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Sunday, July 23, 2017

INCORRUPTIBLE JUDICIARY AS A CATALYST FOR AN EQUITABLE AND PROGRESSIVE SOCIETY

Written by: Muoka Chibuzor G Bsc
For the Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN)


INCORRUPTIBLE JUDICIARY AS A CATALYST FOR AN EQUITABLE AND PROGRESSIVE SOCIETY
Corruption has been the caterpillar ravaging the fabrics of our society. It is a devastating act perpetrated by corrupt leaders and followers, and unless people decide to know and do what is right, a progressive society would be a mirage. In reality, the progress of the Nigerian society is jeopardised as the rule of law is neglected. The equitability (fair treatment) and equality of citizens before the law and in other opportunity are bastardised by the failure of the Judiciary, to come to terms with what is expected of them as the last hope of the common man. The people are thirsty, in dire need of an incorruptible Judiciary that will stand firm, develop a thick back against corruption and resolve to be an accelerator (catalyst) for a progressive society.
Incorruptibility as a concept entails one being morally strong enough not to be persuaded to do something wrong. It sounds strange to some people who actually feel that God is the only one capable of being incorrupt, and whenever they remember the fact that even some of his angels (The Fallen Angels) at a time became corrupt (Isaiah 14:12 – 15). They ask, who am I then? But they fail to remember that some angels also remained incorrupt. This set of people believe that nobody is actually incorruptible, and with such belief, they view Nigerians and her citizens as no exceptions. They believe that with money and indulgence in heinous manipulations and dubious processes, anything can be done. Unfortunately, this same set of people have also infiltrated the Nigerian Judiciary and have desecrated the temple of justice, leading to increased impedance against the progress of our society.

Every society is blessed with people who are endowed with specific and special capabilities. Those capacities are meant to contribute to the progress and advancement of all. The society exists because of a share in the same geographical or social territory, which is subjected to a form of political authority and value system. The genesis of corruption in our society can be traced back to when the leaders began to abuse public powers for private gains, and the members of the society refused to imbibe the rationale of good conduct, in ensuring that the relationship between one and another is just and unbiased. At this juncture, the society can’t progress because no one is willing to identify the problems and provide adequate solutions.

Nigeria adopted the democratic system of government, which thrives on the doctrine of the tripod separation of powers. The separation of power was to help pilot affairs of the society with maximum efficiency. This scenario can be seen in the Bible when Moses was advised by his father-in-law Jethro who said, “What are you trying to accomplish here? Why are you trying to do this all alone while everyone stands around you from morning to evening? Select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and then place them as leaders over the thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. To help lessen your burden as you administrate justice to your people” (Exodus 18:14 – 24). This shows the uniqueness of the separation of powers and proves that man can actually be honest, have the fear of God and be incorruptible.

This doctrine of separation of power is reflected in the constitution of most countries of the world. In Nigeria, the constitutional provision stipulates that; all Legislative powers should be vested in the National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives, the Executive powers vested in the presidency, and all judicial powers vested in an independent Judiciary established for the Federation. (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Part 11, Section 4, 5, and 6). But the reverse is the case as the executive deprives the Judiciary the widely acclaimed independence by controlling both the appointment of Judges and financing of judicial staffs and at such, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

For justice and equity to reign in a society like ours, the separated arms of government must be totally independent to prevent the emergence of autocratic leadership and to promote checks and balances. This doctrine prevents the excessive concentration of power on a single authority, of which would undermine the whole activities of the Judiciary. The Judiciary is known as the arm of government responsible for the administration of justice and interpretation of the laws which guild the society. Therefore, talking about the incorruptibility of the Judiciary in the first place shows that corruption has not only taken hold of the judicial system but has also held the entire society to ransom.

Whether Nigeria has lived up to the expectations of its founding fathers, is a pertinent question which is being answered every day by day by what is happening all around. So many scholars and politicians have suggested so many alternatives that would make the Nigerian society an enviable one. Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan who is a politician and former Delta state governor have called for the continued independence of the Judiciary to strengthen Nigeria’s democracy (News Diary Online). Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is a politician and also the current APC leader has blamed the problems of Nigeria to be caused by lack of true federalism and have advocated for true federalism (Vanguard). Late Prof. Chinua Achebe who is a notable scholar, identified leadership failure as the bane of development in Nigeria and he called for proper leadership (African Studies Center – University of Pennsylvania).

