Select Page



INTRODUCTION

Perhaps
I should begin with this quote by Mary Harris Jones (“Mother Jones”)[1] who said;“I asked a man in prison once how he
happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if
he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.”
The
seemingly unshakable grip of corruption remains ever so glaring in various
societies and climes especially in this nation Nigeria. The necessity of a
discuss proffering biblical, timely and intellectual solutions is very much
welcomed development. As would every academic write up, this paper will attempt
to define the key words in the topic of discuss. This is not to say that the
definitions are all encompassing but it is put forward as a light that would
pave the way for a fruitful discuss. The words that ought to be defined
include: Incorruptible; Judiciary; Catalyst; Equitable and Progressive.
The
New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language[2] defines Incorruptible to mean impossible to
corrupt morally especially by bribery. One thing we should be quick to note is
that the definition refers to the impossibility to corrupt morality. The
definition also places a beam on the fact that the most prominent, but not the
only, form of corruption is bribery.
The
Judiciary is said to refer to the apparatus of law and its administrators[3]. Thus, the judiciary is what the common man would look
at to see the concept of law at work if peradventure he does not have access to
the law books. The judiciary ought to and in fact should represent the very law
of the land and its administration.
When
we talk about a Catalyst, we refer to a substance that alters the rate of a
chemical reaction and is itself unchanged by the process[4]. That is to say that the substance which causes a great
change in other substance around it does not in itself experience the change.
When
something is Equitable, we mean to say that such a thing is fair and just[5]. The last but not the least key word is the word
Progressive, which means moving forward or onward or increasing in severity,
intensity. It has also to do with, or favours, political and social progress or
reform[6].
Having
defined all of these terms it would remain to piece them all together to give
an insight to what this paper seeks to do. This paper aims to enlighten us on
the importance for the judiciary to be impossible to corrupt morally and as
such dispense their functions in a fair and just manner that would trigger,
alter and increase in severity the progress of the our country Nigeria. This is
an advocacy that hopes to jolt the judiciary to rise to the morally
incorruptible pedestal as is the expectation of the populace.
2.0
THE CORRUPT STATE OF THE JUDICAIRY
A
corrupt judge does not carefully search for the truth[7]; when the truth of a case is not properly sought out
the people suffer injustice in the very hands of those who are to uphold same.
As the days go by, the glaring nature of the menace corruption has become in
our society cannot be overlooked. This factor necessitates this discuss. It is
said that in order for one to move forward exponentially, which is the end goal
of this paper, one has to go down memory lane albeit to pin point the pitfalls over
the years. This section of this paper seeks to x-ray the past and present
activities of the judiciary in order that we may move forward.
Corruption
as a word in itself means the state of being or becoming decayed. This connotes
a gradual journey towards decay. Thus, it is the accumulation of various
activities of the Judiciary over time that would lead to such decadence.
Corruption of any kind breeds especially that in the judiciary breeds inequity,
inequality, lack of justice and a feeling of dissatisfaction in the common man.
As has been said by an anonymous source “the worst affected by
corruption is the common man
”.  When inequity is the order of the day,
the common man is forced to take laws into his own hands by resorting to self
help, that is, situations of jungle justice therefore taking us back to the
Stone Age where survival of humans was based solely on the strength. Thomas
Hobbes referring to a time like this stated that:
“During
the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in
that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every
man…. No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual
fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish and short”[8].
The
jungle justice that the populace resorts to now and then only fuels further the
lack of trust the citizenry has in the judiciary and the regression that now
envelopes our society.
The
most common form of judicial corruption is the bribery of judicial officers and
members of the judiciary in order to ensure a favorable outcome for the party
advancing such bribe. I dare say however, that is not the only form of judicial
corruption there is. Judicial corruption could come also from bias[9]; intimidation[10] and the judicial corruption that is the judicial
system itself[11].
Whilst
judicial corruption that stems from bribery has monetary consideration as the
reason behind the pervasion of justice and propagation of inequality in the
application of the law by the judiciary; the judicial corruption emanating from
bias is more subtle and difficult to detect and is often times not induced by
any of the parties to the suit. The bottom line being that which route is towed
the end point is the in equitability in the application of the law to similar
situations which results in inequality. For instance, a female judge who went
through a gruesome divorce in the hands of a terrible husband when faced with a
divorce case will be more sympathetic and likely to favour the female. The same
goes for the male judge suffered loss of property during a
separation without meaning to this judge will in inclined to help his male
counterpart preserve and walk away with as much of his property to himself as
is possible within the law. In either of the examples the judge is no longer
seeking the truth in and the justice of the case but his own kind of justice
which may not be justice in the eyes of the common man.
