There has been a lot of backlash since the hunt for corrupt judges began. A few weeks ago, the nation witnessed the arrest of judges Nationwide by the DSS. Many Judges have been fingered as engaging in corrupt practices with revealations emerging after their arrest.
However, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has pointed out 11 ways through which corruption is perpetuated in the Judiciary urging the National Judicial Council (NJC) to raise an independent panel to investigate allegations of corruption against judicial officers.
In a seminal paper in Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2007: Corruption in Judicial Systems, Osinbajo shared his thought on the disciplinary procedures for judges and argued that the NJC does not have the final say.
He listed some of the most common methods of practising corruption in the Judiciary to include – Fabricating rulings in exchange for money; Blackmailing litigants into paying for, or excluding evidence; Making decisions based on instructions from local government, party or senior judicial officials, rather than the law or facts.
He also added Assigning, dismissing, delaying or refusing to accept cases, or refusing to properly enforce court decisions; Extorting kickbacks from intermediaries for passing cases to certain judges; Trading law enforcement services for personal gain; Taking bribes from the plaintiff and defendant (or their lawyers) or both.
Osinbajo also listed Manufacturing court cases; Embezzling court funding; Bowing to the demands of local officials, criminal networks, local clans, social networks or economic interests and Abusing the power of judges to order suspension of business operations, the confiscation of property, the eviction of tenants, or fair compensation and labour rights.
“Corruption is generally regarded as pervasive in Nigeria, affecting many of its institutions. The Judiciary is no exception. The main forms of judicial corruption relate mainly to either pure bribery or, in sensitive cases, political interference from government or party officials,” Osinbajo wrote.
“The problem worsened during Nigeria’s 30 years of military rule, one of the worst features of which was the weakening of all the justice institutions.
“In 1994, Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime established a panel of inquiry, headed by the renowned retired Supreme Court Justice Kayode Eso, to look into the activities of members of the Judiciary.
“The panel recommended a series of reforms aimed at curbing judicial corruption. The panel also indicted 47 judges for alleged corruption, incompetence, dereliction of duty, lack of productivity or corrupt use of ex parte orders. The military regime failed to implement the recommendation of the Kayode Eso panel.
“The civilian regime, which took power on 29 May 1999, set up another panel to review the work of the Kayode Eso panel. Following the report of the second panel, some of the indicted judges were either dismissed or compulsorily retired.
“With regard to the discipline of judges, the reform policy dictated that every case of judicial corruption would be investigated and submitted to the NJC, which would then appoint an independent investigation panel to make recommendations.
“Prior to the NJC’s creation in 1999, the JSC had been the sole adjudicator on disciplinary issues, providing an avenue for local interference in the process
“It is important to note, however, that the NJC does not have the final say on the disciplining of judges. This lies with the governor or president as the case may be.”
Story by Oputah David