Our society appears to be drifting away from what it takes to become a utopian society, as helpful suggestions are being ignored. The rich oppress the poor, and the laws of the land are trampled upon. The leaders who were voted into office by the electorate to champion their cause, turn their backs to enrich their purse and satisfy their selfish interests in sheer greediness and gross indiscipline. Moreover, it appears as if our judicial system has also succumbed to slumber as Judges now do their work with fear and favouritism, as against the constitutional oath they took. Leaders forget that they occupy the leadership position to serve the people who believed in them, and not for the people to serve or slave for them.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Power intoxicates and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The causes of corruption in our judicial sector today revolves around men who abused the power vested in them and have morally failed in all ramifications. The corruption is also as a result of issues which includes - weak government institutions, poor pay to workers, lack of patriotism and transparency in public service, lack of active anti-corruption tools, faulty political processes, embracement of corruption by the populace, tribalism and sectionalism, poverty, ethnic, and religious difference, nepotism, prebendalism, cronyism, struggle for resource control etc. The causes are just endless to mention.

Turning to the cases of corrupt practices indulged in by our past leaders which has undermined judicial processes up to this day. It is clear that the upsurge of corruption in Nigeria has been fueled by corrupt leaders starting from the military regimes to the civilian rule. An overview of some of the previous administrations shows that the true test of a man’s character is what he does with power when no one is looking. An article on the Wikipedia titled “Corruption in Nigeria” states that General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) administration, legalised corruption in the country. He was accused of interfering with the June 12, 1993, election, which was the freest and fairest election Nigeria has ever witnessed and then manipulating the court of justice so as to suppress the will of the people. He was also said to have also indulged in gross nepotism and cronyism, he also used various government privatisation initiatives to reward his friends and associates who bragged as "IBB Boys."

When General Sani Abacha came to power in November 1993, he became a law unto himself and developed an insatiable appetite for evil. His death on June 1998 revealed that our leaders have actually failed the people. Years after his death, the inestimable loot that he stashed away in Swiss banks in Europe were still being recovered. Even currently, Abacha’s loot recovery still makes newspaper headlines. The amount of money which could have been used for the development and progress of our country, of which he looted has kept Nigerians in perpetual awe.

During the civilian rule, the height of corruption became monstrous. The Administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was tagged with lots of corrupt practices. Closer to the end of his presidency, he was said to have widely lobbied for his failed campaign to alter the constitution to get a third term by actively bribing the legislators. And this further deepened the existing corruption in the country to the highest levels as leaders refuse to obey existing laws but try to influence another arm of the government so as to satisfy personal interests.

Even lately, the administration of Muhammadu Buhari has tremendously manipulated the Judiciary. The case of Nnamdi Kanu (leader of Indigenous People of Biafra - IPOB) a political activist, who was agitating for a Biafran republic was arrested on October 14, 2015, comes to mind. He was accused of committing a treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society and concealing goods in a container holding goods of a different description, but was immediately granted an unconditional bail by judges of several competent courts of jurisdiction, because of insufficient evidence from the government. But the presidency issue orders which denied him bail. This led to his continued detention at the Abuja Kuje prison until April 25, 2017. When he was granted a conditional bail. In this scenario, the presidency was seen actively flouting court orders and manipulating the Judiciary at will.

One can go on and on to analyse both previous and present governments in Nigeria, but it is glaringly clear that the chain reaction of corruption was fueled from one government to another, and was spearheaded by the executive which should have shown and lived an exemplary life. And the people languished in anguish due to lots of failed promises that they keep remembering. These abnormalities have changed the perception of the upcoming Nigerian youths in particular, and almost every one of them now wants to become educated and rise to prominent positions where they can gladly write off money from the nation’s account, while seated in an air-conditioned office. This even applies to most upcoming lawyers (the future of the Judiciary), as they begin to mimic the actions of the past leaders who had set the pace for gross corruption all in the name of cutting the national cake.

