Corruption: Our Judges And Efcc Need Commendation Not Condemnation
Corruption no doubt has been seen by all Nigerians, I mean all Nigerians (over 170 million of us) with no exemption, as Nigeria's major enemy that must be destroyed and totally wiped out from the surface of our beloved nation, Nigeria, if we must survive and reclaim our enviable lost glory as the once pride of Africa and the black human race all over the world. We have strongly condemned Corruption and continue to do so yet almost on daily basis Nigerians are inundated with media reports of allegations of high level act of corruption, I mean crude looting and stealing of monies and wealth belonging to all of us. Our sacred religious houses of worship and even our respected and most revered Men and Women of GOD (our religious leaders) no longer enjoy or command the respect of their members except for fear, that the members pretend to do so so as not to incur the wrath of GOD that may be invoked against them. Our Nigerian media houses have also not been spared the allegation of corruption, aiding and abetting looting and stealing of public funds.
As if this is not worrisome enough, recently, our highly respected Hon. Justices of our Courts and top officials of our anti-graft Agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have also come under serious attacks and condemnation from the Nigerian people. These Institutions and their personnel are accused of fraud, money laundering, bribery or stealing and looting of public funds, the same offences they are constitutional empowered to prevent and or prosecute. Every profession in Nigeria has also come under same accusation. Corruption pervades all nooks and crannies, so it appears today, may be the reason President Buhari is reported to be telling the whole world that Nigerians are very corrupt.
My worry and concern in all of this and the therefore the focus of this piece is to not to join in the attacks and condemnations of our respected Hon. Justices or officials of the anti-graft Agencies but rather to critically and sincerely x-ray the reason(s) some of our respected Hon. Justices and officials of anti-graft Agencies (our last hope of winning this war on corruption) are caught in this same web. But more important to me is to offer my humble suggestions on how to help insulate them from this unrelenting enemy – corruption. We need our Hon. Justices in our Courts because without them, there will be no us and no Nigeria to call our home of Peace and Justice, the platform on which all other good things of life, stand.
Our Hon. Justices (Judges) are not aliens, they are human being and Nigerians like every one of us in all respects. They desire all the good things of life as we also desire. They are Nigerians from Nigerian families. They are Nigerians like us who also come under pressure from families, friends and associates to discharge one form of responsibility or the other, some of the responsibilities money must provide. They buy from the same markets as we all do; they pay the same high cost for goods and services as we do. They are paid salaries and allowances in naira as us and in some cases they are even paid far less than many of us.
Some of us are provided extra luxuries of life in addition to our salaries in addition to being fully taken care of by government of Nigeria extending even to caring for our children and family members till death, yet our Hon. Justices may not enjoy such. State or Federal Government sponsor full medical care and burial ceremonies of late members of our families but I doubt if our Hon. Justices enjoy same privileges.
Some Nigerians are provided with large number of armed security personnel but our Hon. Justices are assigned only one police orderly armed with only a pistol. I recall that few years ago, the Nigerian government even withdrew these Police Orderlies and deliberately left our Hon. Justices exposed to the society infected with the same criminals that may have been punished or would be punished by the same Hon. Justices.
Less educated and less patriotic Nigerians who opt to participate in politics are often generously rewarded with unfettered access to our nation resources and wealth; within weeks or few months they become millionaires and billionaires, worshipped and feared by Nigerians while our Hon. Justices go cap in hand begging them for approval and release of adequate funds to manage the affairs of our Judiciary.
While some Nigerian workers, politicians and political appointees who stay few hours and carry out far less tasking works are provided with lavishly furnished offices with air conditioners working efficiently and non-stop, most of our Hon. Justices are provided with dilapidated Court rooms and offices often without ceiling fans working efficiently. The Courtrooms are sometimes compared only to an oven during hot weather condition leaving our Hon. Justices sweating profusely and helping themselves with improvised hand fans to cool off. In some worse cases when it becomes very unbearable the Courts are forced to adjourn for the day. Some Hon. Justices have over thirty Cases listed on daily basis they are expected to adjudicate on yet under all this dehumanized working conditions they are expected to sit at least six hours daily listening attentively to all Cases and take notes in long-hands after which deliver Judgments for the mutual good of Society and the two parties involved in the dispute.