Giving
an instance of bribery as a cause of corrupt practices, a Nigerian lawyer, Mr.
Tunji Abayomi speaking with Channels Television[12] gave instances of corruption in Nigeria’s
judiciary, which according to him had become a culture in the third arm of
government. Mr. Abayomi, gave an instance of a case in which he had
successfully obtained judgment from a certain judge which we will call A.
Afterwards, counsel made an application for execution of judgment before Judge
B who directed the court bailiff to execute the judgment according to the
directive. To the chagrin and utter dismay of Mr. Abayomi the party against
whom the judgment was to be enforced, that is, the judgment debtor broke this
smooth running chain of the hand of justice by applying to the court for an
order staying the execution of the judgment.  This order was granted by
the judge who according to Mr. Abayomi could not look up on the day of the
hearing where he read the order staying the judgment the court which had
already being executed. Counsel described this as strange but later heard an
allegation that the judge had accepted the sum of N300,
000 as bribe in order to grant the order for stay execution. This act of the
judiciary caving under the influence of the party against whom judgment was
gotten led to an inequitable result for the successful party, who was now
precluded from enjoying the fruits of his victory. This kind of occurrence only
leads to loss of faith in the justice system in the country and the resultant
resort to self help. In This Day Newspaper[13] it was stated that:
“It
must be conceded and addressed, the fact that, going forward, there is a severe
crisis of confidence in the judicial arm of Government. Do the courts meet the
expectation of the people in the discharge of its primary responsibilities? The
answer is obviously in the negative. The consensus is that the corrupt elements
in the court system and the Bar have given the entire sector an almost
irredeemable bad name. One of the measures to be embarked upon in order to
restore the image and efficacy of this arm of Government is the expulsion of Judges
who have been proven to be corrupt, from the system”.
The
people have consistently looked to the judiciary for saving but time and time
again they have gone home crest fallen as the judiciary have failed to live up
to the expectation. In an account written by Femi Orebe in The Nation Newspaper[14], the reporter stated that as in all sectors of the
Nigerian society, corruption predominates the judiciary and has become endemic.
The corrupt state of the judiciary he says is a cause for concern as the
priests in the temple of justice should, at the least, be the exception in the
corruption story in the country. Narrating a story to drive home the depth of
the corrupt practices in the judiciary, he stated that the government of
Western Region had just acquired a piece of land at Idi-Ose for the use of
IITA in Ibadan. Some of the land-owners, not happy with the amount of
compensation paid, threatened to go to court, which development Chief Ladoke
Akintola reported to Awo and advised that the matter be resolved
without litigation. Awo, the story goes, disagreed, confident that the
government had a solid legal team in FRA Williams, Fani-Kayode and Bode Thomas.
SLA replied in Yoruba, suffused with panegyrics:
“My
Leader, e fura o. Looto ‘Timi mo Procedure. Oba ni Fani ninu Constitution,
beeni Thomas o kere ninu Evidence. Sugbon TOS Benson ni lawyer awon ti a n so
yi. E si mo pe TOS mo Ademola o”- meaning yes, these are terrific lawyers, but
TOS Benson and Justice Ademola, handling the case, are friends o”.
Awo
got the message and opted for settlement[15]. The lesson from this they say; is that while the
brilliant lawyer knows the law, the successful one knows the judge. Should this
be the order of the day? Shouldn’t the best man win? This indeed is the sad and
deplorable state below which the judiciary has fallen and an evident example of
corruption through intimidation. To further buttress this, Justice Hardy of
London in sentencing Ibori for his crimes in a London court described the
Nigerian Judiciary as one usurped by men of power. This is far from the ideal
justice system we ought to proudly portray as the most populous black nation.
