NIGERIAN ROGUE JUDGES AND THE WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION

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Nigeria as a theatre of the absurd no longer surprises. Nonetheless, it’s understandable actions, which exposes the extent to which lack of probity and respect for what is moral and logical, does not cease to cause pain. The latest twist in the Saraki case has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that, without a root and branch reformation of the Nigerian judiciary to root out perverse and corrupt judges, Nigeria will remain a lawless jungle, where power is only used to serve personal and selfish ends and courts used by criminals to escape justice. 

It is an understatement to say that the Nigerian judiciary is corrupt. A corrupt judiciary will influence judgment while pretending that it is dispensing justice. It will also endeavour to remain true to the overriding objective of facilitating just, quick and cheap resolution of matters. This is not the case with the Nigerian judiciary. 

The Nigerian judiciary, based on its recent pronouncements does not seem to be mindful of these fundamental objectives of the court in the way and manner it issues injunctions and or adjournments. 

Many of the judges are audacious and inventive in their subversion and perversion of justice. An increasing number of Nigerian judges are hiding behind the law to do the bidding of their paymasters. 

What is happening in Nigeria is that the judiciary having lost its soul and moral compass, has become a pun in the hands of the politician to ensure that the politicians who appointed them, are not held accountable. 

The aims of the Nigerian judiciary would seem to include, the frustration of the very process it was set up to expedite, validating criminality, and giving corrupt politicians a legal way to avoid justice. 

This has been demonstrated in many failed attempts to prosecute corrupt politicians and the many words the judges have misused to justify their frustration of the due process. 

What many Nigerians do not seem to appreciate is the incestuous nature of the relationship between politicians and the judiciary in Nigeria, which leaves the judiciary too compromised to ensure accountability and uphold the rule of law. 

The politicians appoint judges and recommend lawyers for the honour of senior advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), While the judges and SANs ensure that Politicians are not held accountable for their excesses. 

It has been well thought out and it would be seen to have evolved to a stage, where no Nigerian politician can be held accountable in Nigeria as there will always be a judge and a SAN who would rig the trial. 

I was told that one corrupt politician once boasted that he made a particular lawyer attorney general and a SAN, and wondered aloud what else the lawyer wanted from him. 

A few years ago, when Peter Odili obtained a permanent injunction to practically end his trial for corruption, many people thought that it was a joke that the judiciary will purge itself of its rogue elements and sanitize the course of justice. 

So far, nothing has happened. The Nigeria Supreme Court has not set to declare that the idea of a permanent injunction that completely rules out the revisiting of the case is perverse. 

The Nigeria Supreme Court has not done anything because of Peter Odili’s wife, who seats at the Supreme Court. Today, Peter Odili walks the street a free man, enjoying the proceeds of crime with is judge wife, while many people whose lives would have been changed by the billions he misappropriated, continue to suffer. 

Enter Olusola Saraki, who seems to have gone a step further. He has got a judge to permanently adjourn his case. Again in the hope that the court will give him the same protection from prosecution it accorded Peter Odili. 

Who could think of an adjournment being indefinite and permanent protection from lawful prosecution? Except of course an evil genius Nigerian Judge. I find the idea of an indefinite adjournment in the way it is understood and applied in Nigeria contemptible and difficult to conceptualize. 

Sine Die adjournment is simply adjournment without a return date. It can be a way to out rightly dismissal of very difficult cases. 

In a way, it denies finality to litigation and was not meant and should never be used in the circumstance some Nigerian lawyers have used it. 

Using it in a criminal case is worrisome. It is generally discouraged because it calls the integrity of the court into question. 

It is often the first sign that the court has has other interest apart of that of justice to protect. 

I hope that the intention of the judge is not to ensure that the case against Saraki permanently remains in the Cooler, like that of Peter Odili. 

