Judicial ambush by politically exposed persons accused of corruption seems endless in the country, as moves are made to stall or truncate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s investigation of cases. The shenanigans should be checked. The encumbrance is being spawned by Iyiola Omisore, a former senator, alleged by the anti-graft agency to have wrongfully received N1.31 billion in the build-up to the August 9, 2014 governorship election in Osun State.
Before a Federal High Court in Abuja, is Omisore’s application praying that it grants him an order of perpetual injunction restraining the “defendants (EFCC) either by themselves, their agents, officers, servants, privies or otherwise, however (called) from making such, or similar defamatory publication of and concerning the plaintiff to any persons or persons.”
He had earlier been arrested by EFCC detectives, an action which the spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State, Diran Odeyemi, exclaimed was a blatant violation of an extant court order. He said, “There is a subsisting court order, restraining the EFCC from arresting him. They ought to have vacated the order before arresting him.” Since a former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, succeeded in securing a similar injunction shortly after he left office in 2007, it has become expedient for some PEPs to seek refuge in this questionable judicial cover.
In a decent society, it is expected that any citizen who feels wrongly accused of any crime, will seize every legal opportunity with both hands to prove his or her innocence; but certainly not to erect any barricade to an enquiry or effort by the state to get to the root of the matter. Our society is still an integral part of the global community.
Barrier to justice, law and order is a perfidy that thrives insofar as there is a judge willing to play ball. This is a grave professional misconduct, which invariably perverts the course of justice. The National Judicial Council, the statutory disciplinary organ within the judiciary, should be blamed for this odium. It is unfortunate that over the years, it has failed to bring sanity to the Bench, just as it has been helpless in cutting to size senior lawyers that often mislead their clients into undertaking ill-conceived litigation.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, early this year stated that 64 judges “were disciplined as appropriate,” between 2009 and 2014. These were judicial officers that abused their offices and were just retired. But we have always insisted that easing out such tainted judges from office has never served the intended punitive objective. Ideally, these crooked judges should be jailed upon conviction, as it is the norm in civilised jurisdictions.
Why this has not happened in Nigeria so far bespeaks double standard or hypocrisy of our judicial authorities in the enforcement of the country’s penal codes. Judicial officers should not be turned to a caste that is above the law. Nigeria is a country where all citizens should be equal before the law. A legal environment that promotes perpetual injunction that fetters justice, where lower courts give rulings that conflict with decisions of appellate courts and litigants run to courts of coordinate jurisdiction to secure conflicting orders on the same matter, is sick, corrupt and opprobrious.
The CJN, as the chairman of the NJC, should pull the judiciary from the brink by carrying out far-reaching reforms that will remove the bad eggs on the Bench, some of whom are publicly known. There is an avalanche of petitions against such misfits. It is this crop of judges that President Muhammadu Buhari had in mind when he said the judiciary was his main headache in his administration’s resolve to fight corruption during a town hall meeting with Nigerians in far away Ethiopia in February.
However, the fulminations of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, at a recent public lecture entitled: “Go home and sin no more: Corrupt Judges escaping justice in Nigeria,” suggest that such era is no more. They will not only be tried and convicted, but their assets would be forfeited to the government. “I am reiterating that the fight against corruption shall be total and will not exclude judicial officers, who are found wanting. After all, it is beyond doubt that a corrupt judge cannot meaningfully contribute to the fight against corruption,” the AGF affirmed.
We eagerly wait to experience this leveller or equal treatment of all citizens before the law in respect of bringing depraved judges and their accomplices to book. It is a paradigm that will restore the dignity of the judiciary and that of officers who serve in the temple of justice. It is the usual remedial action in the United States evident in the case of Ciaverella Jnr, a judge, who was jailed for 28 years for demanding a kick-back.