By Gado Ageh Gado
The hope of that common man, the future of the societal values and norms, the peace and stability of the Country, the conscience of the interpreters of the law and the watch of the watchers is being threatened by a dangerous and incurable (but controllable) infection in the guise of corruption with its widespread tentacles ready and willing to kill justice and to hinder the just progressiveness of the society by making justice a purchasable virtue. There is no denying the fact that no society is devoid of corruption but its surveillance is what matters in any given society of ours. For corruption is as old as creation itself. Therefore, corruption cannot be completely wipe out in any given society, sector and judiciary is not an exception. Corruption has been an issue which has equally become an obstacle to the achievement of a better, efficient and effective economic development and virile democracy globally. Corruption is not exclusively economic phenomenon but manifests in every facet of our life, in political, and other sectors like industries, banks, government establishments/institutions, law enforcement and judicial system, legislative assemblies, that is to say in both private and public sectors. Nigeria as a country is progressively being destroyed by a weapon of mass destruction in the guise of “corruption”.
Not surprising, Nigeria is commonly referred to as the headquarters of the Advanced Fee Fraud otherwise known as 419. This suggests that for all rhetorical emphasis successive governments since 1999 have not placed emphasis on combating corruption. Nigeria Judiciary is a reflection of the problems in Nigeria. It is trite that justice sold is justice killed. And in the words of Seneca, “fidelity purchased with money, money can destroy.” At this juncture, it is of pertinent to define the term corruption- Corruption is the abuse of power by a public official for private gain or any organized, interdependent system in which part of the system is either not performing duties it was originally intended to, or performing them in an improper way, to the detriment of the system’s original purpose. The abuse of public offices for private gain is paradigmatic of corruption.
The role of Judiciary in nation building and in combating corruption globally cannot be over-emphasized, especially in Nigeria with its experience of long period of Military Rule and historical evidence of corruption in government. The Judiciary has a vital role to play in stabilizing and catalyzing the other two arms of government on its toes and by extension, itself. This is because the fate of the masses lies in the Court. As a mother, her arms are always open to the cries of the oppressed especially when the weather of the Executive and the Legislature seems unbearable. It is not a gain-saying that the citizens enjoyed little or no dividence of democracy in a Country like Nigeria in spite of the abundant resources at her disposal.
This is due to the fact that there are no viable laws or judicial pronouncements to address their yearning plight. Yet, the political class and those that are on the corridor of power enjoyed some kind of privileges and still swooped upon even the crumbs left for the masses or the electorates to their detriment. Painfully to say that our Judiciary find itself in a state where the rich-class get away free even after diverting billions of naira whereas the poor masses rot in jail for misdemeanor offences. As if to say that there is a conspiracy among the three arms of government. The question is, is this Court still the hope of the common man? For corruption adore is destiny abort. To a large extent, all Organs of a State submit to the Judiciary. To this end it is being regarded as the last hope of the common man and by extension the society at large.
To understand the law is to understand the interpretation therein. Law is not law until being tested by the furnace of justice. And the judiciary is vested with this sacred duty of interpreting the laws enacted by the legislatures. Therefore, acts or omissions committed by the legislatures, executive and the citizens of the society must conform to a given existing law in order not to invoke the wrath of the law through the pronouncement of the judiciary. Hence, the need for such an Organ of government, that is, the judiciary, to set itself apart as a vessel unto honour ready and willing for the implementation of the cause of justice to its end. That is why there is no civilized society even in the ages past that existed without this Organ in whatsoever names it had been or is being called. Be it the council, council of elders, council of chiefs, king(s), arbitrators or judges. Where this organ of government is paralyzed, the whole society, paralyzed. Its corruption corrupts the society.
It (judiciary) is the light or doom of a given society depending on the state it is in a given time. It is trite a saying that the Executive Arm are the Watchers of the Law. As it ensures the implementation or execution of an existing law in its proper order. It dictates and apprehends offenders. However, with all these vested duties of the executive arm of government, to me, I will say, the judiciary is the “watch of the watchers” as she is constitutionally bound to see that all acts and omissions conform to the law without which the person in breach will be made to face the wrath or music of the law. That is why in any given circumstance the legislatures enact laws that are not practicable by the members of a given State, the judiciary usually declare such a law enacted null and void to the extent of it inconsistency with an existing law or way of life of the people. As law does not compel the doing of the impossible. Indeed, law is the collective conscience of the society.
The need for the judiciary to remain incorruptible cannot be over emphasized. As justice and corruption are offspring of different mothers and each having it unique bearing fruits thereof. Corruption and justice cannot walk together or even come into an agreement. And if they do, justice suffers. Therefore, a judge cannot serve the cause of justice and corruption at the same time. As seen in the Jesus’ saying in the Holy Book of Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (KJV). To this end, judiciary must be seen to be administrators of justice as they are trained and sworn to be-reading and willing to say no to corruption and all it proceeds. Judges are debtors to the societal conscience. Discharging the debts is by discharging justice. And that such justice must conform to equity and law. Judges are knowledgeable men and law presumed them to know the laws to a substantial amount for the sake of justice and the society. This is because their very acts and/or omissions influence the society negatively or positively. Jesus Christ of Nazareth acknowledged this aura of theirs when he said in the Holy book of Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves and them that were entering in ye hindered.” (KJV).
Therefore, the right or wrong interpretation of the provisions of the law bound the society (and when a wrong interpretation is given, it will be bad for both-as it paralyzed justice and the progressiveness of the society) and such “key” of unlocking (interpreting) the intents of the legislatures is being vested in the judiciary. Moses recognized this vital role played by the judiciary and began by calling for incorruptible judges who would be impartial in their rulings. These judges must be committed enough to law and equity. And an alleged offender can only be convicted upon sufficient evidence of the existing crime. And this he said in Deuteronomy 16:18-20 “Appoint judges and officers for your tribes in every city that the Lord your God is giving you. They are to judge the people fairly. Never pervert justice. Instead, be impartial. Never take a bribe, because bribes bind wise people and deny justice to those who are in the right. Strive for nothing but justice so that you will live and take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (God’s Word). Looking at the foregoing, the progressiveness and stability of the society depends upon the administration of justice free from any external interference.
Gado, Ageh Gado is a legal practitioner.