I want to believe that the EFCC will quickly restart the case and get right the procedure the Judge relied on in his judgment to ensure that the case is brought back to court as this is the only option available to it if indeed, it has honest intention to bring Saraki to justice. 

Even though the court has both an inherent power and statutory to adjourn the hearing of any matter in appropriate circumstance, I cannot imagine a British judge granting permanent adjournment under the circumstance they have been granted in Nigeria courts. 

It would seem perverse for a judge to think of adjournment as something that can be made permanent in criminal cases in the dispensation of justice. 

Not with their understanding that justice delayed is justified denied. This is because the word, adjournment signifies an unfinished business, which needs to be concluded at a later date. 

A learned and honest Judge would struggle with the idea of permanently suspending the wheel of justice. In their mind, it would mean the murder of justice. Something they would never contemplate. Not so with Nigeria evil genius judges, who seem to believe that if they can think it, they can do it. 

An honest Judge would find it difficult to adjourn a criminal matter indefinitely and making the prosecution of a suspect in a criminal case more difficult. 

Why would a judge act to supplant the aim of the court to attain justice? How does granting an indefinite injunction to the accused aid the justice under the circumstance? 

Why would an honest judge frustrate the trial of an accused in a criminal case because of a procedural error, if it has no other interest apart from ensuring justice? 

How can an honest judge who understands justice as fairness ever think that indefinite adjournment will further course of justice? 

These are questions the Nigerian judiciary should provide reasonable answers if it will recover from the damage the pronouncements it is making in recent time is doing it its reputation. 

The indefinite adjournment of the case against Saraki is an audacious and shameless abuse of position to frustrate a judicial process and must be condemned and not allowed to stand if Nigeria is serious with the war against corruption. 

The phrases Indefinite adjournment and the permanent injunction should have no place in the Nigerian judicial lexicon and the judges who use them in the circumstance they have been used so far should have no place in the Nigerian judiciary. 

They are not from great legal minds but emanate from corrupt and perverse minds without a moral compass. Such judges have no moral authority to seat at the bench. They are a disgrace to the judiciary and should be expelled to clear the good name of the judiciary. 

Thereafter, the Supreme Court must seat to set aside both judgments to restore faith in the Nigerian judiciary. Nigeria cannot have a judiciary that sentences petty thieves to long prison terms, while at the same time, aids corrupt politicians to evade justice. 

There is an urgent need to begin the modernization and reformation of the Nigerian justice system to ensure that legal technicalities would no longer hamper trial of corruption cases. 

If the Nigerian government is sincere about fighting corruption, it should start by looking at the relationship between the judiciary and the executive. 

At the moment, judicial appointments and recommendation for Senior Advocate of Nigeria are at the pleasure of politicians. 

Politicians recommend lawyers for SAN and have undue influence in the appointment and dismissal of judges. We can start by making judicial appointments independent by looking at how it is done in countries like France and Britain, America, etc., simply allowing the Nigerian judicial appointment commission to discharge its statutory functions without executive interference. 

It would seem that judges are not minded to subject the executive to the same rule and SANs are too loyal to their benefactor to have an interest in upholding the rule of law. 

This incestuous relationship must be sorted out. No nation can allow unscrupulous judges and lawyers to continue to pervert the law to enable criminals to escape justice and benefit from crime in the name of practicing law. 

We cannot allow the Nigerian to see judges the way we see politicians. Once the faith in the judiciary is completely lost, there is no hope for Nigeria. 

Nigerian must redefine justice and judicial process for its corrupt judiciary and beleaguered lawyers. We must now end the charade called to trial in Nigeria. 

By E.O. Eke

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in this article is solely the responsibility of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. The image is taken from the internet and assumed to be in the public domain. If this breaches the copyrighted material, kindly note that the break of the copyright is not intentional and non-commercial. The copyrighted material in question will be removed upon request and presentation of proof in that case, please contact me via the following email: nzeikay@gmail.com; enquiry@nzeikayblog.com 

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