I give glory to God for giving me life today to be part of this programme. I must also say that I feel highly honoured, and it is indeed my great pleasure to be found worthy to speak before this august gathering at this 2015 annual lecture of the Nigerian National Merit Award on the theme: Corruption Eradication and the Nigerian Ethical Revolution. I am to speak on the topic: “Eradicating Corruption in the Judiciary.”
Justice Isa Ayo Salami
The problem with the Nigerian judiciary is that some dishonourable people not cut out to be judges got into the system and after that made it to the highest level of their judicial careers. Another major factor why the problem has festered is that many Nigerians do not want the truth to be told. Whoever dares to tell the truth is marked down for persecution. Members of the Bar often narrate horrific stories or tales of certain high-ranking judicial officers who act as couriers of bribe, but, they are never ready to come out with details. Such a person is engaged at a fee to reach out to judges in order to influence decisions in certain sensitive cases. At times, the bribe they collect for and on behalf of such designated judges never come to their knowledge, not to talk of its being delivered to them.
It is also alleged that some legal practitioners in addition to their legitimate fees demand other fees from their clients purportedly to influence the judge or judges handling their cases. It is the activities of these wicked legal practitioners and retired judges who can be rightly described as interlopers that have given the Nigerian judiciary a negative image.
There are, of course, honourable gentlemen in the judiciary who will not accept a farthing from anyone and who can stand up to anyone. Many of the justices and judges in Nigeria are hard working, patriotic and honest and can compare favourably with judges and justices from any of the Commonwealth countries. However, there are many lazy, ignorant and dishonest judges in the system. It is these bad eggs that have desecrated the temple of justice, and they need to be flushed out to enable sanity return to the system.
Be that as it may, I have been asked to speak on the topic – “Eradicating Corruption in the Judiciary”, meaning that the general consensus is that corruption already exists in the Nigerian judiciary, and I am here to proffer some solutions on how to put an end to it. I have, therefore, restricted this paper to that topic, believing that the relevant organisations would do what is necessary to identify and take action against erring judicial officers.
INJUNCTIONS OF THE HOLY BOOKS ON THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY
Before proceeding further, I propose to set out what the Books of the two prevalent religions in the country have to say on the attributes of a judge. I am doing this on the tacit understanding that all Nigerian judges or justices are either adherents of Islam or Christianity. There may be judges who belong to other religions, but I have not come across one. I tender my unreserved apology if my judgment is incorrect.
The Holy Bible in the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 16, verses 18-‐20, says;
“18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the righteous.
20 That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
And in the Holy Quran in Surat Nisaa Chapter IV verse 135, it was revealed to the
Holy Prophet (SAW) as follows:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you avoid justice; and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-‐Acquainted with what you do.”
on appointment, viz;
“to do justice to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill will so help me God.”
Must have been formulated from portions of the two scriptures set out above. The two Holy Books, the Holy Bible and the Glorious Quran demand from judicial officers to refrain from –
a) perverting the course of justice;
b) showing partiality;
c) accepting bribe; and
d) subverting the course of righteousness.
The things judges are required to do and those they should avoid are very clear and unambiguous. The problem, however, lies in the will, the innate ability or the conviction or conscience to avoid those that are not permissible or forbidden and to do what is right.
THE JUDICIARY IS NOT THE ONLY BODY TO BLAME
The issue of fighting corruption bedeviling our country cannot be solved by focusing on the judiciary alone. Corruption affects everything and everywhere in the country. There should, therefore, be a critical examination of all the facets of our national life, for instance:
redefined or re-‐orientated in a manner that will abhor corruption.
a.) A system or culture which appreciates politicians who obtain their wealth improperly but disparages an erudite judge or scholar as a failure requires redemption.
b.) A system which makes our children prefer appointments in customs, immigration and police to the arduous task of being a lecturer in our tertiary institutions, a doctor in our general hospitals or a state counsel in the federal or state Ministries of Justice is a system that must be defenestrated.
c.) The mentality that makes members of the legislature to prefer appointments to certain committees of the assemblies or ministers to prefer appointments to certain ministries of government on account of the juiciness of such committees or ministries must be re-‐examined and discouraged. For their consideration has never been on the ground of demonstrating the beauty of hard work or opportunity to serve the people they claim they are representing.
Corruption is the product of a failed system – educational, social, political and economic and the earlier it is tackled from the roots rather than engaging in a game of responsibility shifting, the better it would be for all of us.
