“In Election Petition matters, just in a twinkle of an eye, some Judges become millionaires. In fact, those of us who have passed through the yoke of being judges, what we hear outside shatters us, because they are not just millionaires, as we are told; they are billionaires.
I want to seize this opportunity to appeal to the CJN not to keep quiet about this (indictment). It is easy to say we should wave it aside, but I think we should not. A panel should be set up to find out what is going on in the Elections Petitions Tribunals”
Justice Kayode Esho (JSC rtd)
IT is now clear, that this alarm sounded in June 2010, about the corruption in the Elections Petitions Panels, even by no less a person than the very respected jurist, Justice Kayode Esho, was not enough to provoke any action by the relevant authorities, to search out the truth in the widespread allegations of massive corruption, especially in the Appeal Court’s handling of petitions from the 2007 general elections.
Few in Nigeria can honestly claim that they have not been aware of the accusations of corruption against several judges of the Appeal Court who handled election petition appeals. But each time these allegations are made, there has always risen, a brigade of ‘defenders’, especially lawyers (some of whom are implicated in the corruption of the judges), who under claims of one legal tradition or the other, have succeeded in preventing a discussion, and any investigation.
So, we must thank Senator Iyiola Omisore of Osun State, for bringing this issue back to public attention, through his advertorial alleging that the Appeal Court Panel, which adjudicated in the Osun State Governorship Election dispute, was bribed.
But since the senator put this issue of judicial corruption back on the front burner, we have seen the usual horde of ‘judicial tradition’ defenders, who would rather that the issue was not discussed, talk less of being investigated. All we have heard from many of the supposedly senior lawyers who have spoken, is more like the baying of a lynch mob, who would have us put the senator on trial, and convict and hang him, if possible, for what offence, I do not know.
Even the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr J B Daudu, who merely ventured to suggest that the numerous allegations may need to be looked into, has come under the vociferous hammer of some of his members, who argue, (I am sure erroneously), that his only duty was to defend the accused judges.
What these ‘learned’ gentlemen seem to forget is that the monstrous carbuncle growing on the face of our judicial system, can no longer be hidden: the more the Judiciary and the Bar pretend that it is not there, the bigger it grows. And for us ordinary citizens of this nation, the more we watch the disingenuous effort of some lawyers to cover the rot, the less our trust grows in the system, or in the lawyers, for that matter.
For even if we leave aside the Osun scandal, who can easily forget the still on-going scandal of the Sokoto gubernatorial appeal which degenerated to a point last year, where senior judges were accusing each other, of having taken, or facilitated the payment of bribes.
Or the case of the judges who sat in the Port Harcourt Election Appeals Panel which was widely reported in 2009. The judgeswere reported to the ICPC in a petition by an NGO, the Nigerian Coalition for Justice, on March 4, 2009, for massive corruption.
The petition included the judges’ bank account numbers, and details of the huge amounts lodged, through transfers traceable to litigants in their court.
According to the reports, the investigation has since been stalled through many ploys that suggest that in matters concerning judges, even the anti-corruption agencies are reluctant to get to a conclusion, even in provable cases. The investigation is still pending.
What I think we need to bear in mind is that the accusations are not against all judges in the Appeal Court system. Indeed, most of the judges of the Appeal Court, are men and women of impeccable integrity. It is noteworthy, that nearly all the accusations, have revolved around 10 to 12 of the judges, who seem to have been recycled through all the most controversial judgements.
It is this relatively few members, that are bringing the Nigerian Judicial system into disrepute. As our people say: if one finger is soiled with oil, it quickly spreads to the others.
Mr. YEMI AKINTUNDE, a social critic, writes from Abuja.