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Is the court as implicated complicit?

Apr 29, 2024 | Politics | 0 comments

Judiciary’s Alleged Complicity in Executive Misconduct Since 1999 Raises Concerns

Accusations of the judiciary’s collusion with executive misconduct during Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which began in 1999, persistently resurface, echoing not only from aggrieved politicians but also from esteemed legal figures. Even retired judges voice dissatisfaction with the conduct of their colleagues still occupying the Bench. The perception that the judiciary often plays second fiddle to, or even serves as a subordinate arm of, the Executive branch is widely held; many rulings and behaviours of judicial officers are deemed embarrassing, even to lay observers like me. One can’t help but wonder why these judges opt for a path that leads to their downfall, tarnishing not just their reputation but that of their entire profession.

The wanton disregard for the sanctity of the judicial chambers by individuals constitutionally entrusted with quasi-divine authority—able to mete out punishment, including capital punishment, but not to confer life—cannot be brushed aside lightly. These are individuals who, of their own accord and without coercion, swore an oath to administer justice impartially, without fear or favour, regardless of whose interests might be affected. To subsequently treat this oath with disdain is a travesty!

Is it fear, greed, or simply a lack of comprehension? Regardless, the judiciary, according to Montesquieu’s theory of the separation of powers, should serve as the branch that keeps the Executive and Legislature in check. Endowed with the authority to decide matters of life and death for all citizens, the judiciary holds the ultimate power—at least here on earth. While Jehovah may hold sway in the heavens, on earth, the judiciary reigns supreme. It is the sole branch of government empowered to overrule the other two arms. In fulfilling this role, enlightened judges have been known to effectively legislate while interpreting the law, stripping even the most powerful officials of their privileges and titles and, in some jurisdictions, even sending governors and presidents to prison. Why, then, do they appear feeble here? What or who has emasculated them?

The plight of the judiciary, often lauded as the last refuge of the common man, elicits my lamentation, particularly when considering the intervention of Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former chairman of the Human Rights Commission. Is it a lament or a requiem for the judiciary? Titled “Yahaya Bello and a complicit judiciary,” Odinkalu’s intervention paints a grim picture.

“Josiah Majebi, the fifth Chief Judge of Kogi State in four years, and the fourth seen as a puppet of the state governor, epitomizes the dire situation,” Odinkalu contends. He proceeds to chronicle the tumultuous history of the Kogi State judiciary, where Chief Judges have either succumbed to political pressure or met untimely fates for daring to uphold their independence. The tragic tale of Nasir Ajanah, the former Chief Judge who paid with his life for refusing to yield to political machinations, serves as a stark reminder of the perils faced by those who dare to defy the status quo.

Furthermore, Odinkalu sheds light on Governor Yahaya Bello’s brazen attempts to manipulate the judiciary for his own gain, including the dubious nomination of his wife as a judge and the orchestration of his cousin’s ascension to the governorship amidst allegations of electoral malpractice. The judiciary’s complicity in these machinations raises grave concerns about its integrity and independence.

In essence, the root cause of the judiciary’s malaise lies in its flawed recruitment process. When merit is sacrificed on the altar of political patronage, competence takes a back seat, allowing incompetence and mediocrity to flourish. Corruption erodes the very foundation of justice, leaving justice itself battered and bruised.

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