The
menace of corruption has eaten so deep into the fabric of the judiciary and is
not restricted to one ethnic group or geographical location. Although, some
claim that certain judges from a particular geographically areas are more
corrupt than the others, this claim remains to be substantiated. In Aregbesola
vs. Olagunsoye Oyinlola[16], the three judges who presided over the matter at the
Osun Election Petitions Tribunal not only arrived at a decision but also were
faulty in their findings leaving much to be desired. The faulty finding was
traceable to the issue of one Alhaji S.O. Nofiu who signed Forms EC8B in nine
out of eleven wards in Ife Central Local Government Area of the state. Ready to
appeal against the shame of a judgment, the party against whom judgment was
given obtained the certified true copies of the judgment but were ordered by
the court to return it. According to a Non Governmental Organization; the
Justice Now Foundation[17], the tribunal judges made two contradictory findings
as regards the evidence of forms EC8B in nine out of eleven wards in Ife
Central Local Government Area signed by one Alhaji N. O. Nofiu. The findings
were glaringly faulty in the face of the fact that no reason was advanced by
the Respondents to explain why this happened. In the face of this misnomer
however, in its holding the Tribunal stated thus:
“In
respect of the allegation that Alhaji N. O. Nofiu signed 9 form EC8B in the Ife
Central LG, the petitioner referred us to the evidence of RW29 and RW42 who
stated under cross examination that he is the PDP secretary, and we have gone
through that evidence, but we could not find where they were confronted with
forms EC8B’s in relation to the said wards of the local government. There must
be oral evidence to link the documentary evidence which is lacking here”.
Thankfully,
this shameful decision of the tribunal was overturned by the Court of Appeal
and the rightful winner was sworn in as the governor of Osun state.
Of
course we would have to mention the most recent corruption allegation against
the judiciary that led to the recent arrest of certain judges by members of the
Department of State Services (DSS). The affected judges include Justices
Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court; the suspended Justice
of the Court od Appeal, Ilorin Division, Mohammed Tsamiya and Justice Kabiru
Auta of the Kano State High Court. Also, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal
High Court, Abuja, former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A Umezulike
and Muazu Pindigi of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division. The DSS claims to
have recovered sums of money in local and foreign currencies from the judges
which are allegedly proceeds of official corruption. It was also the case that
Governor Nyesom Wike protected a judge in his state against armed DSS
operatives. The members of the DSS claimed to have submitted complains to the
National Judicial Council (NJC) which is charged with the duty of disciplining
erring members of the judiciary but the NJC did nothing which made the DSS to
step in. The question here is not really about the procedure that was used to
“bring the erring justices to book” so much as it is the fact that the judges
themselves could have descended so low in the books of the DSS and in fact the
society.
3.0
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF AND INJUNCTIONS ON BRIBERY, CORRUPTION AND THE JUDGES
One
instance in the bible was where a judge himself expected the “accused person”
to bribe him but the accused being a firm child of God did not descend so low
as to offer a bribe. The book of Acts 24 verses 25-27 says that: “25-
As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come,
Felix was afraid and said, ‘that’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find
it convenient, I will send for you’. 26 –at the same time he was hoping that
Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and taked with him.
27- when two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but
because Felix wanted to grant a favour to the Jews, he left Paul in prison”
[18]The example of the Apostle
only tells us that we as believers should not assist in perverting the course
of justice.
On
the part of the officers in the temple of justice themselves the bible warns
and says in Exodus 23 verse 8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe
blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent”
[19]. In Proverbs 17 verse 8 “a bribe
is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at
every turn”
, verse 23 says that“the wicked accept bribes in secret to
pervert the course of justice”
.
The
effect of taking bribe is explicitly stated in Isaiah 1 verse 23, “your
rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after
gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s cause does
not come before them”
.
4.0
TOWARDS AN INCORRUPTIBLE JUDICAIRY
By
biblical standards a judge“…will not accept any compensation; he will refuse
a bribe, however great it is”
 Proverbs 6 verse 35[20]. Deuteronomy 16 verses 18­
19, in stating the ideal state of a
judicial system says that:
“18 Judges
and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God
giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just
judgment. 
19 Thou
shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift:
for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the
righteous[21].
“The duty of the youth is to challenge corruption”[22] hence the timely nature of
this paper. We have earlier in this paper put the sources of judicial
corruption under the heads of: (a) bias; (b) bribery; (c) Intimidation and (d)
the judicial corruption that is the judicial system itself. Here we want to proffer
workable solutions that will close up the sources.
4.1.
Curbing Bias and Bribery
Bias
is multifaceted and the reasons for the giving and acceptance of bribes are
seemingly unending. One would then wonder what would suffice as a veritable
tool to fight these cankerworms that have delicately and deliberately caused a
steady decay in the judiciary. My answer to such a wondering person would be
values.
