As judges arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) penultimate wake are arraigned in court on corruption, false assets declaration charges, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Jiti Ogunye and Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) have said graft pervades the Judiciary and the Presidency.
Speaking on StandPoint, a political programme on Television Continental (TVC), Adebanjo traced the problem of the Judiciary to the military era when judges were given luxury vehicles, while Ogunye contended that the Department of State Security (DSS) acted within its mandate in arresting the judges on alleged corruption charges.
Adebanjo also reiterated that cash-for-justice had long been the mainstay in the Judiciary, while Ogunye said the National Judicial Council (NJC) does not have the power to prosecute corrupt judges.
“From day one, I have said there are so many good judges in Nigeria and there are so many good lawyers in Nigeria. It is only a small clique that are corrupt and are corrupting the entire system,” Adebanjo said.
“We’ve had decent people in our Judiciary, but the Nigerian Judiciary started going to the dogs particularly since the coming into political office of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, when he bought (Mercedes) Benz to give to judges, and late Chief Gani Fawehinmi went to challenge that in court. That was when we started seeing judges paying lip-service to their oath of office.
“I never imagined this would happen in my life. As soon as they started having judges elected into Election Petition Tribunals, I saw the worst thing to have happened to Nigeria.
“On interlocutory injunctions, judges will take money from right, left and centre and at the end of the day, they will give it to the highest bidder.”
On his part, Ogunye said since the NJC is not a law-enforcement authority, the DSS stepped in, having acted on several petitions against some of the arrested judges.
“The NJC is not a court. It is not a law-enforcement authority charged with the responsibility of investigating crimes. So, if crimes committed by judges should not be investigated (by the DSS) because they are dubious, you strike at the heart of the principle of the rule of law which is equality of all before the law and that is not even supported by the law.
“Because of the intelligence required and because of the secretive nature of that operation, carried out by a secret service; because we are talking here about the third arm of government, people forget that the Judiciary is not just the Judiciary. The Judiciary is also an arm of government.”
Igho Akinride, of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) believes “corruption is everywhere, including the Presidency.”