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Corruption in the Judiciary and the constitutional duties of the Executive arm of government

By Essay Palmer on 28/10/2016

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It was 1 a.m. when it happened; A singular event which by any standard struck a clear cord sharp enough to reach the ears of God.  An historical affront on the judiciary was recorded; most definitely the first of its kind since the end of the military rule in the year 1999. Nigeria had yet to encounter such a blatant disregard for the due process and the rule of the law, in all her years of civil rule and through all her muddles. In the history of any Judicial system, when executive personnel can afford to forcefully enter the homes of their Lordships and reduce them to the equivalent of victimised children, only one possibility can be prescribed and only one such political situation could afford such idiosyncrasy; a Gestapo regime.

The inspirer of this article was the event of October 8, 2016. On this day, that Nigerians need not forget in a hurry, the DSS, took to its ravenous inclinations and arrested various judges in their homes, claiming they had been tipped as to the corrupt acts and engagements of the judges in question. Department of State Service, DSS, yesterday, said  it recovered over N360 million from the residences of three judges following raids, on Friday night/Saturday midnight,‎ of the residences of seven judges  of the Supreme, Federal and High Courts across the country. Prior to this article a lot of persons have argued back and front about the unconstitutionality of the actions of the DSS (Department of State Service). In fact the CJN, Mahmoud Muhammed, currently on the verge of exiting the bench has emphatically stated in a report by a daily newspaper, that it is not the responsibility of the DSS to arrest judges, and describes the DSS’ action as an unconstitutional means of intimidating the judiciary and undermining its independence. It is almost an impossible task to refrain from concurring with this splurge of logic.

Similarly other notable Nigerians such as Governor Fayose, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Augustine Alegeh and a host of others have added their own two-two kobo, All to the end of duly castigating and denouncing the acts of this federal agency.

The writer of this article finds great sense with the reflections of the CJN. The reason and rationale behind this liaising is best established with the words of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) who beautifully enthused that “To make a law, yet not see it enforced, is to authorise what you yourself have forbidden.”

The implication of this thread of reasoning in addressing the sham of the recent days is that the DSS does not, will never and could not possibly have had the constitutional or legal power to do what it did. The only realm wherein the DSS can boast of such powers would be in a spiritual realm of its own conjuring; if so, the DSS need be reminded that those who machinate in coveted realms should endeavour not to confuse their metaphysical plane with our reality. The promulgated laws pointing to the establishment of the State Service (National Security Agencies Act Cap 174 laws of the federation) does not in any way whether formally or informally, explicitly or covertly enshrine power on the DSS to prosecute any matter concerning financial crimes or other similar corruption charges. In truth, the closest to such authority can be construed in Section 3(a) of the said act, which aptly declares that “The State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.”

Flowing from this limited statutory endorsement, a question is readily begged. Are these judicial officers Security threats? Were local Bombs or Boko Haram Suspects discovered under their beds? Is Military Security now synonymous to Financial Security? If the answers are in the affirmative then scrap this article and ascribe its message as the consequence of over-enthusiasm and itchy hands.

In clear terms, the DSS has no power what so ever to prosecute this matter. If for anything this should be a matter for the ICPC or the EFCC (are they the same? am I just doubling a parastatal with strikingly similar functions? well that's a topic for another day.) or yes maybe the Police force or at least the Code of conduct Bureau but never the DSS (their job for now is Boko haram and the Militancy in the creeks, which they are still doing a bad job at).

However, we must also not neglect the fact that these judges may indeed be guilty of the charges levelled against them. Such money, raw in cash, floating on the private floors of their Lordships. We should also not easily forget that these judicial officers possess no immunity against prosecution on their person other than their arbiters in court. ‘May’ being the underlining word here gives credence to the words of Fani-Kayode, who says: “If anyone honestly believes that such large sums of cash were found in the homes of ANY of those judges then that person needs to have his head examined. The DSS has to say these outrageous things and tell these shameful lies in order to attempt to justify their illegal actions before the world.  It is called disinformation and misinformation and that is their stock in trade.”

Perhaps one may be wiser to take Fani-Kayode’s Vituperation with a grain of salt. But it cannot be said that his argument fails the rationality test. Whether the Judges are guilty or not is a question for proof. Yet, it must be argued that due process is a necessity for change in our corrupt society. The action of the DSS was not a solitary one but was indeed ordered by our supposed Mr. Change, the good old General Muhammadu Buhari. This act is indeed reminiscent of the events characterised by the Buhari regime in the year 1985 (yes, the same guy) when he was head of government. Someone should tell this man that this is 2016, and that Nigeria is a democracy.

•The Legal Watchmen is a group of seasoned young writers who expotulate on legal and political issues in Nigeria. Kindly log for interesting articles.

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Source News Express

Posted 28/10/2016 4:39:17 PM





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