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Between anti-corruption and arrested judiciary


The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

I have been struggling within me to discharge an ill-feeling. Somehow, I feel that after a sustained onslaught, the judiciary has capitulated. Or, if it is still standing, it has become castrated. I mean real castration and if the judiciary were a man, he would be less able to put a woman in a family way. I don’t know why I am feeling so. Then other times, my spirit gets kicked up by the optimism that the gains of surgery far outweigh the pains, given that surgeries are mainly conducted to reform not to deform.

Other Nigerians, I want to believe, also suffer these mood swings. For one, the line that separates a qualified surgeon from a butcher could be so slim when there is no professionalism. Even when professionalism abounds, other things can interfere to affect outcomes. For instance, when the hands are tied, not as tying one to a stake for execution, but in the figurative sense, performance falls below professionalism. No one does it perfectly constrained.

Just as patients most times accept medical prescriptions by faith, I ask that we accept what President Muhammadu Buhari is doing in the judiciary in good faith. To get by, it has become absolutely necessary to increase our hope to faith in the belief that hopeful people are less happy than faithful people. It is only faith that can push us into accepting the surgery that President Muhammadu Buhari is performing on the judiciary.

We are a kind of saying that from what we know of him, he is a qualified surgeon not a butcher who can be entrusted with sharp surgical knives to open up the judiciary and other organs in our body polity to remove the malignant tumors, which manifest in corruption that has arrested the development of the nation since independence in 1960. And so let us have faith in him. I am sure if a referendum is conducted this moment on corruexit in Nigeria, it will succeed by 100 per cent. Even highly entrenched practitioners of corruption would want to exit. The real problem is that they went into the practice under a spell and they are trapped and cannot come out except we call in firebrand Pentecostal warriors in the garb of the Adeboyes, Oyedipos, Oritsejafors, Kumuyis, T.B Joshuases and a couple of others, to discharge the spell.

And so, either by fire, thunder or midnight sting operation, the spell that holds people bound in corruption must be cast out so that the nation’s judges can converted into trusted allies in the all-important war against corruption. I can say right away that victory is certain. A new Chief Justice has just been named in acting capacity. He is Justice Walter Onnoyehen. The first statement the man made was to swear (not under oath anyway) to help the president to prosecute a successful war. In fact, he has given robust assurance that he would personally lead the onslaught against corrupt judges.

As you can see, the man is thoroughly learned, saying the right thing at the right time. Besides, nobody, not even a Chief Justice, wants to be seen as obstructing the big war against corruption. Even when there is no policy of conscription, many people are willingly and happily enlisting as foot soldiers. For instance, there is one judge in Abuja, whose beat is to ensure that the highly corrupt Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is taken out of partisan contention. He is the one that has appropriated the role of the Appeal Court and entertains no qualms overruling his fellow High Court judges on the same matter. He is among the few judges that could not be put under a corruption spell by the devil.

Actually, this is not the time to be heroic in whatever sense. It is time to conform strictly to legitimate expectations. It is not time to ask if corruption is PDP alone and transparency is APC alone. It is not time for judges to ask prosecuting agencies to prove corruption or criminal cases beyond all reasonable doubt before conviction. Instead, it is time for judges to rely on reasonable suspicion to sentence crime suspects. It is time to see an angel even if Lucifer or nothing at all is standing in the room in order to be adjudged holy.

I am saying this so that people, especially judges, can be properly guided. Those who claimed in the immediate past to see something other than an angel are not telling beautiful stories today. The one that did not see or heard the instruction of an angel to convict and acted under a spell to discharge and acquit one PDP man of money laundering charges by the EFCC is herself in detention undergoing deliverance and vision enhancement to enable her see angels next time. The man was rearrested to face a proper trial in another court under a jumbo 17-count fresh charge of money laundering. This is in addition to five fresh ones read to him at a High Court in Abuja on November 10, where he was released on bail after weeks in detention.

Also, the one who ruled that a man accused of misappropriating $2.1billion should be granted bail on self-recognition is standing trial for a corrupt vision. He said the man should be granted bail so that he could prepare for his real trial. But $2.1dollars, which is not chicken feed, is involved and the prosecutor is saying stealing, on account of the money involved, could be elevated to felony. I agree with him. What is the worth of self-recognition that should be sold for one trillion naira?

There could be other associated issues but what the prosecutor will be itching to prove in the weeks ahead is whether or not the judge acted in good faith and without interference in granting bail on self recognition to a man standing trial for under-developing the national treasury by so much money. But far more than this, we are about to start a grand trial to save the judiciary from all form of encumbrances and make the law to rule supreme in the temple of justice.

As it is today, there are just too many considerations outside the known principles before the judge and the purity of his decision can no longer be taken for granted. If truth be told, the Nigerian judge is under pressure to interpret the law not as created by the legislature but as recreated by the executive. There is a sustained narrative that cast the judiciary in bad light in the ongoing fight against corruption and what seems of bigger concern to the average man on the bench currently is to act to impress. That is, for judges, in spite of themselves, to be seen as operating in the frontlines with President Buhari in the fight against corruption.

The agony within is almost palpable in a situation where judges have to interpret the law to suit set expectations. Agreed the judiciary cannot fall below; it must operate above board at all times to regulate conduct and keep society stable but the current excessive urge to purportedly raise the bench above the natural could precipitate a complete collapse of the institution of justice in Nigeria.

All said, I specially salute the new CJN, acting. These are not the best of times to wear that crown if you ask me. Going forward, I will ask Justice Walter Onnoyehen to take a new pledge to build a virile judiciary. His earlier pledge to fight corruption in the judiciary is sounding too much like a readiness to kill the judiciary to please President Buhari.

In this article:
Abraham Ogbodo
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