The attention of the members of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) been has drawn to the claim of the National Judicial Council (NJC) that it has acted on all petitions alleging misconduct on the part of judicial officers in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The claim of the National [p’[Judicial Council is completely misleading because it is far from the truth.
Contrary to such claim CSNAC wishes to state that the deliberate refusal of the NJC to investigate and sanction judges accused of corruption, abuse of office and other acts of misconduct by members of the public has encouraged judicial corruption in the country and impunity is endemic in Nigeria’s judicial system. In other words, the outright failure of the judiciary to purge the Nigerian judicial system of corrupt practices has eroded public confidence in the judiciary. Indeed, the disciplinary measures meted out to some erring judges have cast serious doubt on the expressed commitment of the NJC to restore public confidence in the country’s judiciary.
The claim of the NJC that it is committed to the anti corruption policy of the Mohammed Buhari Administration flies in the face of the granting of frivolous injunctions issued by judges which have frustrated the investigation and prosecution of politically exposed persons and people accused of corruption. In several other cases, judges involved in the trial of corruption cases as well as the appellate courts have granted stay of proceedings to stall the prosecution of corrupt people in the society. Apart from the case of Justice Mohammed Yunusa who was recently recommended for retirement by the NJC, no other judge has been sanctioned by the NJC for frustrating the fight against corruption. Even in the case of Justice Yunusa the NJC failed to act until the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) had to compile seven cases in which the judge granted perpetual injunction to restrain the EFCC, ICPC and the offices of the Inspector-General of Police and Attorney-General of the Federation from prosecuting some persons accused of criminal diversion of billions of naira.
In view of the false claim of the NJC that it has been dealing promptly with allegations of misconduct against judicial officers the CSNAC is compelled to ask the NJC why it has decided not to investigate and sanction judges alleged of judicial corruption in the following petitions:
(1) The petition against Justice B.A Adejumo, President of the National Industrial Court for granting illegal ex parte orders against two state governments. The petitions were submitted to the NJC by the governments of Edo and Oyo states.
(2) The petition written against the President of the Court of Appeal for the failure to hear and determine the appeal filed by the EFCC in 2008 at the Court of Appeal against the judgment of Justice Buba in the Odili case. The counsel handling the case on behalf of the EFCC is the current President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. A. B. Mahmoud SAN. The petition was written by the CSNAC.
(3) The petition written against four judges namely Justice Uwani Abba-Aji of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ibrahim Auta, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa and Mohammed Yunusa of Federal High Court and Chief Judge of the Federal High Court alleged to have collected bribes from Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN) currently undergoing trial for transfer of sums of money to the judges. The petition was submitted to the NJC by the CSNAC.
(4) The petition written against Justice Marcel Awokulehin for sentencing convicted drug dealers to lesser terms contrary to the provisions of the NDLEA Act. The petition was submitted to the NJC by the CSNAC.
(5) The petition written against Justice Abdul Kafarati for gross misconduct and desecration of the bench. The petition was submitted to the NJC by the CSNAC.
(6) The petition written against Justice Adejumo for recommending unqualified candidates who were appointed as judges of the National Industrial Court. The petition was written by the CSNAC.
(7) The NJC gave the impression that there is only one petition pending against Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the federal high court. This is not correct as the NJC also received a petition alleging that the judge wrote two judgments in one case. The petition together with the two judgments were submitted to the NJC by the Committee of Anambra State PDP House of Representatives Members-Elect.
(8) On not less than two occasions Justice Ademola has obtained injunctions to restrain the NJC from investigating allegations of corruption against him. What steps did the NJC take to set aside the black market injunctions?
(9) Justice I. A. Umezulike, Chief Judge of Enugu state has been retired on the recommendation of the NJC for launching a book where he collected N10 million from a litigant. Why was Justice Ibrahim Auta who collected over N40 million from his book launch not recommended for retirement by the NJC? A petition to this effect was submitted by CSNAC.
(10) The petition submitted to the NJC by the DSS last week on the 15 judges who are said to have engaged in money laundering and corruption was not considered. Did the same NJC not recommend the dismissal and prosecution of Justice Kabiru Auta who had collected N200 million bribe from a litigant. Why was the NJC silent on the millions of naira, dollars, pounds and other foreign currencies.
In the press statement issued at the end of its meeting last week, the NJC claimed that it recommended Justice Tiamiya of the Court of Appeal for retirement because he demanded N200 million from a litigant whose appeal in an election petition was pending before the Court. Is the NJC not aware that anyone who demands a bribe has committed a serious offence under the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Act? Why was he not recommended for prosecution?
We recall that the NJC recently recommended the retirement of some judges for not delivering judgments within the 90 days stipulated by the Constitution. But why was Justice Rita Ajumogobia merely warned by the NJC even though it was found as a fact she did not deliver judgment in a pre-election matter until the expiration of the term of office of the defendant? The cases cited above are among several others alleging corruption and misconduct on the part of some members of the NJC and other judges who are said to be untouchable in the judiciary. It is the cover of judicial corruption which has led the DSS to intervene in order to end impunity in the Nigerian judiciary.
CSNAC is of firm opinion that corruption and impunity in the judiciary pose serious disincentive to credible administration of justice as well as impugn on the collective psyche of stakeholders in the judicial system. CSNAC therefore calls on the NJC to join the calls to rid the judiciary of bad eggs, in the interest of justice, democracy and good governance.
In view of the foregoing the CSNAC is compelled to call on the NJC to investigate the petitions referred to above without any further delay. Meanwhile the public deserves to know why the NJC refused to investigate the judges involved in the serious allegations of misconduct raised in the said petitions.
*Olanrewaju Suraju , Chairman, CSNAC.