FOCUS ON THE JUDICIARY
It should not be assumed that the judiciary does not have a role to play; in fact, it cannot absolve itself from blame. Just as it is not open to a doctor to reject blame for incompetence or negligence on account that the patient was careless in infecting himself with the ailment for which he is being treated so would a judicial officer not be exculpated if he failed to perform his duty according to law and practice.
THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL
The National Judicial Council is a shadow of its old-‐self; it seems to me that it no longer appreciates the reason or purpose for its creation. A very important part of its duties is to protect and insulate judges from the executive. This explains why there is no representative of any other arm of government in the constitution of the council; even the Honourable Attorney General is not made a member of the body.
However, there was a time in the recent past when a member of the National Judicial Council doubled as the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, a parastatal under the supervision of the Honourable Attorney General. This clearly was an anomaly. Furthermore, at the time when my matter (which is well known to the public and which I have left in the hand of God for just judgment) was being considered at the National Judicial Council; the then Attorney General of the Federation boasted to a state governor, now a minister, that he uses his telephones to direct the proceedings of the council. It is this body that Honourable Justice Uwais recommended that the selection of the Chairman of the Independent
National Electoral Commission should be entrusted to. My Lord and the members of the Electoral Reform Committee sincerely believed that the National Judicial Council he left behind is still intact – but it is clearly not. All the Chief Justices that served during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan believed that they were beholden unto him and were prepared to obey his command.
For instance, when I was invited by Honourable Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, CJN and Honourable Justice Mahmud Mohammed, JSC, who was then the next most senior justice of the Supreme Court, and now the incumbent CJN, to discuss the issue of whether I would be prepared to accept the decision of the National Judicial Council to stay for three months and then leave the service, the options were laid before me when I met with them. They were whether I was agreeable to come and spend three months and then proceed on retirement or the impasse would continue. I opted to return, spend three months and proceed on retirement. They were apparently taken aback as they did not anticipate this response from me. My Lord, Mukhtar was obviously uncomfortable with my choice and was visibly shaken. She asked if I took proper advice on the issue and I assured her that I did. She then stated that if she were me, she would seek further advice. She left the meeting and returned to her desk. I was given one week to think over it. She did not find time for me until about a fortnight or more later.
Meanwhile, she had embarked on the appointment of Honourable Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa as the acting President of the Court of Appeal. Indeed, she had already forwarded her recommendation to President Goodluck Jonathan, who had in turn forwarded it to the Honourable Attorney General for his comments. I feigned ignorance of the steps being taken which explained her conduct when we first met.
On arrival, she asked me if I had sought proper advice on the matter. I answered in the affirmative and requested that the letter be written in a manner that it does not create the impression that I was being forced out of office and assured her that I still stood by my earlier acceptance to abide by the council’s decision to return to the office for three months and retire. She then retorted “they do not want you again, and the justices are no longer behind you”. I do not know how she arrived at her conclusion that most of the justices were no longer in my support. But I was sufficiently of the presence of mind to ask her who were the “they” that did not want me, and she replied the government. I suggested to her to advise the government to take its case from the National Judicial Council to the floor of the Senate, which has the constitutional power to recommend my removal. She at that stage kept quiet. It was then Honourable Justice Mahmud Mohammed (JSC as he then was) cut in to ask for my letter giving notice of retirement. I suggested to them to give me a letter recalling me, and I would in turn give them my notice of retirement terminating at the end of the three months proposed at their meeting which period both of them had agreed to frustrate to endear them to the executive arm of government. They insisted that I should give them notice of my retirement without receiving a letter recalling me. It was then Mahmud Mohammed (JSC) told me that they (National Judicial Council I presume) are an agency of the government and would do what the government wanted. I told them that without a letter from the council, they should forget about my issuing them with a notice of retirement.
Knowledge is power! If I were not aware of what was going on, I would wittingly or unwittingly, believing that they were working in good faith, have given them a notice which they were definitely going to abuse. The game plan was probably that on receiving my letter, they would tell me that the notice of retirement was accepted with period of notice waived, and I should proceed on retirement immediately to the satisfaction and pleasure of their mentor the President and utter neglect or dereliction of their constitutional function of protecting the judiciary from the executive.
