By Mike Ilechukwu
IT is no longer news that some Judges were recently arrested, detained and are currently being prosecuted on allegations of corrupt practices. The manner and justification of this drama is far from the attention of the writer. However, the crux of the concern is the profound consequences of this action. It is the revelation of the fact that the cankerworm of corruption seems to have overtaken the psyche of many citizens to the detriment of the common man whose ultimate fate and spirit of nationalism are embedded in the sanctity and equity of the legal system.
The drama of the arrest and prosecution of these judges, two of the Supreme Court, will similarly die on the altar of the same questionable legal system like other political cases of corruption. Till date, there is a good number of such celebrated exposé that are dead on arrival. The executive and legislative arms are the actors of this drama while the judiciary directs the action.
The popular axiom that the rabbit does not come out in daylight without cause holds a lot of water. If you play back the current video of the trending corruption drama, an issue stands out: that is the effrontery to match up to a judge’s house and confiscate him like a common criminal must have a heavy substance to encourage such action.
Without being prejudicial, it is a case of the river that does not drown anybody who has not stepped into it. If the judiciary is as holy as it is sanctimonious, nobody would dare unveil this masquerade. The masquerade’s aura and consequence would not allow a non-cult member to come with a certain radius for fear of being sent to chill out zone unless the masquerade had defecated on the altar.
If the argument above holds, it then implies that various cases of corruption rocking the arms of government especially the Judiciary which is supposed to be the last hope of the common man in obtaining justice, has reportedly turned to be wolves in the sheep clothing.
The ensuing state of hopelessness arising from this fact leaves no one with any faith in the law that should be the blindfolded arbiter whose only sentiment is fairness and equity. Most troubling is that the majority of the Judges are suspect even when they do their best to maintain sanctity of the law. Further down the line, the integrity of the nation has equally been laid on the slate of suspicion. The nation’s international image will be viewed from the prism of corruption.
The quest for an egalitarian society is strained due to the resulting effect of social injustice and inequitable distribution of the nation’s resources, favoritism which elevates a section above the other and anointing a few individuals over and above the greater majority. This social injustice, accountability, transparency, poverty, high-rate of unemployment, disease and hunger have become common features of the common man fueling the embers of disunity, suspicion and resort to self help against the ideals of national integration and development. Hence, instability and insecurity cannot be stopped because the instrument of fixing such issues is faulty.
The rot in the legal-system is the reason for congested prisons and prolonged detentions without trials and convictions. The reason for this stemmed from another form of corruption. It is evident that many staff of our legal system do not attach the desired importance to their work as much as they do to their private businesses. These are people who resume late and close early. While on duty, they would prefer to chat and browse social media. Some engaged in gossip. By this lackadaisical attitude, case files are not duly prepared which in turn frustrates the work of the judges.
In this age of Internet, it is difficult to understand why the Nigerian legal information cannot be properly computerized for easy access to information. The rampant cases of missing case files is a situation that is reserved for the prehistoric age. It has equally created problems in crime detection and prevention.
Of course, the advantages of appropriate use of a computerized legal system cannot be over-emphasized. Duplication of duties is another serious aspect of the problems in our legal system that creates loop-holes for perversion of justice, personal enrichment and infringement on personal rights of citizens.
One cannot forget in a hurry the menace of touting. Hardly can anybody approach any court for a regular issue like affidavits and obtain them in time and process same without the touts who front for the officials.
Most times they are so flagrant about their business that Nigerians have unconsciously come to adopt their operation as the right and proper way of getting things done. On the other hand, when the proper process is hardly applicable, one is compelled to apply what is practicable. The ease with which these touts operate gives enough room for fraudulent individuals to carry out their nefarious activities undetected, and to influence justice at the expense of righteous approach.
It heartwarming that the National Assembly is reviewing some aspects of our legal system. This is the right time to do a total overhaul of the laws in order to remove those clauses that abet corrupt practices. This can be done by including other clauses that will eliminate all the bottlenecks bedeviling it. It will be instructive to set up a judicial reform committee that will review the operations of the existing system and proffer strategies that will eliminate corruption and other impediments in the dispensation of justice.
Besides this, all the arms of government should work together to ensure equity and fairplay. This is necessary for stability and real progress in our society. Our society must be re-oriented in the ways of humanism and justice, freedom, liberty and independence. The masses must re-orientate themselves through election by voting in people with integrity and good moral standing that will change things for the better.
One should call for fair distribution of the basic necessities of life , most importantly , freedom and liberty to develop according to one’s God-given talents. There is hope that men of honour shall make this change possible. We must wake up to our responsibilities. It is in this way that Nigeria can make change possible.
Ilechukwu Writes from Awgu Enugu