By Dele Sobowale
Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1856-1941.

The same Justice Brandeis had been credited with saying that “Difficult cases make bad law.” The raid on the houses of Justices last weekend is perhaps the most difficult case most Nigerians have ever had to comment upon. For me, it was a heart-breaker – the sort of thing you wish would never happen. Yet, you also know that unless the veil of secrecy covering corruption in the judiciary is lifted, there will not be much progress on corruption elsewhere. Unless Nigerian courts, once again, become the hope of the common man we will get nowhere. For good or for ill – and these still have to be determined – the raid has now put the fear of reprisals in the hearts of all corrupt judges. Only the hardened criminals among them will, for a long time, put justice up for sale. For that reason, the Buhari administration deserves our gratitude. Never again will justices receive bribes with impunity. That is certain.

Ngwuta, Okoroand Ademola
Ngwuta, Okoroand Ademola

However, Machiavellism, the principle that states that “the end justifies the means, had always had disastrous long-term effects on societies after the initial gains have been made. That is where Justice Brandeis’ admonition becomes important and that logically leads to the most important question which the Department of State Services, DSS, must answer. Were the search warrants issued by a court of law knowing which buildings were going to be searched? As a corollary, we need to know which court issued the search warrants and the names and addresses that were on the search warrants. For me the matter is simple. If the DSS had no search warrant validly signed by a court, then it had no business entering anybody’s premises – whether a Justice or not. Again, the matter is simple. Any evidence gathered as a result of illegal entry will certainly not be admissible in any court of law – even if genuine. In other words, the DSS might have only succeeded in embarrassing the justices, but, it would not be able to prosecute or get them convicted. DSS would have labored in vain.

Meanwhile, the National Judicial Council, NJC, had waded into the matter and made its own position known. Mainly, the NJC had virtually called the Director General, DG, of DSS and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, liars, they had challenged the two to publish the petitions sent to the NJC in respect of the justices in question which were not acted upon. More than two weeks elapsed since the DSS first addressed the media and the world and so far there has been no substantiation of the DSS claim made public. Again, the matter is simple. The DSS either has the proof or doesn’t. It should publish the evidence for all Nigerians to see. If it doesn’t, the DG-DSS should honourably apologise to the justices, to all Nigerians, to President Buhari who appointed him and then “do the needful”.

Finally, at least for now, the question now needs to be asked: which court will now entertain the case which the DSS promised to commence by charging the justices to court in light of the NJC’s position that the raids were unconstitutional? Even if there is a courageous (foolhardy really) magistrate or justice willing to try the cases, one thing is certain. The substantive cases will be tied up in court for years while preliminary objections, concerning the constitutionality of the DSS raid, will wind its way through the courts – all the way to the Supreme Curt if necessary. It is still the judiciary that will determine guilt or innocence.

The DSS has not got an ice cubes chance in hell of winning any of the cases. The security outfit had just wasted everybody’s time by demonstrating, once again, that “Brute force without wisdom falls by its own weight.” (Horace, 65-8BC in VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 63).

But, having dealt with the “fox” (DSS), we must return to the barnyard and address the wayward chickens (the Honourable Justices). Here, the most obvious questions are: Were those mind-boggling sums actually found in any justices premises? How were they accumulated? If legitimate, why were they not deposited in banks? There is no law to guide us here because “Law does not seek to inspire human excellence or distinction. It is no guide to exemplary behavior or even good practice.” (Anonymous, VBQ p 120).

Since we can’t try them in their own courts, we must take them to the courts of public opinion…..

To be continued.

SHORT AND SHARP

“Promises, like pie-crusts are made to be broken.” Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, P 203.

When President Buhari promised to provide free food for 5.5 million school kids from this year, he was advised on these pages to postpone the programme until the funds are guaranteed and all the problems of logistics have been addressed. I might as well have been talking to a wall. Going to Abuja two weeks ago by road, I stopped in schools in Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Kogi, Niger, Kogi and Edo states to find out if the “chow” was supplied.

None of the kids had eaten a grain of Buhari food. I left my GSM number to be called when the food arrives so I can come and verify. As you read this no call had been received about free food. Promises, promises, promises….

Don’t go away; I will keep you informed about this promise to the children.

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