President Muhammadu Buhari has identified the Judiciary as a ‘headache’ in the on-going anti-corruption fight. CACOL identifies with the President’s position and see it as being realistic even though it is a truism that other arm of government and aspects of our national life are prone to corruption. Nigerians have witnessed several cases of corruption where culprits exploit corrupt tendencies in the Judiciary system to facilitate their escape of justice or to get the ‘slap in the wrist’ kind of judgement.
The President’s genuine intention to rid our country of corruption is definitely hamstrung by the Judiciary particularly that the President does not have constitutional powers to directly intervene in the Judiciary arm as this will negate the principles of Separation of Powers.
Some examples will suffice to buttress the position of the President. One is the Joshua Dariye episode; a former Governor of Plateau State, currently representing Plateau Central Senatorial Constituency in the National Assembly whom the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in 2007, preferred money laundering and charges bordering on the diversion of the Ecological funds against. Nine years after preferring the charges Mr. Joshua Dariye, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission only recently re-opened its case before a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu, Abuja.
The Executive Chairman of CACOL, Comrade Debo Adeniran in agreeing with the President on the character of the Judiciary citing the Joshua Dariye case said, “9 years to start trial denote that the Nigerian Judicial system is laughable. If an accused could legally manipulate the system for 9 years before the trial even begins, it means there is no deterrent to corruption. This is somebody who singlehandedly collected N1.126 billion naira on behalf of the state and diverted it to his private account and then directed the bank manager on how to distribute it. That is why all of them are running to court to seek ‘protection’ and yet we are talking about rule of law.”
Another example is the case of Mr. Peter Odili, former Governor of Rivers State, who also got a perpetual injunction which forever froze his case till now. The EFCC began moves to swoop on Rivers state officials in late 2006 when it issued a report of investigation into the state’s finances in which it said over N100 billion was diverted during Odili’s two terms. The report contained allegations of large-scale fraud, conspiracy, conversion of public funds, foreign exchange malpractice, money laundering, stealing and abuse of oath of office against the former governor. To stave off impeding prosecution of officials, the then Rivers state Attorney General went to court and got a perpetual injunction in March 2007 restraining the EFCC from investigating the state government.
Added to all these are the President’s personal experiences the last three times he contested for the Presidency. We should also not forget the case of James Ibori, a former Governor of Delta state who successfully manipulated the Judiciary to escape justice in Nigeria but ended up being jailed in the UK for corruption offences that emanated from Nigeria.
Recognising a challenge in a process toward achieving a goal is to be honest with oneself and a sign of strength. CACOL defines ‘corruption as any act of dishonesty’, therefore for us it will amount to ‘playing the Ostrich’ if we cannot come to terms with the reality of our Judiciary which the President highlighted so aptly. For the pronouncement made; the President has not anyway exonerated the other arms of government as being devoid of corruption like some are insinuating.
There is no cause for the criticisms being made over the statement of the President if we all recall what respected erudite Judges; Kayode Eso, Ayo Salami, Olubunmi Oyewole, Mariam Aloma-Muktar and co asserted in past about corruption in the Judiciary in our country.
Adeniran, however pointed out that “the Judicial Arm of government is different from the Justice system, because the Justice system which falls under the purview of the Executive Arm also constitute ‘headache’ to the war against corruption and this must be brought to the fore.’’
“It is important for all Arms of government to support the anti-corruption fight for it to be effective. Even though there is Separation of Powers amongst the 3 Arms of government; the Arms should work in unison to fight corruption, a scourge that have encroached our country for too long and threatening to obliterate it.’’ Mr. Adeniran averred.
The National Assembly should be seen to be up and doing in terms of their oversight functions and enacting enabling laws to fight corruption. The Judiciary should rise to the occasion by ensuring that justice is not delayed where cases of graft have been established; all these with the aim of strengthening the anti-corruption drive being championed by the President.
Media Officer, CACOL