Currently, Nigeria is experiencing an unabated economic recession, and the Judiciary has contributed to it by failing to prosecute looters who took away the public funds meant for national development. Most often, the Judiciary has been accused of benefiting from the proceeds of the corrupt acts. If some judges are not corrupt, how can they possess billions of foreign currencies and afford extravagant lifestyles and expensive luxuries as civil servants. The masses are also not helping matters as they have lost the zeal of being honest to themselves, by failing to call a spade a spade and then branding the arrest and prosecution of corrupt Judges as anarchy and witch hunting. While innocent individuals are being locked up in prisons for years without trial or denial of justice in court.

An in-depth study of the Judiciary, reveals diversified ways by which the Judiciary engage in corrupt practices. These vices have actually led to the denial of justice and the incarceration of the innocent. Firstly, is the “godfather idiosyncrasy” among government workers, including our judicial body. The idea that “one can never make it if one does not have a godfather” is being indoctrinated into the innocent minds of the upcoming youths. One may ask - who are the godfathers? They are simply the remaining bad eggs who have peddled corrupt practices during their active days in office, and then still wants to instil their ideas into the minds of the upcoming youths. They lure the youths into unethical behaviours, whereby the godfather uses his wealth and affluence to secure a governmental position for the godson who would later repay him in cash or kind. Young lawyers are brainwashed to abide by the instructions of the godfather if they ever want to enjoy a successful career, and all this would be achieved at the expense of the rights of the people jeopardised. This further encourages the emergence of Judges with questionable characters in the Judiciary.

Secondly, is the delay tactics employed by Judges of which leads to the miscarriage of justice. Delay tactics are mostly adopted by corrupt Judges during case hearing, so as to postpone the judgment day to a time when it will actually favour their interests. Justice delayed is justice denied, because if there is no legal redress available for the innocent at the appropriate time when it is needed as a result of procrastination and corruption, then there is no legal redress at all. It is saddening that in most cases, substantial pieces of evidence often get lost, and harm is caused before injustice comes. The origin of Jungle Justice is as a result of the judiciary making the people lose confidence in them, and rather than the angry mob wait for the police to arrive at the crime scene to arrest and drag the suspect to court where justice will most likely be miscarried. They rather deal ruthlessly with the accused immediately.

Thirdly, bribery has invaded the Judiciary like a terrorist, and its wide acceptance among Judges calls for urgent concern. In our society today, bribery is termed “Kola” or “Token of appreciation”, a more fashionable word coined by perpetrators of corruption to cover and derogate the magnitude of their acts and make it appear more acceptable and unharming, so as to deceive the gullible members of the society. These elites readily rush to bribe the Judge so that the poor who is mostly innocent in most cases, would be deprived justice. Such behaviour upon reoccurrence has continually increased people's loss of confidence in the Judiciary and has damaged the image of our country, by making the international communities perceive our society as a place where justice is unachievable. No wonder the former prime minister of Britain, David Cameron labelled Nigerians as being “fantastically corrupt” according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Some people rather than wait for the court's judgment, take laws into their hands because they have continually witnessed incessant denial of justice all in the name of unending court proceedings and delay tactics employed by the corruptible Judge.

Fourthly, desperation has taken its toll on Judges, a desperate man will do anything to get what he wants. According to Socrates “he who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” Likewise, a desperate Judge who would also ignore the truth before him, and grant the request of another who has promised to render any form of assistance of which might be beneficial to his career or otherwise. All in the bid to rise to an exalted position in a short period of time, he dances to the tune of politicians who would grant him quick promotions as he acquiesces their commands whether good or bad. His desires appear insatiable and his misappropriation and miscarriage of justice are unstoppable. He appears to be a puppet, a worthy tool used by the corrupt (the puppeteer).

