- The nation ought to provide incentives to make financial overtures uninviting
The Senate has decried corruption in the nation’s judiciary and proffered suggestions on how to curb it. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti), spoke on the matter after his committee’s confirmation hearing on the nomination of Justices John Tsoho and Benedict Bakwaoh Kanyip, as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the National Industrial Court, respectively.
According to the senator: “For so long, the story has dominated our political space that our judiciary is corrupt.” Frankly speaking, many Nigerians have lost faith in the judiciary, not just because of corruption in its rank, but also because the process is very slow and sometimes judgments are manifestly a miscarriage of justice. In some instances, people prefer to take the laws into their hands, instead of leaving their fate in the hands of an untrusted judiciary.
This scary state of affairs was also confirmed by the Executive Secretary, National Judicial Council (NJC), Ahmed Gambo, who spoke at the committee hearing. Locating one of the possible causes of the malaise, he said: “The welfare packages for judicial officers in this country are nothing to write home about. Judges’ salaries were last reviewed in 2007.” While we commend the senate for their frankness, the question is, what will it do to change the narrative?
Interestingly, the Senate appears to recognise the enormity of the challenge. According to Bamidele: “As it is with the nation’s judiciary today, even if saints are appointed from heaven to serve as justices and judges, it is only strength of character that can prevent them from being corrupt and dispense justice as required.” The senator recommended a special budgetary provision to deal with what he referred to as sociological challenges. He also correctly diagnosed those responsible to make it happen.
In his words: “I believe this will be an issue for both the legislative and executive arms of government to address most speedily. Beyond the current budgetary provision, a special intervention fund is required.” There is one thing the Senate can do, and that is to ensure adequate funding for the judiciary. We also agree with the special intervention fund recommended by the senator on behalf of the Senate. Perhaps such special fund will be a lot more than the paltry sum the executive, in connivance with the legislature, usually allocate to the judiciary annually.
The special fund would go towards providing modern courts, modern court-room gadgets, more judges, annual trainings, court assistants and other requirements that would help our courts to become more efficient. Of note, some of the things the legislative and executive arms of government take for granted are seen as luxury for the judiciary. For instance, every four years, every elected or returned senator or House of Representatives member gets new set of office equipment, new cars, humongous allowances and stupendous salary monthly, for doing what cannot be compared to the gruelling work of a judge.
The executive arm which dispenses funds obviously gains even more than the legislative arm in the allocation of resources. To effect a change, the two must collaborate, in the interest of democracy. If the executive arm demurs, the legislature, as the elected representatives of the people, should seize the gauntlet.
On their part, the judiciary must stand to be counted. The NJC must rise up to its responsibility, and ensure that corrupt judges are weeded out from the bench. The disciplinary committee of the Nigerian Bar Association must also ensure that their members who bring the judiciary to disrepute are effectively sanctioned.