Nigerian Judges Are Jokers
By Prof Obiaraeri, N.O., Ph.D (Law)
While considering an application for bail brought by Prof Iwu, former INEC Chairman, in an alleged corruption case filed against him by EFCC, the Federal High Court last week ruled that the defendant be granted bail in the sum One Billion Naira with two sureties in the like sum.
Curiously, the Learned Trial Judge directed among other things that one of the sureties must be a Professor or Grade Level 16 Officer who must in addition show evidence of ownership of One Billion Naira cash via Bank Deposit.
This out of the world and unprecedented bail condition has set tongues wagging.
A Professor Or Grade Level16 Public Officer In Nigeria That Has One Billion Naira Cash Deposit In His Or Her Bank Account Is Presumably Corrupt!
Apart from amounting to outright denial of bail, legal scholars, activists, men and women of enlightened consciences are asking who expects to see One Billion Naira cash in the Bank Account of a Nigerian University Professor or Civil Servant irrespective of his or her grade level?
With the greatest respect, requiring a University Professor or Civil Servant of whatever grade level to show evidence of ownership of One Billion Naira cash deposit in a Bank is akin to judicial sanction of corruption in public life.
That is an overkill and unthinkable in this day and age when every segment of the society is being sensitized about the ills of corruption in public life.
Where will the Professor or public officer get that kind of humongous amount of cash given the paltry salary or take home pay of these cadre of public officers?
Certainly, the Court which should know did not take the realities on ground into consideration in fixing this excessive bail condition which as well makes a mockery of the impecunious nature of the University Professor or Civil Servant.
Is the rank and status of Professor not good enough social security, one may ask?
Is ownership of large physical cash in Banks and choice immovable property no matter how acquired everything and the only criteria to be a substantial surety in a court of law?
To say the least, this additional requirement of being a Professor and a multi-billionaire at the same time is demeaning the the enviable status and rank of a tenured Professor of a University which does not come easy.
We are constrained to restate that there is nothing which says that a judge must grant bail willy nilly.
It is elementary law that bail is either granted or refused. Both fall clearly within the province of the exercise of jurisdiction of the Judge.
A judge is liberty to expressly refuse bail if he is of the considered opinion that the defendant or accused is not, on the law and facts before him, entitled to be admitted to bail as the presumption of innocence is not automatic.
A judex is better off refusing bail outrightly if the judicious exercise of his discretion warrants such refusal.
A dissatisfied defendant or accused who is refused bail is at liberty to proceed upstairs on appeal for reconsideration of bail and may succeed or fail depending on the facts.
Outright refusal of bail where the Court is not satisfied that the accused is entitled to bail is a more courageous approach consistent with the Judicial Oath that compels fearlessness on the part of a Judge than cowardly or mischievously imposing impossible bail conditions which will ultimately amount to denial of bail.
There is no place for excessive bail condition in our criminal jurisprudence and constitutional law.
Our apex court and Supreme Court has time and again deprecated this “Ostrich mentality” re-emphasizing that bail is either granted or refused.
There is no middle course in bail applications and any judge who adopts this indecisive or ambivalent posture has by “his attitudinal chemistry shown an unwillingness to do justice in the matter”.
Succinctly put, any University Professor or Civil Servant that has a ready and available Bank Deposit of One Billion Naira is definitely living above his honest means and this is indicative of corruption and sleaze in public life requiring the special attention of the anti-graft agencies.
Conclusively, this ridiculous bail condition requiring evidence of huge cash deposits beyond the legitimate earnings of public officers introduced in this (now controversial) Prof Iwu’s case is not promotive of the fight against corruption in life.
It is respectfully opined that such intemperate bail condition is against both public policy and public morality and should not form part of our criminal procedure law jurisprudence on necessary and acceptable conditions for qualifying to be a surety.
Let justice be done though the heavens fall- fiat justitia ruat caelum.
As the Court Pleases.
A new normal is possible!
Prof Obiaraeri, N.O., Ph.D (Law), B.L.