Judges and the anti-corruption crusade

The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) wishes to call on the office of the Chief Judge of Nigeria (CJN) and National Judicial Council to re-direct attention to the current indifference of some judges to the ongoing anti-corruption revolution in Nigeria.

Given the successive years of unpleasant experience in the practice of corruption in Nigeria, corruption has denied Nigeria of many benefits of progress and development and has failed to respond to conscious initiatives from various governments, military and civilian to address unethical practices and graft by public officials in the public service delivery.

Given available information on the magnitude and nature of the complexity of corruption and its attendant vices, the judiciary should tap into these towards ascertaining their effectiveness in the current efforts at eradicating incidence of graft and financial crimes in public service delivery and use their judgment to strengthen current enforcement of anti-graft laws while implementing sanctions that can effectively serve as deterrent.

As members of the Nigerian judicature, Judges are expected to support the desire of government, and anti-graft agencies to re-enact a corruption-free society and ethical leadership and not to give the bad impression to be supporting what in the eyes of reasonable Nigerians is unethical.

The Judiciary must join forces with the EFCC and the Nigeria Police that have decided to act and work together to face up with the magnitude and reduce the social cost of corruption in every facet of our economy. Courts and Judges must pay special attention to corruption offences in addition to other crimes and desist from granting unnecessary injunctions and long adjournments which allow suspected Nigerians to use their connections to arrest the process of their prosecution.

The courts through accelerated and diligent adjudication of financial crimes and corruption offenses will send right signals to potential fraudulent and corrupt public officials that committing electoral offences is a high risk venture and that there is zero tolerance for corruption in Nigeria. The judiciary needs to start to build confidence that the current anti-graft wars will be successfully implemented and that public officials will not be tolerated to resort to self-help for their selfish ends.

Judges themselves must shun corruption and favouritism to maintain independence so as to confer dignity on their offices. Nigerians look up to the courts to dispense justice as a public service and representatives of God on earth. It is in this respect that the TMG is calling on the National Judicial Council to rise to the occasion of the current efforts at stamping out the menace of corruption from the country through organising constant refresher courses and training that will strengthen the capacity of Judges and motivate and deepen their knowledge to discharge their duties beyond reproach.

Presently, it is painful that most of the courts have failed to live up to the expectation of Nigerians who are victims of corrupt practices for not adequately responding to the changing policies against corruption because of failure to use the law to regulate social action. It is now over six years since December 14, 2002 that the EFCC was inaugurated through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2002 and ever since the courts have failed to deal effectively with issues of corruption and this has led to monumental loss of resources and funds for development, thereby en-foisting untold suffering on the people.

Interest against the issue of Financial Crimes and Corrupt Practices has not been seen to be spreading as the cankerworm of corruption, hence the TMG believes that the society through the law can eliminate the threat posed by corruption to the future progress of the country and the court today should not choose to under-play the dangers of the corruptive trends unfolding by demonstrating lack of wit to stamp out, the menace of corruption through the instrumentality of law.

Erubami and Rafsanjani are members of the Transition Monitoring Group executive.

By Mashood Erubami and Auwal Rafsanjani