Monday, October 15, 2007

Supreme Court of Nigeria Vs Corruption War

Supreme Court of Nigeria Vs Corruption War

By Paul Adujie
Monday, 30 April 2007
The Supreme Court of Nigeria, in many ways, in attributes and qualities, is similar to the Supreme Court of the United States, in authority and, as the final adjudicating power or arbiter of all legal matters. The Supreme Court of Nigeria, has an unfettered power!

For lawyers, the Supreme Court is therefore, what St. Peters Basilica is to devout Catholics! The Supreme Court is to lawyers, what Mecca is to devout Muslims! The Supreme Court is revered and held sacred by all lawyers and I suppose, by all citizens as well. In essence, the Supreme Court is the ultimate, in legal matters in Nigeria.

As a Nigerian citizen and lawyer, I must confess that I hold the Supreme Court of Nigeria in awe! I owe it all the respect as a citizen of Nigeria. I trust the Supreme Court of Nigeria additionally, because it boasts of my former law teacher, Professor Niki Tobi, formerly the Dean of the University of Maiduguri’s faculty of law and a Deputy Vice Chancellor. Professor Tobi is brilliant law teacher and lawyer. He represents towering excellence!

He is a man of spotless character and unblemished integrity!

In the interest of full disclosure, Professor Niki Tobi made it possible for me to study law, I was bound to spend the rest of my life as an economist, perhaps with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Professor Tobi’s presence among the current justices of the Nigeria Supreme Court, makes it a zillion times more difficult for me to criticize the soundness of the justices’ legal reasoning and conclusions! Let alone impugn the integrity of the members of Nigeria’s auspicious judicial institution.

Criticizing and faulting the recent judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, I must do!

I have agonized about two recent decisions by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, first, that Atiku MUST be on the ballot! And it was one week to the elections! I felt that the Supreme Court of Nigeria appeared to have pandered to the public, pandered to the press and pandered to the political opposition! I thought that the Supreme Court of Nigeria would and should have abstained or reserved its decision on Atiku. The second case, is the one in which, the court is returning Joshua Chibi Dariye to Government House, Ray-Field, Jos in Plateau State! Why would the Supreme Court of Nigeria assist a known outlaw, to benefit from his crime? Why would the Supreme Court aid and abet Mr. Dariye in thumbing his nose at Nigerian laws and Nigerian peoples? This, despite Mr. Dariye’s known despicable and indecent behavior in London England? I quite understand that our court are required to deal with the cases before it, and that our courts are not required to take judicial notice of legal matters pending against Mr. Dariye in England. But all Nigerians and in fact, the whole world is aware of Mr. Dariye’s transgressions in the UK!

I am of course also aware that section 308 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, confers immunity from prosecution, on certain public officials in Nigeria. The Supreme Court is however aware that there were attempts to bring Mr. Dariye to justice, in Kaduna, by the EFCC. The EFCC complied with the rule of law, due process with fair hearing and all. It is the case that Mr. Dariye stole, pillaged and plunder Plateau State treasury with impunity, hiding under the cover of constitutional immunity. While he used and abused it as a cloak and a shield. He used and abused legal processes in Jos, Kaduna and now, Abuja! Mr. Dariye ought to have been damned by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

But instead, the Supreme Court Justices, became activists, flame-throwing aggressive political activists! They became what one might call legislators, legislative acts in their judicial activism! Neither Mr. Atiku or Mr. Dariye was facing the death penalty! Why did the Supreme Court feel compelled to undertake extraordinary processes of accelerated hearings in some of these political matters?

Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria fail to consider the national security implications of their decisions in these matters? Such as the risk of producing a deadlock or an impasse in the just concluded national election, because of Atiku? Why was Atiku’s “right” to be on the ballot, surpass and trumped the collective interests of 140 million Nigerians?

Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria not consider the logistical nightmare that their decision would induce? Such as having to reprint and distribute millions of ballot papers, with Atiku’s name and picture on them? Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria not consider the costs in money, materials and just logistics that INEC would be ensnared? A reading of some South African newspapers revealed last week, that some companies in South Africa contacted by Nigeria, to print elections materials, actually rejected such contract offers, due to the break neck speed the printing job required. The size and magnitude of the printing job was enormous! INEC and its printers had an unreasonable time constraints imposed on it by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its efforts to please one man! Mr. Atiku!

Why would the Supreme Court of Nigeria become motivated and so moved, to engage in such speedy efforts? It was as if, the court was flexing its legal muscles as the justices decided, and agreed among themselves, and said, lets accelerated hearing this and that? Why would the Supreme Court engaged in acts or pronouncements to hurry the High Courts and to hurry the Courts of Appeal over these high profile political cases, and in particular, the Atiku cases?

Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria behaved as if, it had a stake in the outcome of the Atiku cases? To the extent, that the Supreme Court was issuing letters, press statements and creating the appearance of pressuring lower courts over matters before lower courts, even before it was ripe for the Supreme Court? This is worrisome, especially, in the face of recent or not too distant history of accusations or allegations against some justices over “gifts” of cars etc. We have heard that President Obasanjo is a tight wad, while Mr. Atiku is a big spender, and Atiku gets, what Atiku wants?

Why would the Supreme Court of Nigeria, an objective, unbiased, neutral arbiter of matters before it, now appear to be in a hurry to hear Atiku’s case and certain similar cases? Why?

I personally ask all the whys, whys and WHYs, because I am aware that there are hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in prisons or detentions for wandering, for being unemployed or for not giving some errant police man a tip or for not apologizing for being poor. There also some Nigerians on death row, some of them do not deserve to be in prison or on death row! While corruptly rich politicians hire ten Senior Advocates of Nigeria to canvass their cases, forum shopping and all, with all their egregious indulgences!

Is the Supreme of Nigeria losing any sleep over prison congestion? Has prison congestion ever been a priority to those at the Supreme Court? Has prison congestion not existed for decades and decades? OK, the Supreme Court of Nigeria does not have all the men, materials, money and sundry resources to do a better job. But the Supreme Court seems to find resources speedily, when it concerns Atiku and the newly corrupt and rich politicians?

How about the poor unemployed, arrested and detained for nothing citizens?

Here is my one last why; Why is the Supreme Court not engaged in judicial activism regarding the poor who imprisoned endlessly or even without trial? How about miscarried justice, where someone is on death row for 14 years for an offence they never committed?

It is often said that a society is measured by its care or lack thereof, of its weakest citizens!

Joshua Chibi Dariye was impeached “imperfectly” after he was indicted in England for money laundry, money that was clearly stolen, pillaged and plundered from the people of Plateau State and Nigeria. Mr. Dariye, was accorded bail, as a “leader” of one of the thirty-six states or political subdivision that Nigeria is comprised. Mr. Dariye bolted! Justice is blind and impartial, justice is deaf to criminal charges against Mr. Dariye in UK?

He is a fugitive from the law, he is now about to benefit from his crime, because our Supreme Court, in almost robotic manner, insists, Mr. Dariye remains governor because he was not properly impeached or that he impeached in an imperfect manner? How about Mr. Dariye’s corruption? How about Mr. Dariye’s fugitive status? Imagine now, if a prisoner in Plateau State escapes from prison, would Mr. Dariye have the moral or even legal authority to seek retribution and punishments for such fugitive, prison escapee?

How about the fact that it is just one month before Mr. Dariye’s term in office expires? Did our Supreme Court have had to render judgment in Mr. Dariye’s case? Must Mr. Dariye resume office 30 days to the end of the term?

What exactly is the purpose of the law? I believe it is to serve society, to protect and preserve society, to have law and order and to serve as a clear arbiter of reward and punishment for conduct and misconduct in societal inter relationships. Law is not an abstraction or an academic exercise. These are unusual times and extraordinary times in Nigeria, we must use the laws to remove corruption, we must use the law at every opportunity, to remove the stumbling blocks and the clogs in Nigeria’s wheel of progress and great.

By some accounts, perhaps, by all accounts? corruption is the single biggest problem that has delayed, stunted and truncated Nigeria’s development, advancement and greatness.

Why then, would the Supreme Court literarily give Mr. Dariye and others like him, a pat on the back? Why would the Supreme Court help Mr. Dariye and other indecent public officials in Nigeria ingratiate themselves at the expense of our nation? Why would the Supreme Court of Nigeria facilitate Mr. Dariye spitting in our faces as he benefits from his illegal escapades? Why this legal “victory” to a fugitive? The Supreme Court avails itself to scumbags and scoundrels? This is not how to fight corruption! We must fight it, united!

All branches of all levels of our governments, the executive, the legislative and judicial branches of our federal and state governments, ought to be acting in concert and in unison to rid Nigeria of corruption. Corruption can only be eliminated and eradicated in tandem.

Nigeria’s national interests are at stake! No one can afford to continue to act as a mindless robotic machine, as if without a stake in the outcome of what happens to Nigeria, particularly, because of the scourge of corruption! What is the purpose of the law? I make bold to assert, that the law fosters better society. The law is the difference between stable and progressive societies and those other societies that are not. I want Nigeria to be a nation of laws!

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