“The role of the judiciary, the Bar, the law enforcement agencies, religious Organisations and traditional Institutions in the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria (1) by Mazi Afam Osigwe

“THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY, THE BAR, THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE ANTI- CORRUPTION FIGHT IN NIGERIA (1).

I thank the Chairman of the NBA Gwagwalada Branch for inviting me to present this paper at this years Law Week of the Branch. I am glad at the topic the Branch has chosen as one of its main focus. The topic is most apposite when Nigerians are groaning under the weight of depleted public revenue occasioned by profligacy, waste in governance, misplaced priority, lack of accountability and transparency in the management of public funds, corrupt practices etc.

The focus on corruption is the more important in the light of its debilitating effect on the economy of our nation as well as the increasing impoverishment of our people. In this period of change, the role of the legal profession (bar and bench) in combating corruption must therefore be critically reviewed.

The general consensus is that if corruption in our public and private lives is reduced to the barest minimum, the ability of the government to provided much needed infrastructure and services will be greatly enhanced and the cost of doing business as well as the cost of goods and services will also be reduced. There is no doubt we all pay the cost of corrupt practices.

Thus the need to combat it must not only be emphasised but seriously tackled as corrupt practices is a burning national issue in our country. The topic therefore seeks to know the role of various facets of the society in the fight against corruption.

This much has been confirmed by. In A.G Ondo V A.G. Federation (2002) 10 NSCQR page 1034 at pages 1122-1123 the Supreme Court of Nigeria, confirmed that corrupt practices are a burning issue of great social concern in Nigeria.

In that case, the Court per Uthman Mohammed, JSC stated: It is quite plain that the issue of corruption in Nigerian society has gone beyond our borders. It is no more a local affair. It is a national malaise that must be tackled by the Government of the Federal Republic. The disastrous consequences of the evil practice of corruption have taken this nation into the list of the most corrupt nations on earth.

Dahiru Musdapher Chief Justice of Nigeria (as he then was) stated correctly at the SERAP Roundtable on 9th February 2012, in his keynote address, When the rule of law is weak, corruption will remain a nagging problem……Corruption in the Justice sector is a keystone to corruption throughout society. Without an honest criminal justice system, the wealthy, especially the corrupt, can escape the consequences of their crimes.

Such impunity reduces the perceived cost of corruption. The risk that corrupt activity will result in imprisonment and accompanying public humiliation is minimal. The gains from corruption are therefore not discounted and there is thus little reason beyond personal integrity not to engage in corrupt acts…..Metaphorically, a corrupt judge has been described as more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street.

The latter as you know can be restrained physically. But the former deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals while still answering honourable.
That corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the legal profession and indeed into the administration of justice is a readily admitted fact. This has been variously admitted by the bar and the bench.

On February 17, 2012 the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association, J.B. Daudu (SAN) accused senior lawyers and retired judicial officers in the country of aiding and abetting corruption in election petitions. He made the allegation while speaking at the valedictory session held in honour of the late Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Aniagolu.

J.B. Daudu (SAN) specifically said some senior lawyers and retired judicial officers serve as bribe couriers between politicians and election petition tribunals. He did not name the senior lawyers and retired judges involved, but ear him: “Sadly it is no longer a moot point that the corruption that encompassed the larger society has infiltrated the justice sector. I make no distinction here between the Bar and the Bench.

Corruption is now a live issue that is threatening to tear apart the foundations and fabric of the society. We are no doubt aware that some of our colleagues including very senior counsel and at times eminent retired judicial officers go about offering their services as consultants particularly in election cases for incredible sums of money so as to act as conduit between their client and the election court.

The end result is to facilitate ready-made justice for persons they are acting for. We must strongly deprecate this practice. Our members and the public should feel free to avail themselves of this NBA anti-corruption body.
In a speech he delivered on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association after the appointment of Honourable Dahiru Musdapher as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, J.B. Daudu SAN noted that the then Acting CJN was taking over the mantle of leadership of the Nigerian Judiciary at a time when the credibility and image of the justice delivery system has been severely dented.

According to him The events that led us to this point are known to all. Leaving the issues that are sub judice aside, there are question marks on the ability of the judicial system to deliver justice rooted in the universal principles of the rule of Law and constitutionalism. Several factors of which the most dominant is corruption have been identified as the bane of progress in the Nigerian judicial system. It is clear that all is not well unhindered opportunity to at least lay the foundation for change and reform.

That your lordship has until July next year to engineer this transformation is not a disadvantage but is indeed a positive sign. The advantage is that a reform agenda that has progressed beyond the stage of conceptualization confronts your lordship.

The Bar stands ready to work with your lordship to reverse the plague that now bedevils the legal profession and the justice sector. I will separately discuss the role of the Bar and the judiciary before lumping the of the law enforcement agencies, religious organisations and traditional institutions.”- Mazi Afam Osigwe (Bencher).

Mazi Afam Osigwe LLM (Jos) LLM (Lazrsky, FCIArb (UK), a Notary Public, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) is the Senior Partner of LAW FORTE (Legal practitioners). He is the immediate Past Chairman of NBA, Abuja Branch and the General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association.

To be continued.

 

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