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February 21, 2017

Towards a Transparent and Independent Judiciary

The survival of any democracy depends on the integrity of the Judiciary.  Therefore, a transparent, free and independent judiciary is not negotiable. It is supremely important in any sensible Government because when you interfere with the judiciary; you interfere with society’s nerve centre and virtually everything else is affected. The pain and agony Nigeria is experiencing today as a nation is not unconnected with the state of its judiciary and lack of respect for the rule of law.

Sadly our courts are under siege by money mongers who are supposed to be judges. Our nation’s judiciary has long been compromised. Our Courts can scarcely be said to be the last hope of the common man anymore, because we all know that justice is being hawked to the highest bidder. Most Judges and magistrates have a price and deliver justice to those who can pay, directly or by proxy.  They have 10 and 20 cars, with our prisons full to over-flowing, cases adjourned indiscriminately and the innocent denied justice.  Some Judges are more after their prestige than the dispensation of justice; hence they are on the payroll of politicians and corrupt Government officials. Judgment and gifts do not mix in any court of law and Nigeria is no exception. But this is the situation we have had for quite some time.

And this is why the recent confrontation between the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Judiciary has revealed nothing new. The allegation that there is corruption in the judiciary is neither here nor there. We know there is corruption everywhere, because the whole nation stinks.   What seems new is that corruption which has long been fingered in the judiciary has been given a face with the arrest of some judges. Whether or not they are guilty is not the issue now but that Judges can be arrested like other persons is something new.

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When Nigerians begin to know that no one is above the law, their rebirth and resuscitation will begin. We do not need any more sacred cows or anything that says Touch not my anointed however filthy he is. If everyone who did wrong or suspected to have done wrong was arrested and punished, Nigeria would be a different place and not in the mess it is today.  Let the sacred cow syndrome come to an end. It is time Nigeria took President Obama’s advice and started building strong institutions instead of strong individuals/billionaires.

Arresting the judges is no big deal because some of them ought to have been arrested long ago. Notwithstanding, things must be done right.  If we follow the rule of law and due process, as  done in civilised societies, then indiscriminate arrests and invasion of people’s homes should not happen.

Invading the homes of highly respected judges with armed and masked security operatives, frightening them, arresting them, and whisking them away for a few hours, to embarrass and humiliate them is surely not the answer or the way to obtain or reinforce the independence of the judiciary.  Several such swoops have taken place in the past and the accused paraded before the media and nothing more. No justice!

Nigerians are not interested in the show and drama of arresting an accused person. What they want are results; what we want is to take back our nation from corruption.  What we want is checking corruption, tracking corruption and punishing corruption now and always under the rule of law. Intimidating and humiliating a few judges is not the way.

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Yet, we call on the judiciary to call itself to order, if it has any sense of seriousness or shame.  The National Judiciary Council (NJC) has taken some positive measures to check corruption by announcing some strict rules. One hopes, however, that there will be monitoring and implementation of these rules for only then will the desired change come.



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