Signal of A New Dawn In The Administration Of Justice In Nigeria
Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Good things are indeed happening in Nigeria! On Wednesday January 21, 2004 I read two articles in the on line version of a Nigerian newspaper, both articles reported, what I consider decent steps in the right direction, regarding judicial responsibility and the role of lawyers and the judiciary, in the uplift of Nigerians and Nigeria, the protection of the rights and freedoms of the average individual Nigerian citizens, particularly, those, who have been languishing needlessly in detentions and prisons.
The first moving news item, was in regard to the National Judicial Council audacious, courageous and timely suspensions of some errant members of the bench, judges, that is, who tried to influence justice and fair play, more pointedly, those who tried to miscarry and mislay justice and fair play, regardless of the evidence or facts. In these four suspensions, coupled with some other suspensions in the last several months, the NJC is clearly sending a message of zero tolerance for judicial misconduct and other shenanigans by those entrusted with the administration of justice in Nigeria.
I strongly believe, this sort of audacious and bold actions, on the part of the NJC, is stab in the back of corruption and vestiges of graft and greed, that needs to be rooted-out from Nigeria, particularly, from the judiciary and the administration of justice; This will send a message of reassurance to the average Nigeria, a sorely needed reassurance, to the effect, that, justice is not for sale to the highest bidder, a message to all Nigerians at home and abroad, to the effect that, there will henceforth be equality before the law, a message that justice and fair play will be the watch word for the administration of justice in Nigeria, and that any errant judge or judges shall face the full wrath of the NJC.
The recent actions of the NJC, will speak louder than words, it will act as a deterrence to those among judicial officers who may not have heard or embraced the crusade against judicial misconduct and or corruption of our judicial processes, it is now clearer, more than ever, to everyone, the consequences of judicial misconduct, public disgrace, truncation of legal career and quite possibly, jail sentences for former judicial officers, who will now be on the opposite of the criminal justice system in Nigeria, as the receiving-end of penalties, which they hitherto handed down unto other citizens.
Nigeria need law reforms, but Nigeria urgently need judicial reform and cleansing, before the amendments, the reforms of old laws and newly minted laws, can have any positive effects and benefits on all Nigerians, this is so, because, laws are only as good as their enforcements or observance; Nigeria actually have had very good laws in the book, except that some of these laws in our books, have lacked effective implementations and or enforcements, or worse, some of these laws, have been perverted by judicial officers who are willing to mortgage or truncate these laws, for their personal and selfish gains or for the protection of their friends and highest bidder; Imagine now, that such rascals amongst the ordinarily honorable profession of bar and bench, are being thrown out of the profession.
This sanitization of the legal environment, will augur well for sundry areas of life in Nigeria, it is common knowledge, that societies become progressive, while development become more likely or possible, where there is rule of law, where rules of rewards or punishments are certain, where facts and evidence and proper procedure determine the outcome of cases or matters before judicial officers, and outcomes are not determine by extraneous factors, such as, justice being for sale to the highest bidder or justice being exclusively for the well-connected.
Nigeria will develop with these necessary reforms, and become transformed into a society, where individual rights, freedoms, lives and properties secured and guaranteed, with consistent and very certain and definite rules, rules that are not subject to the arbitrary whims and caprice or manipulations of corrupt administrators of justice.Secondly, the other noteworthy article, was in connection with the Nigeria Bar Association, particularly, the Ikorodu chapter, whose actions moved a judge in Lagos, to summon the Attorney General of the Federation to his court, to explain why any Nigerian, especially the ones in question, detained for upwards of ten years, are detained without trial or freedom from detention! Those who are in a position to know, would tell you, that the conditions of Nigerian prisons are not humane, to say the least.
Why then, should any Nigerian citizen spend or waste his productive life in these inhumane conditions and without "favor" of a trial and sentence for any offense? Recently, I came across a book launch proposed, in connection with prison reform, I certainly hope that the forthcoming book on prison conditions, the urgent need for prison reform and the additional impetus from the actions emanating from the NBA Ikorodu chapter, to the waste of body, soul and flesh of our fellow Nigerians, most of them, innocent of any crime, but who are detained needlessly and endlessly.
Thirdly, two of Nigeria’s public intellectuals, Dr. Fankinlede and Mr. Abidde wrote different articles that expressed my exact feelings in connection with decorous public discourse, I gladly associating myself with their requests for constructive criticisms, devoid of gutter language, derisive and derogatory descriptions of public office holders, even when there are good reasons to be critical; Other Nigerian public intellectuals, commentators, journalists etc must embrace tolerance and what Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, the former presidential candidate of the defunct GNPP, once described as politics without bitterness.
Good things are surely and steadily happening in Nigeria, the sun of our collective development and progress is rising