This gives me a fresh remembrance of the tenure of Mohammed Lawal Uwais, CJN. He was described “as straight as a bullet, he can’t bend” by his predecessor, Honourable Justice Bello, CJN. After the 2003 general election, President Olusegun Obasanjo was apparently informed that some senators and members of the House of Representatives elected from Anambra State would not be loyal to him. He replaced the three senators and fifteen House of Representative members who contested and won the election and were presented with certificates of return with another set of senators and members of the House, who were not nominated at the party’s primary, not to talk of contesting and winning the election. He caused the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue his selected Senators and House of Representative members with certificates of return. The truly elected members successfully prosecuted their election petitions before election tribunals set up for the state. The tribunals rightly returned all the three senators and members of the House of Representatives. The imposed members of the House of Representatives and senators appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court while delivering its judgment in the first case to be heard regarding a senatorial seat, was chased out of the court hall on the allegation that some members of the panel had been bribed.
The President of the Court was, therefore, compelled to constitute another panel to take the appeals in Enugu. The new panel, which I led, comprised of justices from other divisions of the Court. On the first day of our sitting, members of the panel were served with copies of a petition alleging corruption and undue influence. I was served the previous day because I arrived on Sunday and was in the Court to read the files on Monday.
President Obasanjo minuted on copies of the petitions to the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Uwais, stating that he was in Enugu over the weekend and heard about the rumour of offering bribe to us. He then directed Honourable Justice Uwais and the Attorney General to investigate the matter. Honourable Justice Uwais turned down his request and wrote the president that the allegation against the justices could only be investigated by the National Judicial Council under the Constitution and not by a committee of Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation as constituted by President Obasanjo. Our present crops of Chief Justices of Nigeria would have fallen head over heels in obliging the President!
The petitions were duly endorsed for our respective comments. The petitions and our answers were sent to a committee of the National Judicial Council which after hearing both sides exonerated all of us including the then President of the Court of Appeal, Honourable Justice Umaru Faruk Abdullahi. The President, Chief Obasanjo wrote to congratulate all of us, except Umaru Abdullahi whose only role was
constituting the panel, although he was also accused of taking bribe. The reason he was singled out for non-‐commendation by the then Commander-‐in-‐Chief was best known to the two of them, particularly Chief Obasanjo.
What I am driving at here is that Honourable Justices Dahiru Musdapher and Aloma Mukhtar did not resist the presidency from undermining the independence of the judiciary. They allowed the erosion of the separation of powers. Even after I was declared innocent, they failed to muster the courage to recall me. Rather, the two of them jointly and severally fiddled while the time for my retirement was ticking; notwithstanding Honourable Justice Uwais’ statement to the effect that the National Judicial Council and not the President was vested with the authority to recall me.
The only time the Presidency has a role to play in the discipline of a judicial officer is when he is found guilty of misconduct, and he is to be removed. Paragraph 21 (b) of the Third Schedule Part I of the Nigerian Constitution is very clear and provides as follows in the case of federal judicial officers:
“21 The National Judicial Council shall have power to –
(b) recommend to the President the removal from office of the judicial officers in sub-‐paragraph (a) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;”
The Council having decided to rescind its earlier decision for removal does not require the support or consent of the President to recall me. It is a power solely exercisable by the council itself. Through an act of omission or commission, it refused or failed to exercise the clear and unambiguous provision of the constitution at the instigation of the executive and thereby sent wrong signals to the judiciary. If the President of the Court of Appeal could be dealt a raw deal, it behoves other justices all over the Federation to behave properly!!! Many judicial officers who had hitherto rebuffed pressure were thus intimidated; hence the funny judgments subsequently coming out of courts.
I have used my personal experience as a case study to demonstrate what the National Judicial Council has become.
1.) APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES
The fight against corruption in the judiciary should commence from the appointment of judges or justices to the various courts across the country. The sifting should start with the quality of university degree and the law school grade. In this age of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, which allows a student with five credits at two sittings to gain admission into the university, prospective candidates for appointment to the bench without five credits at a sitting should not be considered. So also must aspiring judges with a university degree lower than a second class (lower division) not be considered, and all those who repeated their examinations at the law school should not be deemed suitable for appointment to the Bench. In the United States of America, to qualify as a legal assistant to a justice, one must have obtained a first class in his law degree. It should equally be further noted that in that country, law is pursued as a second and not the first degree.
