thewill Editorial: Restoring Confidence In The Nigerian Judiciary
BEVERLY HILLS, February 19, (THEWILL) – In the last few months, the Judiciary has come under increased attacks from across a broad spectrum of Nigerians. Notably among the critics are President Muhammadu Buhari, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the acting chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Buhari had hinted in far-away Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, recently that “On the fight against corruption vis-à-vis the judiciary, Nigerians will be right to say that the judiciary is the main headache for now.” Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, himself a lawyer, also admitted that there have been high-profile corruption instances in the judiciary, especially when they involve serving or former political office holders.
Nevertheless, accusations from the ruling APC that the panel of Supreme Court Justices were bribed to rule in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors in the governorship election cases, have opened a Pandora box. The APC Chairman even said “there is something fundamentally wrong in the judiciary.”
Also, the EFCC boss recently accused lawyers of frustrating the fight against corruption with various schemes including bribing judges, delaying trial of corrupt persons and deliberately obstructing justice. This week it named Justice Mohammed Yunusa as one of the corrupt judges and docked notable senior advocate, Mr. Rickey Tarfa for paying bribe money into his bank account and using him to manipulate the judiciary to his clients' advantage.
THEWILL expresses deep concern that the judiciary is enmeshed in this litany of mess. It is troubling that the once trusted and respected judiciary is being destroyed by these developments.
Though, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed and President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Augustine Alegeh, denounced the corruption tag, there is credible assertion that the judiciary is indeed corrupt. At an oath taking ceremony of newly appointed judges, the CJN even admitted that some judges and judicial staff are involved in corrupt practices, but cautioned that it was only by a minority.
Notwithstanding, THEWILL urges the judiciary to consider these attacks as direct outrage on the statutorily guaranteed independence of the judiciary. Consequently it should purge itself of all tainted Judges and judicial officers. We recommend a synergy between the President, the CJN, the Attorney General of the Federation and the NBA in order to cleanse the rot.
THEWILL also calls for total reform of the judiciary so that its integrity can be restored. Government must also adequately fund the judiciary, as has been canvassed over time. Such reform will earn Nigeria the confidence of both local and international community. This is the only way it can effectively deliver on its mandate as the third arm of government.