The Judiciary’s Complicity in the Rape And Looting of Nigeria
By Akintokunbo A Adejumo
“Money and Corruption Are ruining the land, Crooked politicians Betray the working man, Pocketing the profits And treating us like sheep, And we’re tired of hearing promises, That we know they’ll never keep.” –Ray Davies: Once upon a time in America, a man named Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. He replied: “Cos that’s where
the money is”.
It was an uncomplicated philosophy which served him well until he was caught and marched off to prison.
Today, Mr Sutton would not have risked incarceration. Now, were Mr Sutton to be a Nigerian, he would have had the choice of being a politician, a civil servant or a contractor. And of course, he has the added and important advantage of being protected from the law by the very people who are supposed to uphold the law and dish out punishment for infraction – the Judiciary and related vagabonds. (Sorry, I am being generalist here)
Better still, he could have been a Nigerian policeman, although he would have been severely limited as to making loads of money, but at least he could be in official authorised uniform and waylay people on the highway and collect money from them without facing any charges of armed robbery.
In Nigeria, large amount of the money (our supposed common wealth), or “the loot”, as we have now come to know it, is kept with the Government – Federal, State or Local. “That is where the loot (money) is”, paraphrasing Mr Sutton, and that is why everybody wants to be in Government, either as a politician, civil servant or political appointee.
So that brings me to the case of disappearing billions, where a minor civil servant – yes, a minor civil servant John Yakubu Yusuf, former (I should think he’s now “former”) Director of the Police Pension Board; or who has ever heard of this pen robber, in cahoots with a few others, managed to steal a whopping and dizzying sum of N32 billion Naira? (Some reports say 23.3 billion; we are not even sure of how much he admitted stealing) Where on earth have you ever heard a country, a sane country, had one of its officials steal so much money from the public purse?
How was he and his accomplices ever allowed to steal so much? Why did they have to steal so much? The money or loot must really be flowing freely on the streets, nay, in those little government offices in Abuja.
Now comes the topping? Steal so much money, sentenced to 2 years with the option of only N750, 000.00 fine, which he promptly paid. The guy was laughing all the way to the bank (that is, he and his accomplices and those behind the fraud)
A solicitor friend of mine later pointed to me that the Penal Code that operates in the 19 Northern states, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja being in that area of jurisdiction, means the presiding judge could not have passed a stricter sentence according to Section 309: Punishment for criminal misappropriation: Whoever commits criminal misappropriation shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. What do we have here? In the Southern states, the Criminal Code operates, so if Mr Bloody Thief Yusuf had been tried in say, Enugu or Ibadan, his sentence would have been a stiffer one, assuming we have an upright judge, a conscientious and diligent prosecution, i.e. the EFCC, and no political interference.
I am in the wrong racket. And so are many of my compatriots. I have often wondered whether or not my fortunes in life would have improved if I had joined the Federal Civil Service in 1979, when the Federal Civil Service Commission used to visit the universities to recruit graduating students. I probably would not now be struggling, 34 years later, to build my own house and having only a few thousand nairas in my bank account. It’s a dog’s life.
Just kidding! I have no regrets for not being a thief, a corrupt politician, a thieving civil servant or a crooked bank executive/fuel subsidy contractor. I am happy with my conscience, my integrity and reputation. And I know so are many of my people.
“Power does not corrupt men. Fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.” – George Bernard Shaw.
In my friend, Chinedu Akuta’s blog “Nigerian Judiciary is Big Joke”, there is a catalogue of travesty and complicity of Nigeria’s judiciary in dealing with high profile corruption cases in Nigeria – “the current case of John Yakubu Yusuf; Olabode George committed a fraud of over N85 billion naira and was only given 2:5 years imprisonment. Mrs. Cecilia Ibru (former MD/CEO of Ocenic Bank) was jailed 6 months for stealing N54 billion naira. Former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun was convicted of N20 billion naira fraud, and was sentenced to only 6 months in prison. Both Tafa Balogun and Cecilia Ibru had their sentences spent in their homes or chosen hospitals. Another Ex Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero was caught trying to smuggle out N200 million naira out of Abuja. Sunday Ehindero was not even sent to court, so the case died like that. So many Ex Governors, between (1999-2011), have been granted bails on their alleged corrupt cases, some, like Peter Odili, (Dr. Perpetual Injunction), former Governor of Rivers State, even have court injunction stopping their trial on corruption cases. James Ibori (Former Governor of Delta State) was discharged and acquitted in a Nigerian court, but was sent to jail in UK, for the same offences he was acquitted from in Nigeria. The list is endless”.