Closely knit to this issue of qualification is the justices appointed to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on the account of their specialty in Sharia or Customary Law as prescribed by the constitution. No sooner they get to the higher courts than they abandon their areas of specialty such as Sharia and Customary Law, which qualified them to get to the higher court to the detriment of the primary purpose of their appointment. These justices secure an appointment on the pretext that their specialisations are highly in demand in the superior court, and this allows them to access the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court earlier than their contemporaries who may be better than them but not endowed, versatile or lack special training in either Customary or Islamic Law. I mean that if it were not for their special training in Sharia or Customary law, they could not have been appointed to any of these courts at the time of their appointment over and above their compeers. The consequence of their conduct is that Sharia cases are piling up contrary to the clear intention of the Constitution, which was to make these judges available to handle them.
There is a particular instance of a justice who when he came to the Court of Appeal, had only served in the registry of a Sharia Court of Appeal before being appointed a judge of that Sharia Court for barely a year when he was catapulted to the Court of Appeal. Indeed, when he was appointed to the Court of Appeal, he had not acquired twelve-‐year post-‐call experience to be appointed to the Court of Appeal.
He had to wait for six months to make the requisite post-‐call experience of twelve years before he could be sworn in. It is, therefore, abundantly clear that this gentleman had neither experience of law practice in the Ministry of Justice as a legal officer nor as a private legal practitioner. He never filed statements of claim and defence and is unlikely to know their implication and throughout the period of his post-‐call working experience he never handled common law cases even as a registry staff in the Sharia Court of Appeal. To now saddle him with the responsibility of determining fine constitutional and common law cases, he would be like a fish out of the water. Indeed, he has no requisite qualification required to be appointed as a Judge of the High Court as set out later in this paper.
On the experience required of persons aspiring to be appointed to the High Courts, the National Judicial Council in its Extant Revised NJC Guidelines & Procedural Rules for The Appointment of Judicial Officers of All Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria, states inter alia in rule 4 (4) (1) (b) – (e) as follows –
“(b) Active successful practice at the Bar, including satisfactory presentation of cases in Court as a Legal Practitioner either in private practice or as a Legal Officer in any Public Service;
(c) Satisfactory and consistent display of sound and mature judgment
in the office as a Chief Registrar or Chief Magistrate;
(d) Credible record of teaching law, legal research in a reputable University and a publication of legal works, and in addition to any or all of the above;
(e) In the case of appointment of a candidate to the office of Kadi of a
Sharia Court of Appeal, knowledge of Arabic language and grammar.”
These rules are ominously silent on qualification of persons to be appointed as a
Judge. But I entirely agree with the level of experience set out in paragraph 4(4)
1(b). This cannot be faulted. I cannot fathom the implication of 4(4)(1)(c). Does it mean that anyone who finds himself as a Chief Registrar through merely working in the Registry could be appointed a Judge, and in the case of Kadi of a Sharia Court, does it mean that a person who is solely proficient in Arabic and its grammar without training in Sharia Law can be considered and appointed a Kadi?
The Rules require prospective Judges and Kadis to apply for the appointment they desire. The appointment of Judges throughout common law countries is through preferment or recognition and not by application. It is the nominating body who considers a person suitable for the appointment that recommends or invites such a person for elevation to the Bench. It is not respectfully a position to be hassled for; it is a position of honour and dignity!
2.) QUOTA SYSTEM IN THE APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES
The controversial question of the policy of federal character euphemistically referred to as quota system should be carefully re-‐examined in its application to the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court and to a lesser extent the Court of Appeal. There was a time when the Nigerian judiciary was dominated by expatriates and later by the then Western Nigeria, but, with rapid progress in legal education various parts of the country took up the challenge and have come to take their pride of place in the system. The present situation whereby the seats in the
Supreme Court are shared among the geographical zones in a water tight arrangement is unhealthy.
At a point in time, for instance, South-‐Eastern Nigeria could not produce a suitable candidate to fill its own quota in the Supreme Court, the Advisory Judicial Council did not hesitate in preferring Uche Omo, JSC, a person from Delta State in the South-‐South, to fill the South-‐Eastern quota, and nothing untoward happened. In these days of strict adherence to the quota system, any attempt to juggle in such a manner would be strongly resisted. It is believed in many quarters that this complete neglect of merit has deprived the court the opportunity of recruiting eminently qualified and suitable candidates thereby, consciously or unconsciously weakening the court’s performance. As you make your bed, so will you lie on it! Strictly speaking, this may not qualify as an instance of corruption but a serious weak link which has adversely affected the quality of justice delivery.
