This is my personal opinion. That question is quite at large. Some members of the judiciary are okay. Though there may be one or two bad eggs, that does not mean that the entire judiciary is not good or not playing its role well. In some cases, proceedings are moving on and in some, the judges may not be speeding up the trial; he will be condoning adjournments. So, it depends on who is handling what! But I think they need to be proactive.
That is why I called for a specialised court. They will know those who are handling the cases and will be able to assess and monitor them. They can do better. But now that they take them to any court, delay can be dangerous because there could be other matters they are handling. There is no way you can correctly assess the judiciary whether they are doing well or not. In some instances, cases drag for long, but some matters are handled expeditiously. That is why it is not easy for me to say that the judiciary has been doing well or not. But I think they can do better.
They need be proactive and be careful the way they grant adjournment. They should handle matters with dispatch so that we can move forward. I want to say without mincing words that the war against corruption cannot be won without very sound, incorruptible and courageous judges. If the judiciary is not above board, which means they are also corrupt, there is no way we can make headway. So, it starts with having courageous and incorruptible judges.
We have the best of judiciary, but this corruption is so crucial because it will also fight back. That is why we should have special courts so that we have people who are specially trained to handle those cases. We look at their antecedent and background so that they cannot be compromised. They are doing their thing, but it might not be enough because we have not been winning this war and we cannot blame judiciary alone.
Lawyers are also one of the factors. Some lawyers will bring such an application and raise very useless objection. We must follow strictly Administration of Criminal Justice Act. If we are courageous and follow it strictly, there will be headway. We need strong institution. What can judges do? Supposing you do not bring cogent matters; you bring watery issues without evidence to court; how can you win? You do not win your cases in court; some cases are won in the chambers. That is the issue. Even if the judges are qualified and want to do the needful, if others do not do what they should do, there will be no much progress.
The lawyers, the judiciary and other people involved in anti-graft war must be proactive. We must not be found wanting. You will go to court and you will now be looking for evidence. In advanced climes, even if it takes them 10 years, they get enough evidence and are prepared before going to court so that they will not be hand-beaten. But when you bring shallow evidence and you proceed on cases, you will lose those cases. •Chief Rafiu Balogun (National Legal Adviser, Nigerian Bar Association)
As a servant in the temple of justice, I know the Nigerian Judiciary is trying its best to promote the war against corruption in line with our existing laws. Those who do not understand our laws are likely to accuse the judiciary of slowing things down or letting corrupt people go free. The truth is that, under the now repealed Decree 2 of 1984, of the then General Muhammadu Buhari military junta, the burden of proof was on the owner of recovered funds to prove that the money/property found in his possession were got from legitimate means. But the law today is on the prosecution to prove that the money/property found with the defendant are proceeds of a crime. In such a situation how do you turn round and blame the judiciary which bases its judgment on facts?
Our laws, as they are today, do not really make for a serious fight against corruption the way we expect it to be fought. If we must achieve the desired results, we must review our laws to catch up with the times. Under the British system, if Mr. A is found with £1m in his account, the burden is on him to prove that the fund is legitimately earned. It is not so in Nigeria. We need to take another look at our laws. •Abdullahi Jalo (Abuja based legal practitioner/politician)
The Judiciary is built on a set of rules and procedures. I want to say without equivocation that our courts have played their role in the circumstance when it comes to fighting corruption. I know Nigerians expect results and from the public perception, anybody that is alleged to be corrupt, the belief is that the person is indeed corrupt. But by the time the matter goes to court, you know the courts will not use public perception to give their judgments; the courts operate with the facts of the matter brought before them and the law. They follow procedure and interpret the law, and by the time the law is applied, you may discover that the person perceived to be corrupt is not corrupt after all.
Sometimes you find out that those who investigate some of these cases use their brute force to obtain information which, often times, cannot stand in court. I have found myself in court where somebody was labelled corrupt and when the matter came to trial, the anti-corruption agency could not provide evidence to support its claims. Of course, the case could not proceed. It seems some of our people want to take mob mentality, which is often at play in jungle justice, into the judiciary; it doesn’t work like that. •Kayode Idowu (Principal Partner, Castle of Law Chambers)
In my opinion, I would say, yes, and within the ambit of the constitutional provisions for that matter. That is why some rigged elections have been upturned in favour of non-ruling political parties. Some persons who were on the incarceration list of the Federal Government were granted bail. As far as I am concerned, the judiciary has played the best part in the separation of powers without fear or favour.
We cannot generalise that judges had been accused of bribery, but rather say some judges. And they shall certainly get convicted by the same judiciary if evidences are proved. We cannot deny that there is corruption in the system. But that has not limited the judiciary from playing its role in the fight against corruption.
Going forward, the leadership of the judiciary, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Nigerian Bar Association, should work out a sustainable punitive policy to discourage those (judicial officers) that could be tempted in the course of duty. Synergy is the most recommended way in this agenda. •Omobude Agho (Edo Civil Society activist)
There is an improvement in terms of system strengthening. The judiciary has properly keyed into the policies of the present administration, especially in the area of anti-graft crusade. The judiciary has been able to work with the anti-graft agencies to prosecute people that have stolen huge amount of money, which are either kept in the banks or in their homes. The judiciary, to me, has tried.
Nonetheless, it is pathetic that the Nigerian Bar Association has begun to mount pressures on the Federal Government and the anti-graft agencies to stop prosecuting corrupt judges. To me, they have gone too far. The comrade thing should be set aside from reality. They must allow every corrupt public officer regardless of their positions to be tried. So, their influence, their participation, and their kind of involvement in the anti-corruption war by seeking areas to halt the trial and prosecution of the corrupt judges are pitiful.
There is no smoke without fire. If these judges were not corrupt, nobody would have thought of dragging them into courts for trial and prosecution. Let the lawyers allow justice to take its course. Nobody is above the law. Dr Obot Dominic (Department of Agro-economics, University of Uyo)