Corruption is all over the world, the difference is how various countries approach, manage and deal with it. In China, the penalty is capital punishment. In the US, Bernard Madoff, who committed a fraud of $65 Billion Dollars (£38bn Pounds Sterling) was sentenced to 150 years in jail. Nigerian judiciary is no longer the last hope of a common man, but rather, the destroyer of the Nigerian hope. “The greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping punishment” said Marcus Cicero”.
It is sad and unfortunate that the Nigerian Judiciary, which a few decades ago, was one of the most respected, erudite and upright in the world is aiding and abetting crimes, by handing little or no sentences/jail terms. “Make no mistake, the destruction of Nigeria (by whatever means) will affect all and sundry. Take a look at the insecurity situation (which is a failure of the government and partly the people); no one is safe/saved any more. Emirs, chiefs, ministers, commissioners, judges, lawyers, ex this, ex that, etc can be attacked or kidnapped. High crime rates are partly the fault of our judiciary also. Therefore, this should serve a wakeup call, because a lot of damages have already been done” (CV Akuta)
By now, after fourteen years of so-called democracy, there should be no doubt in the minds of Nigerians that this institution, the Judiciary, the main pillar of democracy and freedom, and surely one of the most important and fundamental to democracy’s success and good governance, is one of the most corrupt, with glaring instances where court judgments have been bought for money, or influenced by people in high places who would rather not have justice prevail.
From the standpoint of the vulnerability to corruption and of its social impact, the judiciary remains one of the most sensitive and visible areas in this respect. There is no doubt that in our present predicament as a nation, there is a need to develop and implement a set of adequate corruption-combating policies in the justice system, has become increasingly imperative and starts from justice-seekers, to whom a fair judicial system is a fundamental right, and to judges and other categories in the system that are more and more exposed to public criticism, and I might say, exposure.
Justice is the backbone of any democratic society. The rule of law and the acceptance of its values and principles entail the confidence in justice. For citizens’ confidence in the system to exist, judicial professionals must be able to offer credibility. They must have irreprehensible behaviour and prototypical professional conduct. From the above, we can see that the Nigerian judiciary has failed us. Of course, over our 53 years of independent existence, there have always been bright rays of hope and I can compile a list as long as my two arms of exemplary, upright, erudite, conscientious, illustrious, honest, acclaimed dignified Nigerian judges, jurists and men/women of the wig who have never, and will never compromise their names and reputation for any amount on lucre or pressure from those in power, to satisfy selfish ends that are inimical to the development and progress or public interest of this country.
In a sane country or society, there should be no corruption in the justice system as long as the system is a part of the legal and institutional mechanism that is supposed to combat it. On the other hand, the lack of court convictions of corrupt politicians, dishonest and thieving civil servants, greedy and light-fingered bank executives, conniving and corrupt police and other corrupt government officials in recent years is a clear indication that we do not yet have any or enough methods of preventing and fighting corruption in the system.
But then, the judicial system is an integral part and spawn of the larger society, and I will always reiterate that a bad society will consistently bring out, or spew out bad leaders, bad institutions, bad systems, bad governance; and hence the judiciary is not exempt from this fact.
Having said this though, in any society, good or bad, the justice system remains the last bastion of freedom and hope for the common man. Where this is absent or abdicated, the common man is doomed – doomed to oppression, corruption, poverty, bad governance and generally a decrepit standard of living, such as we have in Nigeria now.
The prevention and combating of corruption in the judicial system is a priority objective in system reform, in the broader setting of the fight against the phenomenon of corruption. Judicial corruption may harm the most important social values, considering the fact that the legal system is designed exactly to ensure the supremacy of the law which entails, among other things, the prosecution and bringing to justice of corruption offences.
Legitimacy is vital to the running of justice. This particular characteristic comes from the public’s understanding of the way in which the justice system is organised, from the trust people have in the competence of judges and other system workers, as well as from the knowledge of the rules upon which the system works and from the acceptance of the authority of court judgements. Apart from the legal safeguards of professionalism, workers in the justice system are also required to have a specific moral aptitude and a certain conduct.
The bottom line is Nigeria’s judiciary is no longer the last optimism of the common man, but a platform of injustice, inequality, discrimination, nastiness and place for the highest bidder, and sadly, our hitherto respected judiciary has ceased to be the last hope of the common man; rather it has become the first protection of villains, charlatans and vagabonds in power and authority, who, with a certain disdain, flout the law, knowing they can always get the protection from a corrupt judicial system.
Something must be done to reverse this.
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
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