By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
LAST month’s Presidential elections in the United States of America brought out the good, the bad and the ugly about American’s democracy. The two leading candidates, Mrs. Hilary Clinton of the Democratic Party and Mr. Donald Trump of the Republican Party, displayed some of the most acrimonious personal insults that remarkably signposted the 2016 election- eering campaigns as perhaps the dirtiest in the political annals of the USA since the 1776 declaration of Independence.
In one of her most abusive political ex- pressions, Mrs. Hilary Clinton stated thus: “You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” Not done with her insults which she later recanted, Mrs Clinton added “The rest of Trump supporters are people who are looking for change in any form.”
In Nigeria, however, we are not in any political campaign now, but two major ex- istential themes confront the general public namely: the biting economic recession and the pervasive corruption in the three arms of government, viz judiciary, legislature and executive.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the latest high profile public office holder to con- firm that corruption has since take root in the Three Arms zone.
Similarly, in a book that has elicited controversy, American writer, Mr. John N. Paden, wrote: “(Buhari’s) passion for change and national unity were evident in his espousal of basic democratic practices, and the need for the country’s leadership to be responsible to the concerns of the Nigerian people.”
For long, the Judiciary has been stinking of corruption. And many Nigerians have been clamoring for a holistic war against graft. The Judiciary is seen as the last hope of the common man, but for over two de- cades, cases of bribes-for-judgments have completely derailed quick and efficient dispensation of justice.
Perhaps, it’s on this ground that the Di- rectorate of State Services (DSS) which is created to prevent terrorism and crimes against the Nigerian State has decidedly qualified bribery and corruption as terrorism. The many bad eggs in the Judiciary arms have over the years allowed the Execu- tive arm of government to dictate to them how to dispense justice in cases of citizens before them.
Twenty five years ago during the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari-led military rule, the most vociferous critic of the military rule and acclaimed singer, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was railroaded into prisons by the military junta using the judiciary over trumped up charges of mon- ey laundering.
Fast forward to few weeks back when the DSS was deployed to invade the homes of two Supreme Court Justices and some Federal High Court Judges in the wee hours of the morning in what was later described as a ‘sting’ operation in search of alleged bribes paid out by rich litigants which some of the Judges were said to have kept in their homes.
However, in one instance, the invasion of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s home in Abuja was done without a valid search warrant. The person in his house at the time of the operation was reportedly beaten mercilessly.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba was reportedly the presiding Judge in a matter between a suspect and the DSS. The Judge is known to have berated the DSS for flouting valid orders of the court in that particular matter. His home was invaded barely 48 hours after he openly reprimanded the DSS in court and this illegality has completely rendered the invasion a big nullity and a vendetta.
But, speaking seriously about the ever threating menace of corruption in the Ju- diciary, most Judges are seen as ‘basket of deplorables’. Currently, both the DSS and the EFCC have gone after some judges they accused of bribery and corruption. One of them, Justice Ofili Ajumogobia, a woman, was accused by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of illegally transferring $900,000 USD to an offshore account.
Two Supreme Court Justices: Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta were among those arrested and thrown into the DSS cells in Abuja and released on administrative bails pending prosecution.
Other accused Judges are: Muhammad Ladan Tsamiya of the Appeal Court; In- nocent A. Umezulike, the dismissed Chief Judge of Enugu State; Justice Ademola A.F.A of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga of High Court of Gombe.
This has however put the National Judicial Council and the Nigerian Bar Association on collision course because the disputed winner of the Presidency of NBA, Alhaji A.B. Mahmoud, has been caught engaging in double speak on this same matter.
He had initially condemned the invasions which he described as illegal and demanded an unconditional release of the Judges. But, when the officials of the DSS threatened to deal with the NBA if it stands on its way, the NBA president quickly backslided and recanted urging that accused Judges should step down pending their clearance.
The statement by the NBA President is interpreted as standing logic on its head. Under the Constitution, all accused persons are innocent in the eyes of the law until contrary determination is reached in the competent court of law.
The National Judicial Council headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria in a pub- lication in some newspapers signed by Mr. Soji Oye, the Director of Information states as follows: “NJC maintains its earlier decision that it is not amenable to Judicial Officers being invited by any Institution, including the DSS, without complying with the Rule of Law and Due Process. That explains why when the DSS wrote to the NJC by letter Ref. No. LSC.960/4 dat- ed 14th September, 2016, to direct Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga to appear before it, The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of NJC, directed the Hon. Chief Judge of Gombe State to ask Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga to report to DSS, which His Lordship did.”
“NJC has never shielded nor will it shield any Judicial Officer who has been investigated by it and found to be guilty of misconduct and or being investigated by the Police or EFCC or ICPC for criminal offence or financial crime; or by DSS on a matter bordering on State security, so long as the process is in compliance with the Rule of Law and Due Process”.
Onwubiko is of Human Rights Writers association of Nigeria