It doesn’t get more chastening — does it? — the portrait of a justice of the law as an alleged rogue!
That jars on the very fundament of cultured society.
And it doesn’t get more damning for civil society architecture — herding justices of the courts (including the Supreme Court) into detention, with alleged smoking guns, after a sting operation, by the secret police.
Neither does it get more troubling: a governor — and a lawyer to boot! — dramatically speaking, hopping off the bed to block the arrest of a judge, alleged to have soiled his hands; and judge and governor allegedly conspiring to trot away vital evidence!
His Excellency and His Lordship at a conspiracy?
Besides, what is the nexus between the two — the one, enjoying legal immunity because his high office is supposed to be above board; the other, enjoying other constitutional privileges, because he is deemed an immaculate priest in the temple of justice?
Did one illicitly aid the other, the past favour the beneficiary now returns, in his benefactor’s day of woe?
So, if both shirk their responsibilities, can they, in all good conscience, hold on to the privileges, despite extant laws?
The extant laws! Yes, for that is where a party, in the emerging macabre drama, could be accused of resorting to self-help. In arresting the judges, DSS has been accused of “Gestapo tactics”.
On this score, the gubernatorial case is clear-cut. So long as he is in office, a governor enjoys immunity against criminal prosecution. But does that allow him the laxity to indulge in alleged criminal behaviour?
The judge’s? Less so. True, there are stated procedures to discipline an erring judge; and in fairness, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has latterly gone on the offensive to discipline some of such judges.
Still, is there anything in the law that expressly forbids arresting and docking a judge, beyond the constitutional refinements of channelling grievances through the NJC, the Areopagus of judicial cleansing?
Experts must provide specific answers to these questions to guide the polity, in these very unusual times!
Jesus, the Christ, famously rued: my father’s house of worship has become a den of thieves!
With this alleged governor-judge conspiracy, therefore, has Nigeria’s shrine of government become captive to a concert of executive and judicial rogues?
And why a sting operation? Is the Nigerian judiciary so much beyond redemption, in its alleged gobbling of sleaze, that even constitutional provisions to punish judges are so effete and ineffectual, hence this shock therapy?
Shock therapy! Will it achieve the desired purpose, teach the right lessons and send errant rats scampering into the hole?
Or will it develop a life of its own, like some earthquake that could swallow the society, as we know it today?
Questions, questions, questions!
But instead of clear and dispassionate answers, it is the tragedy of contemporary Nigeria that everyone is diving into this troubling pool of high scandal; and pressing their constitutional right to an emotional splash.
For starters, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is flexing what its president calls a “judicial emergency”.
There are also threats. Thundered Abubakar Mahmud, SAN, NBA president, backed by a “war council” of four former NBA presidents, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, J.B. Daudu, SAN and Augustine Alegeh, SAN: “I’ll be meeting with the CJN later tonight or tomorrow. There will be consequences,” he warned, “if these demands are not met.”
The NBA stance is understandable, given the Bar-Bench esprit de corps. However, whether it should be less combative and more calculative boils down to tactics and strategies it has decided to apply.
Since it has first-hand information about the matter, at least much more than the general public whose sympathy it is trying to rally, it is only reasonable to respect its stance.
Still, that bit on later meeting with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), and threatening “consequences”, should the government not accede to its demands, border on the reckless, with all due respect.
For starters, that puts the CJN on the spot. However the NBA wants to engage the CJN, it should have kept to its chest; and not blabbed to the public.
The NBA is, of course, entitled to its formalistic and legalistic view, which from its tone, presumes the arrests were to “intimidate the judiciary”. But shouldn’t it have been a bit more nuanced about it all?
What if DSS’s claims are proven, that the arrested judges were caught with some humongous cash in varied currencies, after a sting operation possibly after a tip-off, would the NBA not draw the CJN into unfair controversy, about using his office to shield corrupt elements in the judiciary?
Would that not eventually weaken the CJN’s position, in the delicate balance of state power?
The late Sabo Bakin Zuwo was a 2nd Republic Kano governor, accused of criminally warehousing public funds. The press, ever so mischievous, dubbed him “Banking Zuwo”, after a devastating pun of his name.
So, with alleged “Banking Zuwo” judges, can the NBA, or the CJN for that matter, beyond obdurate legalism, defend the conduct of judges allegedly warehousing huge cash at home, when they are not some illiterate Idumota traders mortally scared of the banking system? What, by the way, might their motive be?
Bakin Zuwo, of course, echoes a parallel in 1984, after the Buhari military regime had overthrown the Shehu Shagari 2nd Republic presidency (1979-1983). It clamped most of the politicians in detention, and set up special tribunals to try the “corrupt” politicians.
Just like now back then, NBA kicked — and to be fair, there were genuine fears those tribunals would not dispense justice. Even then, the late Gani Fawehinmi broke ranks.
Now, Femi Falana, SAN, is breaking ranks (claiming NBA, by its stand, risks protecting “corrupt judges”) — and, truth be told, the NBA would appear on more slippery grounds than it was in 1984.
With all of these, can the NBA really afford to go toe-to-toe with the state, without risking its own integrity? That is why NBA should show more wisdom than bellicosity.
Of course, the human rights army has also weighed in with the ogre of looming dictatorship, claiming humiliating judges was tantamount to endangering democracy.
That might well be. But what if the judges first humiliated the law, by betraying their sacred oath? Besides, “humiliating the judiciary”, on account of a few indicted judges, is hot but empty gas.
A few illicit judges cannot seek licit cover under the decent majority. Indeed, keeping those bad judges humiliates the good ones.
However, even the Buhari Presidency must admit the sting operation, against the judges, was nothing short of revolutionary. So, DSS had better possess the evidences it claims it possesses. Otherwise, it just might be the government’s last-ever romance with civil society.
However the case pans out, the roiling notion of his Lordship, the Judge, as a thief should churn the tummy of everyone.
So, whatever the posturing and counter-posturing, as both sides bluff and bluster, such a decadent judiciary should worry everyone.
This is why Nigerians should navigate this sorry pass with more sobriety, and less grandstanding.
Culled from: http://thenationonlineng.net