Without provision of adequate security and under these conditions, they are expected to adjudicate on high profile criminal cases that involve harden criminals and “powerful” persons in Society. They are expected to deliver unbiased Judgment on (s)Election Disputes where desperation on parts of political parties, their candidates and supporters is often at the zenith – do or die. We have heard cases where our Hon. Justices are attacked and killed by aggrieved Parties in disputes brought before them.
Under the same harsh conditions, these Hon. Justices are expected to deliver justice in high profile cases of alleged economic and financial crimes against the “mighty and powerful in society” – from ex-Presidents, Governors to serving members of National and State Houses of Assemblies, members of Federal and State Executive Councils, powerful leaders of political parties, top executive officers of banks, expatriates staff of multinational oil companies, multi-billionaire businessmen and women. Recently added to this list are some former and serving top officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria – Nigerians who according to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as he then was, are recruited and trained to kill. Our Hon. Justices are also expected to adjudicate on cases against leaders of deadly militant groups by whatever name called, accused of threatening the sovereignty of our Nigerian State.
This is the sad situation we force our fellow Nigerians who opted to be Judges at the risk of their lives to face. Some do not mind the increasing risk and the lack of gratitude we show them but remain resolute in dispensing Justice on all legal disputes as is ethically, professional and constitutionally expected while very few others succumb to fear, threat to their lives, overbearing pressure or overbearing influence to subvert Justice. But rather than celebrate and honour majority of them who deliver justice at the risk of their lives and without commensurate compensation we deliberately choose only to attack and condemn the very few of them who do otherwise. We call for their sack and persecution yet we are not ready to do the right things in our chosen profession and businesses. Are we been fair and just to them? Do we sow cassava and expect to reap yam?
It is my candid suggestion that we rather encourage them by providing the best we offer any Nigerian (private or public servant) and to provide them with maximum security cover during and after retirement. They must not lack the basic needs and comfort of life even after their retirement. They must continue to be celebrated, honoured, provided and cared for during and after retirement. Those of them that have excelled in any given legal year must be shortlisted for National Merit Awards and be celebrated by the media and Civil Society Organisations. Their wealth of knowledge and experiences should always be tapped by creating Special Legal Advisory Council for the Federation and States and they be appointed into such to continue to guide the younger Hon. Justices aright.
Finally, the methods of appointment of Nigerians as Hon. Justices must be urgently reviewed to make it strictly the responsibility of the legal practitioners and Judiciary. This method of the Executive and the Legislature being the critical part of their appointments is itself very corrupt and the basis for corrupting our Hon. Justices. After all, he who pays the piper dictates the tune; hence our Hon. Justices are today regrettably seen as appendages of the Executive Arm of democratic government. Hon. Justices are often at the beck and call of the President and Governors to the extent that they even submit to being loyal to wives of these Presidents and Governors. Is it not an insult for wives of our President and governors to publicly boast that they made the appointment and or promotion of some Hon. Justices, particularly the females, possible in line with their so-called women empowerment programmes? Was it not in this country that we were informed that the appointment of the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria was made by a first lady in line with her women empowerment programme? Was this right?
This is the same sad situation those Nigerians who opt to serve in the anti-graft Agencies like the EFCC risk their lives to seek punishment for high profile Nigerians, are exposed to. Rather than us celebrating and honouring them during and after service, we choose also to focus on the few of them who succumb to our overbearing pressures and influenceto do the wrong things. They are tempted to partake in the looting we perpetuate with impunity. They are also not provided with adequate security, some have been gruesomely murdered yet we don't care. We care only to have the few of them punished and disgraced while we refuse to turn a new leaf from our unpatriotic and unholy acts of looting and stealing the commonwealth of our nation and people. Are we being fair and just to them? No.
In this difficult global war on corruption which even the powerful nations of the world like the USA and the United Nations have failed to conquer, our Hon. Justices and officers of EFCC and other Anti-graft Agencies, need more of our Commendation and Encouragement rather than condemnation.
Written by Comrade Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, National President, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD)Warri, Delta State.
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