3.) COMPOSITION OF THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL
The weakness in the National Judicial Council is inherent in its composition as provided for under paragraph 20 of the Third Schedule, which reads as follows;
“20 The National Judicial Council shall comprise of the following members –
(a) the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who shall be the Chairman;
(b) the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court who shall be the Deputy
(c) the President of the Court of Appeal;
(d) five retired Justices selected by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from the
Supreme Court or Court of Appeal;
(e) the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court;
(f) five Chief Judges of States to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among the Chief Judges of the States and of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in a rotation to serve for two years;
(g) one Grand Kadi to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among Grand Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years;
(h) one President of the Customary Court of Appeal to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria from among the Presidents of the Customary Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years;
(i) five members of the Nigerian Bar Association who have been qualified to practice for a period of not less than fifteen years, at least one of whom shall be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association to serve for two years and subject to re-‐appointment:
Provided that the five members shall sit in the Council only for the purposes of considering the names of persons for appointment to the superior courts of record; and
(j) two persons are not legal practitioners, who in the opinion of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, are of unquestionable integrity.”
A cursory examination of paragraph 20 just recited above would disclose that, apart from the appointment of the next most senior justice of the Supreme Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and the five members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Chief Justice of Nigeria enjoys absolute discretion in the appointment of other members of the council. He also has absolute discretion in extending their tenure upon expiration. The Chairman, who incidentally is the Chief Justice of Nigeria, could abuse his office in pursuit of his corrupt conduct as it was done in the recent past; just as the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court to Katsina-‐Alu was unable to state the truth at the National Judicial Council Investigating Panel that looked into my case to ensure his own appointment as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria. This tricky situation did not raise its ugly head until recently when people of weak character were appointed as Chief Justice of Nigeria. Honourable Justice Uwais was Chief Justice of Nigeria for almost ten years without a hiccup. For over two years, Honourable Justice Kutigi also tendered the rope adroitly. It is, therefore, a personality problem, as successive chief justices have dexterously exploited the provisions of the composition of the NJC in advancing their personal interest rather than protecting the service or the system. It should be noted that a position such as that of Chief Justice of Nigeria or any leadership position has inherent risk attached to it, which they are not prepared to stick their neck.
It is only the National Judicial Council that has a serving head of the institution as its head and who has amply demonstrated how the arrangement could be thoroughly abused. In the circumstance, serious consideration should be given to separating the two positions as is the case with the police and the civil service. The
Police Service Commission and the Civil Service Commission are not headed by the heads of those institutions. In other words, neither the Inspector General of Police nor the Head of Service is the head or chairman of the Police Service Commission or Civil Service Commission. Such Chairman, in the event of an infraction on his part, can easily be eased out of office; but, the same is not the case with a Chief Justice who fouls his seat while doubling as Chairman of the Council. The patronage the non-‐statutory members derive from him, such as appointment into the council and extension of their tenure makes them vulnerable and feel obliged to him and not to the body they are appointed to serve and are invariably prepared to kowtow.
An instance of this was the role played by Ayoola JSC (RTD) who sat as a member of Babalakin’s committee at the NJC, comprising of Hon. Justice B. O. Babalakin as the chairman, Justice Anthony Igwu, Justice Abubakar Wali JJSC (RTD) and Hon. Justice M. A. Akanbi, PCA (RTD) to resolve the impasse between myself and the then CJN Katsina-‐Alu (RTD). The committee decided in my favour that I was not guilty of misconduct and told Katsina-‐Alu that he had no constitutional right to stop court proceedings in the case of Dingyadi and Wammako going on in the Court of Appeal Sokoto Division. The settlement was read to both of us by all the members of the committee and Katsina-‐Alu expressly told them that he accepted it in good faith. The decision was unanimously arrived at by all the members of the committee who respectively signed. No sooner the membership of the NJC changed through the departure of the four members of the committee, Mogbo (SAN), Wifa (SAN), Mahuta (CJ Katsina) and others. Katsina-‐Alu having replaced the outgoing members with persons of his own choice revived the matter and set up
a committee in which Justice Ayoola featured prominently. Notwithstanding the legal niceties, Ayoola should have declined, if only on the ground of morality!
It is, therefore, important that an individual or person who is not in the system, such as a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, a retired President of the Court of Appeal or a respectable and experienced legal practitioner is made the Chairman of the National Judicial Council.