Values
can be defined as the worth of something compared to its price or put in
another form it can be defined as principles or standard of behaviour[23]. A proper understanding by the key players in the
judiciary of the principles and standards of behavior expected of them is the
first step. The full understanding of the worth of justice, equity, equality
and fairness that far outweighs any price any individual would have to offer as
bribe or the bias the officer might have is the second. The inculcation of
these values I dare say becomes all the more important in the face of the fact
that the burden borne by the judiciary is a lot heavier than that borne by
other tiers of government. The common man takes solace in the fact that he can
test the limits of laws made by the legislature in the courts and he is
comforted that within the four walls of the courtroom executive lawlessness can
be redressed.
To
achieve the inculcation of values into the officers of the judiciary, I propose
that rigorous trainings with the sole aim of instilling the values of justice,
equity and fairness, that is, the need for justice to be done and be manifestly
seen to be so done. First the existing officers of the judiciary will be
sensitized and then each person scheduled for appointment as an officer in the
judiciary. The training exercises are to be carried out by the existing members
of the judiciary who are an epitome of the core values of the judiciary.
4.2
Intimidation
Intimidation
of the judiciary could be by another tier of government or could be based on
status, fame, power and influence. Whichever form it chooses to take it does
not in any way give the actions any legitimacy.
To
solve this menace I propose as others have overtime, the complete independence of
the judiciary from other arms of government. Independence remains the one and
only way to ensure that the judiciary can speak up and uphold the rule of law
without fear. Independence ensured through a self serving salary payment
system; sentimentally free appointments; job security through the setting of
parameters for compulsory retirement and a transparent retirement plan.
4.3
The judicial corruption that is the judicial system itself
Justice
delayed is inevitably justice denied. It is the reality today that matters
before courts do not proceed as they ought. Sometimes this is due to the delay
tactics of the counsel and at other times it is the judge themselves who fail
to sit as frequently as they should. The resultant delay leads to the cases
outliving those who filed them in court.
In
order to solve the problem of delay therefore, a time frame for the resolution
of matters ought to be inserted into the rules. After the expiration of the
stipulated period, the counsel and the judge involved in such a delayed matter
should forward an explanation to the Chief Judge of the court and the National
Judicial Council. In addition, the judge would then suggest a period of time
estimated for the conclusion of the cases. It is also recommended that the fast
track system, settlement week, electronic-filling system, case management
conferences and the frontloading system that have been fully imbibed and is
being implemented in Lagos state and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
are commendable and should be adopted by other states as an instrument to
ensure the quick dispensation of justice and equity.
CONCLUSION
I
will conclude this discuss by a reference to the Book of Proverbs 29 verse 4
which says that;“by justice a king gives a country stability, but those who
are greedy for bribes tear it down”. 
Progression and stability in the
society stems from justice and equity, justice and equity can only be a reality
where the judiciary is above the moral decay called corruption.
*Akuegbu
Adaeze Victory, LL.B (Lagos), B.L
[1] U.S Labor and Community Organizer, Speech at Coney Island, 1903
[2]The New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language,
International Edition; Lexicon International – Publishers Guild Group New York,
New
York                                                                                                                                                                             
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] HORACE, attributed, Forty Thousand
Quotations, Prose and Poetical
[8] Thomas Hobbes, “Leviathan or The Matter,
Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil
” (1651).
[9] Bias could be religious, political, social, ethnic
and sometimes based on life experiences. In technical terms it is referred to
as the judges’ idiosyncrasies.
[10] This can be two fold (a) by powerful and
influential persons (b) by the constant interference of other arms of
government in the activities of the judiciary.
[11] A situation where the cases that come before the
court experience untold delay lasting for fifteen (15) years in certain cases
either by the delay occasioned by the judges themselves or the lawyers who
appear before them or sometimes due to no fault of any of the players.
[12] ‘Lawyer gives instances of corruption in
Nigeria’s Judiciary’ Channels Television24th of October, 2016.
[13] ‘Corruption and the Nigerian Judiciary: Matters
Arising’ This Day Newspaper 18th of October, 2016
[14] ‘Still on Corruption in the Nigerian Judiciary’
The Nation Newspaper 23rd October, 2016.
[15] The writer however stated in his write up that
the veracity of the story cannot be guaranteed.
[16]  (2010) LPELR-CA/I/EPT/GOV/02/2010
[17] See the Advertorial in THE NATION of Monday, 7
June 2010
[18] Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV)
[19] Ibid
[20] Ibid
[21] Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV)
[22] Anonymous Quote
[23] Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition,
Oxford University Press.

Adaeze Akuegbu