President Buhari Over-reached on His Corruption War

Most Nigerians are squarely behind president Buhari on his war on corruption. Nigerians have seen their local, state and federal treasury looted by politicians and public officials to the point that they are feed up and want drastic action taken. A lot of politicians has been arrested yet no major conviction has been recorded. The routine goes like this, a corrupt public official gets arrested and charged to court. The case then goes on and on for years until they are either forgotten or the public official is given a slap on the wrist by the presiding judge. Why is justice not dispensed timely? Perhaps the presiding judges on some of these cases are compromised by accepting bribe. It is a known fact in Nigeria that some judges appointed to election tribunal make out like bandits by giving favorable judgements for money. Bribery in the judicial is one of the reason why several judges gives conflicting rulings on same case. Corruption in any judicial body in any part of the world is the worst thing ever because justice delayed is justice denied and justice denied is miscarriage of justice. Corrupt judges do not belong in the judicial. Period!

The question now facing Nigeria is how can corrupt judges be weeded out of the judicial branch while maintaining integrity of the judiciary branch? Nigerian constitution is made up of three branches: the executive, legislative and the judiciary. Nigerian constitution empowers the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate and weed out corrupt judges from the judicial branch. NJC has been doing so for many years now but their pace is not fast enough for the current sitting president of Nigeria, Mr. Buhari. Nigerian president subsequently sent Nigerian secret police (Dept. of State security) to search homes of some judges and arrest them without the consent or approval of the NJC. About 7-15 judge’s home was searched and most of them was arrested and freed on bail on self-recognition. Nigeria chief justice and members of the NJC has condemned the raid on judge’s home and subsequent arrest of the judges. NJC asserted that the executive branch indeed reported some of the arrested justices to the body and they were investigated and cleared by the council. On the other hand, some of the arrested judges are known to leave beyond their means.

My take is that the raid on judge’s homes and subsequent arrest of some of the judges without the consent or approval of NJC is a bad idea. It is a costly adventure which can make Nigerians lose confidence in the judiciary and will render future judgement by judges suspicious. It is an indirect intimidation of the entire judiciary arm of government. Judges may now be indirectly restrained from rendering correct judgement if they think the government in power will find excuse to invade their homes and arrest them under the pretext of corruption. The cost of the executive messing with judicial will be too high in the long run. The attorney general said that these judges will be arraigned soon. My question is which court will they be arraigned at? Will there be arraigned before the same court headed by the same chief justices who condemned the president’s action. What prevent any judge from setting the judges free on the basis of the unconstitutionality of the president’s action. What will the president do if all the cases are dismissed? The president has already said that the arrested judges will not be allowed to sit on the bench but he does not have the power to prevent them from sitting on the bench without the approval of the NJC. That means that Nigeria is heading into constitutional crises which I think the president will end up losing.

The correct approach for the president would have been to work on changing the part of the constitution that empowers only the NJC to investigate and remove judges. The president should also be trying to change the make-up of NJC to possibly include the federal attorney general or EFCC chairman who could have the power to investigate judges and make recommendations to NJC. NJC alone should not be the only people investigating one of their own since there is bound to be conflict of interest. At the minimum, an outside agency like EFCC should be used to investigate judges just like they are doing with the legislative branch and pass the result of their investigation and recommendation to the NJC so they can review it and make decision based on it. Chief justice of Nigeria said that some of the cases pertaining to the arrested judges was investigated and that DSS and the federal government did not provide any or enough evidence to justify their suspension or dismissal. How could the federal government provide evidence if they did not have the power to investigate the judges and obtain necessary evidence. It is very important that the composition of NJC be changed and outside investigators brought in to investigate cases on a permanent basis in-order to restore confidence in the judicial branch. President Buhari’s approach of raiding judge’s residence and effecting their arrest is a bad idea which will not work in the long run. Democracy is a very slow process which requires patience and a great deal of maturity.

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