columnist, in his write-up said he wondered what will be running through my mind now that Ibori had admitted guilt in London to the case I exonerated him of.”
“I am always guided by the submission of Justice Musdapher who said that one should not mind what people say as long as your conscience is clear in your decision.”
He went on to say that the justice systems of Nigeria and Britain are very different, and that Nigeria requires accussations to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, as opposed to the UK, where sentences are delivered “based on inference”.
“What the Nigerian law says over criminal case is that such allegations must be proved beyond reasonable doubt,” he said. “Which is different from British law which is based on inference. What happens there is to assume, so, SAN, do not border about what the witness wrote.”