The judiciary in Nigeria is turning out to be a more interesting battleground in the anti-corruption war than even the arena of governance/politicians. The delicate issues in that flank show up in this selection. Although there is only one statement at this point of the campaign from what could be called the antagonists of the raid on the judges’ houses earlier this month, that single statement packs all the punches at issue – the judiciary as an institution that has its own logic and sensibility in the flow of governance. Each of the five statements from those that can be loosely grouped as protagonists in this discursive warfare is basically responding the CJN’s statement.
This warfare is probably not unexpected. Rumours and stories of corruption in the judiciary have been part of the staple of the Nigerian public service. The question, therefore, is whether it is the truth that is finally emerging or power that is unravelling. Is power being confused with leadership on any sides? Has everyone come to equity with clean hands? Have all the players taken note of the law of unintended consequences? In other words, are both protagonists and antagonists conscious of what the consequences of certain actions might be in another 10, 20, 30 years hence? Above all, who will calm the waves in a country in dire need of calm?
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria also wishes to state in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by the DSS on 07 and 08 October 2016 was certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian Judiciary”
H. S Sa’eed, Senior Special Assistant to the Chief Justice of Nigeria in a media statement, October 23rd, 2016
“We will not take up issues with the CJN because the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), some former Supreme Court Justices and the Body of Benchers have supported the position of the government that the judges should step aside… Some of the judges in their letters to the CJN admitted having huge cash at home as if their houses are banks. In some jurisdictions, no judge can have up to $5,000 dollars at hand…. We have a case of a judge who had never withdrawn a kobo from his salary account. How does he feed? Yet, the CJN was put into confidence on some of these issues at a meeting with some government officials. In what other way can the government respect the Judiciary?”
The views of an anonymous government official in a newspaper report in apparent reaction to the position of the Chief Justice, (The Nation, October 24th, 2016).
“If a justice of the Supreme Court or the court of appeal can stoop so low as to accept and accumulate money to the tune of hundreds of millions in their houses, why are we talking about the time of their arrest and how they were arrested? I want to say, as a trained detective arrest is an exercise of force, you don’t beg people to submit to arrest. In many cases, the element of surprise is what makes the arrest possible. If you lose the surprise, you lose the case. Do you tell a man who has accumulated money in his house that you are coming? In doing so, you lose the case. I was a crack detective in the Army, I headed the SIB in the Army and was Provost-Marshal. During my period as the commander in SIB, we carried out so many surprise raids and arrested many so called untouchables in the Army, Police and banks. We contributed seriously to the no- nonsense posture of the first Buhari administration. We invaded their houses and got important evidence for their prosecution through a surprise raid. So it is normal and has nothing to do with the rule of law. What is rule of law? This has been the problem over the years, different people use rule of law to justify their actions. Power of investigation Good people use it and bad people use it, but the rule of law that I know states that everybody is subject to the same law.
…Nigerians should be happy that for once there are signs that people in high places got involved in very unwholesome transaction, which government lived up to the expectation and got them picked up. If at the end of the investigation the allegations are not true, good luck to those involved. But I cannot for one minute imagine that a state organ like DSS will want to victimize any judges. Why didn’t they come to arrest a judge in Benin here whom I know is upright and can’t be influenced?
……..Is it not in Nigeria that they said Ibori has no case to answer? Is it not in Nigeria that the Supreme Court interpreted the resource control law and defined the territorial boundary of states to be the water mark, which was completely unknown in the Nigerian legal lexicon? We have warily laughed off at some of these happenings. We have some good judges, no doubt, and we have the bad ones too, and they must be fished out and dealt with if the society must genuinely fight corruption.
General Dada Ikpomwen in an interview in Vanguard, (October 20th, 2016)
“If we could defeat military despots, no civilian dictator will be tolerated by the Nigerian people. I don’t believe in the assertion that the arrest of a few judges is an indication that the state has become fascistic. In other words, there is nothing dictatorial in arresting criminal suspects accused of corrupt practices. We should stop using the rule of law to cover up grave economic crimes that have ruined our country. What you have described as gestapo tactics with the arrest of judges are the same methods that daily apply to common people by the police and security agencies in Nigeria. That was why I said that we should take advantage of the plight of the judges to put in place irreducible minimum standards for the treatment of all criminal suspects. However, I strongly believe that the legal profession owes itself a duty to adopt pro-active measures to remove corrupt lawyers and judges from the bench and the bar”
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) in a Punch, (October 22, 2016) interview on what is right of the raid and what is to be done.
Retired Justice Uwaifo
“A judge who is found to be corrupt must face the music. He must be prosecuted. If there is enough evidence to convict him, he should go to jail. That is the way I look at it. And if you do that, jail this one, jail that one, corruption will just run away through the window. It will never happen again. But if you use kid gloves, do it administratively, you are just wasting your time. Those who are determined to take bribe, they will continue. If you find anyone who is guilty and you send him to jail, his entire family in a sense, will be affected, his life career will be destroyed. So, if you have those many like that, who are found to be guilty, send them to jail”
Justice Uwaifo, retired Supreme Court Judge in an interview with The Sun, (October 23rd, 2016)
“Blackmailing litigants into paying for, or excluding evidence; Making decisions based on instructions from local government, party or senior judicial officials, rather than the law or facts; Assigning, dismissing, delaying or refusing to accept cases, or refusing to properly enforce court decisions; Extorting kickbacks from intermediaries for passing cases to certain judges; Trading law enforcement services for personal gain; Taking bribes from the plaintiff and defendant (or their lawyers) or both; Manufacturing court cases
Embezzling court funding; Bowing to the demands of local officials, criminal networks, local clans, social networks or economic interests; Abusing the power of judges to order suspension of business operations, the confiscation of property, the eviction of tenants, or fair compensation and labour rights”
Eleven tactics attributed to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on how judges operationalise corruption in the judicial order, (The Nation, October 24th, 2016)