Howbeit going through the constitution, there is no institution entrusted with the composition of itself as the National Judicial Council and having betrayed the trust reposed in it, a re-‐approachment must be sought. I believe there should be a return to the good old days of Advisory Judicial Council where the Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges of the state and federal High Courts are members of the Council in their own right as no one is beholding unto the Chief Justice of Nigeria. If the retired Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Justices must be members, they should be, but, with determined tenure including an extension in accordance with the order of their retirements from their respective courts.
The members of the Bar Association provided for in paragraph 20 (i) may continue, provided that their role should not be restricted to only appointing judges but also extended to include discipline because the power to hire is the power to fire. If they were there when the judges were appointed, there is nothing wrong with their being party to the discipline of the judges. But my reservation about inclusion of members of the Bar Association is that it is alleged that some of them flaunt their
membership of the National Judicial Council before election tribunals and courts to intimidate the judges!
4.) TENURE OF HEADS OF COURTS
The Chief Judges of both the State and Federal High Courts should have a prescribed tenure of not more than five years during which they are considered for appointment to the Court of Appeal or proceed on voluntary retirement. A long tenure sometimes spanning over ten years is most unhealthy. An aspiring candidate for the offices of Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of Court of Appeal, Chief Judges, federal or state or any head of court whose age is less than five years from the age of retirement should not be appointable. Frequent change of heads of courts results in instability.
5.) SUGGESTIONS ON HOW CORRUPT JUDICIAL OFFICERS CAN BE DISCIPLINED
In the circumstance, corruption being criminal in nature, a solution that can be proffered is that judicial officers who are suspected of committing a crime should be referred to the State Security Services, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission or the Nigeria Police for investigation and possible prosecution. For those of them who are found culpable or liable, the President may consider giving them soft landing by allowing them to resign and proceed on compulsory retirement or permit the law to take its due course. The present situation where there are serious allegations of corruption against a judicial officer in several petitions and the National Judicial Council let him off the hook on an investigation of only one of the several petitions and retires him seemingly suggests that the interest of justice has not been served.
The outstanding petition(s) should also be sent to the police for necessary action. A recently compulsorily retired judicial officer trivialized the decision of the National Judicial Council by saying that he was not retired on the allegation that he received one hundred million naira from the executive governor of Rivers State to nullify the election of local government chairmen and it was not in relation to Odi but it was in relation to Shell case; whatever that may mean. The outstanding petitions ought to have been investigated and pronounced upon to determine whether he merits retirement or dismissal. Merely sending the officer on retirement without an order for refund of the booty is grossly inadequate. Be that as it may, these are criminal cases and should not terminate with NJC decision. Such judicial officers should be referred to the relevant security agencies for investigation and determination of their criminal responsibility.
In the alternative, the government might wish to consider taking steps similar to what I understand Kenya took in combating such vexed issues. When the country decided to rid its judicial system of corruption, she suspended all her judicial officers and subjected them to an enquiry. The tests and criteria adopted, I learnt, in addition to the usual allegation of corruption to which the judge may answer with the typical contention of lack of evidence was that the judgment(s) or order(s) of the judge or justice or kadi, as the case may be, were subjected to scrutiny and if found correctly determined, the officer is allowed to return to the Bench. But if the judgment(s) or order(s) was found wanting or flew in the face of the law or facts or both, the judge was deemed corrupt or incompetent; on either view, he was found unsuitable for the position and was consequently shown the way out of the country’s judicial system. Thus the contention that corruption had not been proved in the sense that there was no evidence or there was no corroboration would no longer be tenable. Clearly, this approach does not provide room or opportunity for crass technicality.
This suggestion may require the Commander-‐in-‐Chief sending a team to Kenya to study the relevant institution in that country and the role to be played by our National Assembly. The exploratory team may also obtain the relevant legislation Kenya enacted to put the body in place. In doing this, respectable men of integrity must be selected.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I once more thank the Governing Board of the Nigerian National Merit Award for the wonderful opportunity given me to address this auspicious gathering. I find the theme of this lecture very interesting and challenging, and I sincerely hope that anyone who is here with us or who reads this paper will find some useful and acceptable material in it as a guide to discharging the tedious and onerous duty of repairing or riding the Nigerian judiciary of corruption and corrupt practices.
Thank you for your attention and God bless you all.
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