Some lawyers have cautioned
President Goodluck Jonathan to
stop differentiating between the
acts of stealing and corruption.
The President had during the 8th
presidential media chat on
Wednesday maintained that there
was a difference between the two
acts. This came several months
after he first made a similar
“If somebody is a thief, he is a thief.
We should not use the word
‘corruption’ to cover a case of
stealing. Thieves should be called
thieves,” the President had said.
However, a lawyer and human
rights activist, Prof. Itse Sagay, said
in a telephone conversation with
Saturday PUNCH that there was no
technical difference between the
two acts and that persons involved
in either should be made to face
the wrath of the law.
He said, “In a broad legal sense,
they are the same. Stealing is
taking what belongs to another
person without the consent of the
owner with the intention of
keeping it permanently.
“Corruption is using an office to
acquire the resources of an
organisation without working for it
and without the organisation’s
awareness. Looking at it, using an
office as a political office holder to
acquire what belongs to the state
results to stealing.
“Ultimately, every act of corruption
is an act of stealing. There is no
question about it. There is no moral
or ethical difference between
them. Both are criminal, immoral
and anti-social acts and nobody
should attempt to make one look
lighter than the other. People who
commit either should be dealt with
A civil rights lawyer, Fred Agbaje,
said President Jonathan’s
differentiation between the acts
was clear evidence that the
President’s government is corrupt.
He said that the President was only
giving two terms for same offence.
He said, “Defence of stealing as
different from corruption is
indicative of the fact that President
Jonathan’s administration is
“What the President has said is an
admission of guilt and that his
government is corrupt. It is a
distinction without substance. It is
calling one object two different
The nomenclature may differ, but
the substance of both allegations is
“Which of them is allowed in our
law whether he calls them in
different names? They are both
punishable under our penal laws.
Stealing is even worse than
corruption. Both of them carry a
legal element of deliberately
taking what does not belong to
someone with the intent of
depriving the taxpayers.”