In the midst of all these, they hear stories about budget
‘padding’; another new word in Nigeria’s politico-economic
lexicon. By definition, padding is the practice of ‘adding’
a chunk of money to budget line items or additional fake
budget items to the budget submitted by the executive, by
the National assembly, with the aim of sharing the ‘excess’
among members of the respective committees once the money is
released for implementation. This is done in active
connivance with ministers of the respective ministries. The
ministers too have a share in the deal at the end of the
day. This way, everybody is happy perhaps except the common
man who is not a stakeholder in all these permutations.
Padding has been a normal exercise in the PDP led national
assembly since 1999. Indeed it has been institutionalized
and passed down from one assembly to the other.
As if these are not enough, we woke up last Saturday to the
stunning news that some high ranking judges have been
arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) agents
and huge sums of money in different denominations were found
in their possession. The arrest was also accompanied by some
drama in Rivers State where the State Governor prevented the
agents from arresting the Judge. He said, he could not allow
illegality to be committed in his domain as the chief
security officer of the state. On the other hand the NBA,
the lawyers association issued a stern warning to the
government to release the judges unconditionally, failing
which they would embark on a boycott of the courts. Then as
usual the masses, the battered masses, quickly filed
themselves along political, religious and ethnic lines and
began to fight each other, adducing political, religious and
ethnic reasons for the early morning raid. Some, who chose
to give their criticism some semblance of patriotism, hyped
the ‘rule of law’, though rather suspiciously, to buttress
their opposition to the arrests.
Wike’s conduct, in obstructing the DSS agents on assignment,
leaves a lot to mystery. What dog does he have in the fight?
In addition to his being the State’s Chief Security Officer,
has he now taken upon himself the duty of the chief law
officer who determines which arrest is legal or illegal? Is
it in his power to demand a warrant of arrest from the
police when he is not the suspect? Does the law require his
approval in his capacity as the Chief Security Officer for
any suspect to be arrested? Is this how he goes about
supervising police activities with regards to the arrest of
citizens within his domain?
Wike’s conduct gives credence to the school of
thought which posits that Nigeria may not be ripe just yet
for State Police after all. Actions like the show he put up
imply that should a whole Police formation be placed under
his control, it would be subject to abuse.
It is amazing how the Nigerian citizenry has gone past
astonishment and consternation and developed a thick skin
against public vices that easily draw out the anger of the
people in other climes. It is only in Nigeria that you find
the victims of crime defending the criminal. The recession
we are experiencing today is a consequence of sleaze, which
has been aided and abated by the judiciary. It is therefore
very ironical that the common man who is worst hit by the
consequences of this clandestine conspiracy are being
gullibly brainwashed and recruited to defend their
adversaries, hyping the rule of law. I can bet that should
such an arrest have happened in one of the societies where
corruption is a taboo; the people would have poured into the
streets in support of the action and demanded punishment in
no lenient terms. Here
we have self-made lawyers alluding to illegality of the
arrest in obvious indifference for the illegality of the
alleged offence for which the Judges were arrested.
Three issues have been raised by the opposition camp against
the arrest. One, they claim that the time of the arrest was
‘ungodly’ even though the Administration of Criminal Justice
Act(2015) is equivocal in
section 43 (1) & (2) that an arrest warrant can be executed
at any time and on any day of the week including Sunday and
a public holiday.
Secondly they allege that there was no warrant for
the arrest of the judges whereas the DSS insists they had a
warrant. However again the Administration of Criminal
Justice Act (2015) requires only that the arresting police
officer should inform the suspect of the existence of a
warrant, it does not make it mandatory that a warrant be
presented to the suspect on the spot (or to spectators as in
the case of a Wike showing up on the scene and demanding to
see the warrant).
Indeed section 44 of the act states that a warrant of
arrest may be executed even if the person executing the
warrant does not have the said warrant in his possession
at the time of arrest
provided that it should be shown to the suspect on demand as
soon as practicable after his arrest. Thirdly they say the
arrest violated the rights and privacy of the suspect, where
the agents had to break into the properties of the suspect
in the course of the arrest. Again the Act at 12 (2) clearly
permits the arresting officer to break into the property of
a suspect for the purpose of arrest if the suspect fails to
grant access to the arresting officer.
From the ongoing, it may be deduced that, the cacophony of
antagonistic voices against this bold and decisive move is
not motivated by the love for the rule of law. But rather it
is motivated by the inherent propensity of a great majority
of Nigerians to prefer to do things their own way despite
the law. We
write beautiful laws and then park them aside and operate on
religious, ethnic and political principles. When a Christian
is arrested, the Christians cry foul, it becomes persecution
of Christians by a Muslim led government.
When a politician is arrested, it becomes
intimidation of opposition. When a tribesman is arrested,
his kinsmen rise up and allege marginalization and ethnic
cleansing of their tribe. The law does not come into all
Now the judiciary has borrowed from this diversionary tactic
and are alleging persecution of the judiciary. The NBA
issued a hasty but unfortunate statement threatening fire
and brimstone if the judges were not released (without
trial). The question is; since when did lawyers transit from
learned fellows who seek redress from the courts to
‘militants’ issuing threats?
How does a group which believes in the rule of law,
resort to self-help tactics instead of heading to the courts
to defend their ‘clients’ (the judges)?
The posture of the NBA creates suspicion that perhaps
some of their key members (not all) are neck-to-neck with
some judges in these surreptitious deals.
The most unfortunate statement came from the CJN who even
found a way to link it to an attack on democracy. Why on
earth would a lawyer or judge say the arrest of a suspect
(whatever is position) constitutes a threat to democracy?
Does it mean the clandestine activities of these judges are
perpetrated to promote democracy? How is democracy
endangered by weeding out corruption from the judiciary?
Does democracy only thrive in a country with a corruption
Are judges immune from prosecution? Are they above
the law? What exactly does the CJN and his colleagues have
to hide? Why not allow the judges to appear in court to
defend themselves? Why make inciting comments against the
turn it into a battle between the Judiciary and the
Executive, leaving the matter of corruption out completely?
Is it really the judiciary that is on trial or some judges?
The holy book says
‘judge not so that you shall not be judged’. This may be
paraphrased as ‘Judge ye, but remember that you shall also
be judged’. In this case the Judges want to judge without
being judged. Is this the type of justice we crave for? He
who sits in the judgment seat must sit with clean hands. We
need a justice system that is blind to status, clan,
religion or political inclination. This is a test case for
the Nigerian Judiciary to redeem itself. They have an option
to weed out the so called ‘bad eggs’ and restore the dignity
of the hallowed institution or to dance naked in the spirit
of es·prit de corps.