By: Gabriel Ikese
Nigerians woke up Saturday morning, October 8, 2016, to the news of arrest of some judges across the country on allegation of corrupt practices. Thereafter the social media went agog. Trust Nigerians, their inherent ingenuity and seemingly good knowledge of the law was made manifest. Many were in support of the crackdown on the alleged corrupt judges, and many more emptied their venoms on the security operatives and President Buhari for what they referred to as a “Gestapo style” operations and despotic disposition.
The issue at stake is corruption and its devastating effect on the economy. One of the many major factors that stagnates developmental growth in Africa is corruption. Nigeria, since independence, has been struggling to rid herself of the painful scourge of corruption. This menace was the principal reason for Major Kaduna Nzeogwu’s coup of 1966. And same goes with all subsequent coups in Nigeria thereafter.
At the inception of the fourth republic in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo expressly professed his disdain for corruption and determination to extirpate it. So are the succeeding presidents after him. Our governments have distinguished themselves as an outspoken critic of corruption and acclaimed fighter against it. It has been its bounden duty to curb the menace in all strata of government agencies and the country at large through legal apparatus of the rule of law.
Nigerians have, on many occasions, expressed dissatisfactions over the attitude of the judiciary and sees them as willing accomplices with vested interest. The rot in the judiciary was so alarming that the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, once affirmed that “if the Chief Judge wants a case won, he knows the judge to send the case to. If he does not want the case won, he also knows the judge to send the case to”. That is a discretion exercised in absurdity.
It is disheartening to see that the sole motivation of getting justice in our courts is predicated on one’s financial capacity. We may pretend but surely none of us can claim to be shocked by the stench of rot that is oozing out from the judiciary. There may be exceptions but exceptions do not change verifiable facts as exhibited with the recent dismissal of two Judges by the NJC and the arrest of several others by security operatives.
Many that are opposed to the arrest of the judges are of the opinion that the Gestapo style like operations by security agents is a breach of their rights and a dent to the rule of law. That may not be in contention. I am of the opinion as well that in attempt to flush out the moral decadence in our society, we should be guided in totality by the doctrine of the rule of law. What is at stake is the integrity of our institutions and not about individuals. The Judges, security officers and the president should not be seen to be above the law.
We should therefore establish, on empirical ground, that the DSS operation conforms to the rule of law. The questions that would likely prompt up is (i) if the arrest negates the spirit of the law, (ii) if the timing and manner of the arrest is against the law, (iii) if there was a substantial reason to warrant the arrest; and (iv) if the DSS have such mandate of arrest in this context. It will be left for the operatives of the rule of law to ascertain if the answers are in affirmative or otherwise.
The spirit of the rule of law does not undermine the assumption that the principles could be defiled in the process, either by the desires of the people to perpetuate unlawful acts and the government in extirpating them. The beauty of it is that the instruments of law are also available and can be deplored to redress any perceived breach of rights within the context of law.
The relevance of the rule of law would be subjugated if it is not tested within the confines of the provisions of the law. Subjecting it to the caprices of individual reasoning and media perception of its veracity will end up in a mere academic exercise.
Let Nigerians eschew recriminations over the arrest of these judges and allow the laws to take its course. Overheating the polity unnecessarily is a recipe for chaos. And why the judges, if I may ask? Many Nigerians are languishing in prisons for minor offences in the guise of awaiting trails and others for wrongful imprisonments. We seem to care less, but the Judges who have abundant privileges, and still attempted to get more even at the expense of the vulnerable, are pampered to evade justice?
The defense for corrupt practices by some Nigerians is fast attaining the status of notoriety, and it beats my imagination. The call by the NBA and other bodies to abstain from the courts is ridiculous. Judges by every standard have prior knowledge that all actions (good or bad) have corresponding consequences. If you cannot absolve heat, why going to the kitchen? At this point, nobody is saying they are guilty, that is for the courts to decided.
We will be missing the point if we continue to confuse the legal fight against corruption as tyrannical. The depth of morass is such that will require collective efforts to sanitize. Every Nigerian should inculcate positive axiological philosophy, where we can begin to seek certain goals and value to direct our behavioural pattern. We start by developing a collective allergy to any form of corruptions in our country. Say NO to corruption.
Ikese writes from Jos