Fifthly, exorbitant client fees have stopped the poor from getting justice in a law court. The rich man swindles the poor and prides in his ability to manipulate and mesmerise the corruptible judge with his wealth and affluence, and then he frightens the poor who trembles at the mention of “see you in court”. The Nigerian masses suffer because of the political and business elite in the country, who use the Judiciary to ensure that the masses are all slaves at their mercy. The exorbitant client fees used to obtain and keep a lawyer attached to a case often keeps the poor away from any sort of court case, and even when their rights are being trampled upon, they have no other option than to resort to other means to obtain justice, of which can be illegal and diabolic.

Cases have been seen whereby people prefer to visit native doctors whose shrines are often in the forest or outskirts of villages, to get justice rather than to obtain a money conscious lawyer who would get their case addressed in a law court. This ungodly act is widely gaining acceptance, but it would be best if one resorts to seeking justice from God who stated clearly that vengeance is His (Roman 12: 19), than to bow to ill-gotten powers just to obtain justice.

Sixthly, unscrupulous elements in the society often don’t want the truth revealed maybe because it’s against their interest. But the truth can’t be overshadowed no matter how long it may take. In the Bible, Zechariah 8:16 says, “these are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace”; the question remains, for how long shall one dwell in lies? Cases have been heard where the lives of members of the Judiciary have been threatened because they have solely decided to stand up for the truth. Often, disunity among the Judiciary creates room for such things to happen. As some judicial staffs will be in the alliance to support the motion for the truth to be hidden instead of being revealed, due to selfish interests. And one begins to wonder where the conscience of man has gone to, that it gladly perverts justice.

A lot of unscrupulous practices are being carried out in the judicial sector, and it almost seems an impossible task to instil sanity into the system. But all hope is not lost, because when various degrading acts such as godfather dependency, delay tactics, bribery,  desperation, exorbitant client fees, disunity, unholy alliance etc. are shunned in the judiciary, the emergence of an incorruptible Judiciary would be a reality and this welcomed development would place smiles on the face of the people.

This will catalyse the possibility of an equitable society where the rule of law will be enacted for the fair treatment for all, regardless of status quo. Eradicating partiality and promoting equality before the law. Also, a progressive society will be inevitable as people will follow the appropriate procedure of doing things. And this will keep the society growing in strength and waxing strong in every facet of life.

An incorruptible Judiciary, in essence, would comprise of a set of people which includes judges and judicial staffs, who fear God the ultimate Judge, and realize the relevance of the ideals of democracy and justice which they have sworn to uphold, to stand for nothing but justice, to avoid being swayed into perverting lifestyle and to champion the cause of the innocent amid all difficulties and not be a traitor to fatherland nor sell one's conscience for dishonest gains.

The incorruptible Judiciary will not spare the rod and spoil the society. An incorruptible Judiciary which is totally independent would be of great benefit to the nation’s progress as they interpret and apply the law as applicable, in the name of the state. Whereby the Nigerian Judicial Council will not accept any form of misconduct among members. Members of the Judiciary especially judges who have perpetrated evil will not only be retired nor their loots retrieved, but they would also be investigated, arrested, and prosecuted. Such actions will strengthen the confidence of the people in the Judiciary and they would not go ahead to take laws into their hands by causing public unrest or executing jungle justice, but would rather push cases to the law courts for redress.

When the elites discover that the Judiciary is incorruptible they will abide by the rules, and the oppression of the masses will be eradicated. When politicians discover that the Judiciary is incorruptible they would not try to escalate trouble during electioneering processes, as they will follow due processes as interpreted by the Judiciary. When the Judiciary brings criminals who occupy offices to book, the economy of the nation will be strengthened as there won’t be any form of money laundering nor misappropriation of funds intended for the development of the society. The incorruptible Judiciary will also stop biased prerogative views where some set of people deprive others of rights in the society.

In conclusion, the incorruptible Judiciary would be a forerunner of peace, ensuring equal justice under the law, and no one would have any form of immunity which bypasses the law. Thereby creating a society where everyone is treated equally under the law regardless of gender, race, colour, religion, ethnicity, disability, or any other form of discrimination bases. This will boost the image of the nation and make it possible for the international communities to have a good perception of our society, increasing friendliness and interactions in every possible way. The citizens will then be law abiding and unwilling to involve in corrupt practices and this will bring peace and order. All thanks to an Incorruptible Judiciary.





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