Corruption in the judiciary did not attract much public attention until the wind of anti-corruption crusade started blowing across every sector of the country.
The arrest of some judges with well overwhelming evidences has proved beyond reasonable doubt that some Nigerian judges can be corrupt as alleged. And this has been generating mixed reactions among Nigerians home and the diaspora, especially why there are still corrupt practices among those, supposedly, custodians of justice.
A few lawyers ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to on this attributed the shameful act to greed, poverty, lack of integrity and more while there’s also this belief that some of the judges are under paid.
‘Many factors are responsible’ – JOHN ITODO
A judge who is corrupt is not corrupt because he is a judge, but because he is a corrupt person ab initio.
The office of a judge does not corrupt its holder, if anything, it makes its holder more responsible and virtuous. So, the critical point therefore, is that it is the same thing that makes everybody corrupt, that makes a few judges corrupt.
However, I am of the opinion that the following are responsible for the corrupt practices by some Nigerian judges:
- Greed: Mahatma Ghandi was reputed to have said that there is not enough in the world to satisfy the greed of one man, but there is enough in the world to satisfy the needs of everyone. Greed is a major cause of corruption. When a judicial officer longs for things and comfort of life that he or she cannot legitimately afford from his salary, but wants it at all costs, he or she is greedy. Make no mistake please, it is not bad to dream big but don’t attempt to attain your dream at all costs because as he/she continues to long for it, he will begin to device means to achieving his lofty dreams and aspirations (it could be sending his kids overseas to study, buying a dream car, a dream vacation, a dream mansion, etc) and guess what, the only option at his disposal is to take advantage of his position and abuse his oath of office.
My admonition therefore to all persons, (judges especially, as these are the people this interview covers) is to be contented and learn to live within what God has blessed them with per time. As long as you are alive, your dreams will surely come to pass. Have you seen a man diligent in all his ways? He can only be what he has set for himself, it is only a matter of time.
- Lack of strong institution: This is another bane of quality justice administration. When judges (who are human beings) see how their counterparts in the executive and legislature lead flamboyant lifestyles on stolen and unjust enrichments, with no serious repercussions, some who lack integrity will find motivation to steal and live large too.
What is the average remuneration of judges? I can assure you it is nothing to write home about compared to the volume of work they do daily and what their counterparts in the executive and legislature earn.
I will admonish that judges should be well taken care of, as their counterparts in the executive and legislature. Corrupt people should be dealt with real harsh so as to serve as deterrent to others. These judges sit over corruption cases and I can tell you that most time the cases are bungled at investigation stages and so you know that if it gets to your turn, you will do all that is necessary to scuttle investigation because a case is as good as it investigation.
- Bias: It could be religious, ethnic, family, social, gender, etc. all these factors come into play as well. When a judge is biased or senses bias at any stage of a proceeding, he should hands off and put in a request for re-assignment of the matter to another judge.
- Lack of personal integrity: Some judges like most people lack personal integrity. Some men cannot take their eyes off anything in skirt, and so if a female defendant is before them and the lady is ready to play ball, of course, what do you expect to get? Some are so pathetic that their conscience is up for sale, at any price no matter how little.
- Poverty: Most people in Nigeria like the judges are first generation millionaires. They grew up in abject poverty and squalor. So when they have the opportunity, they steal and amass wealth for fear of unknown when they are out of office. They don’t want to return to poverty. Also because some grew up from a poor background, the only way to show people that their status has changed is to amass material wealth and afford things without batting an eye lid. The society also puts enormous pressure on them. That is when you will see the judge’s kinsmen running to him for help. All these put unnecessary pressure on judicial officers.
I will recommend that the government, in addition to pension should create some kind of buffer funds for judicial officers in terms of suitable accommodation after office in areas of their choice, provision necessities of life suitable for persons in their class.
‘IT’S DUE TO LACK OF CONTENTMENT’ – Toyin Bamgbose – Falaiye
Corruption in the Nigerian judiciary has been there for a long time. The unveiling is just recently. The reason for this corruption can honestly not be pin pointed because judges are among the well paid officials. But then, bribery and corruption, to me has always been a morality issue, greed, wickedness, lack of contentment and compromise.
Even, as some scapegoats have been caught, I don’t think the practice has stopped. Ostentatious lifestyle and people wanting to live above their means is also a factor. Until they imbibe moral values and cultivate the fear of God, I don’t think corruption can become a thing of the past in the judiciary just like in other spheres of life.”
‘It’s because they’re under paid’’ – MOHAMMED FAWEHINMI
“Some Nigerian judges are corrupt because they’re grossly underpaid. There’s no special package for the welfare of judges in comparison with their workload. I believe Nigerian judges are among the most hardworking in the world.”