Judiciary In The Doghouse: Who Will Judge The Judges And Investigate Investigators?  | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Judiciary In The Doghouse: Who Will Judge The Judges And Investigate Investigators? 

Posted: Nov 27, 2016 at 7:05 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Magnus  Onyibe.

While still grappling with our economy which remains stuck in the doldrums, our hard earned democracy, which seems to be the next target of deterioration, is by all indications heading for the precipice, if the current Executive/Judiciary face-off is not handled with care. The reason is that, by interfering in the internal affairs of another arm of government, respect for separation of powers which is the bedrock of democracy, and appear to be under threat and therefore democracy can be said to be in retreat.
It is particularly heart breaking that the sanctity of separation of powers between the three arms of Government has in the past 18 months diminished significantly.

Mr. President’s seeming cloak and dagger brand of politics currently causing ripples in the polity and rumpus in the ruling political party, the APC is carefully veiled with the toga of fight against corruption in order to lend it some legitimacy and gain traction with the masses whom the anti corruption war resonates.
Capitalising on the rich also cry syndrome, whereby the masses rejoice when perceived oppressors are being prosecuted,(a popular sentiment amongst the down trodden), Government under the watch of President Buhari has been more or less on rampage.
Although the presidency persistently denies the charge, but it has been unable to disprove the notion, that under the advertised guise of fighting corruption, the executive arm has been intimidating or muzzling opposition voices in the other two arms of Government which pundits are referring to as disguised plan to settle old scores with those who are perceived to have stepped on the toes or have hurt the feelings of current Aso Rock occupants.

The presidency must prove to cynics that the assertion above is incorrect so that all Nigerians would join the fight against corruption. For now, the exercise is still being perceived merely as a Buhari agenda to rein in politicians and businessmen/women accused of engaging in abuse of office because the so called ‘small corruption’ is still going on unabated in the police force, customs service and entire civil service. As a way of assessing the state of democracy in Nigeria, particularly with respect to the integrity of our seventeen, 17 years old unbroken record of the practice of party democracy, a catalogue of anti democracy policies and actions that may be eroding the concept of Government of the people, by the people and for the people, since May 29, 20015 till date, would be in order.
It may be recalled that the anti graft war started with the rounding up of politicians who allegedly partook in the conversion of $2.1 billion dollars earmarked to fight Boko Haram terrorists to campaign slush funds.
To that effect, Ahmed Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser, NSA was the lynch pin by virtue of the fact that he is the one that dispensed the funds, and was literarily thrown into the dungeon soon after power changed hands in Aso Rock last year.

Subsequently, the Executive arm of Government of which the Directorate of State Security, DSS and Economic And Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC are surrogates, embarked on the naming and shaming of several politicians, mainly from the opposition party, who on a daily basis were put in handcuffs and displayed on the front pages of newspapers and as well as showcased on headline news broadcast on TV and radio as evidence of taming the opposition. Curiously, some politicians now in the ruling party, APC who only cross carpeted from the previous ruling party, PDP at the cusp of emergence of the APC as the new ruling party , are by virtue of their new party affiliation deemed to be guiltless and therefore are being treated like blue eye princes by the presidency, DSS and EFCC.

What the above analogy simply illustrates to the non partisan observant Nigerians, is that the Government in power may be practicing double standards in the anti corruption fight and which is why the campaign in some quarters is being perceived not to be really altruistic.
To the shame of some law makers and consternation of Nigerians, the threat to democracy spilled into the cyberspace as attempts were made to gag the very dynamic and politically conscious Nigerian youths who were former supporters of president Buhari, but turned against him due to failed expectations.
Thankfully, the proposed piece of legislation which allegedly scaled first and second reading in NASS failed woefully as the legislation aimed at silencing the vociferous cyber gladiators was killed in parliament following the fierce resistance put up by men and women of goodwill.

The legislature which is the second arm of Government has also been a victim of bullying by the executive arm for going against the guideline of the ruling party with respect to election or selection of its leaders. It only recently regained its voice and independence when it withheld assent to the request by president Buhari for borrowing of about $30 billion from abroad to augment the 2016 budget.
Similarly, to avoid the trend of one region being favoured over other regions which is against the spirit and letter of the federal character principle as enshrined in the 1999 constitution, NASS also declined approval for the presidency’s disbursement of social safety net funds, until a breakdown of how the funds will be spread evenly to all indigent Nigerians in all the constituents was made available to members.
That measure may also be a tell tale sign that NASS does not trust the executive arm to evenly distribute the social safety net funds which confirms the lack of inclusivity charges against the presidency.
Against the backdrop of the recent actions demonstrating expression of independence listed above, NASS appear to be regaining its MOJO after its leader, senate President; Bukola Saraki was humiliatingly docked by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, ostensibly for breach of code of conduct act. It was not lost on most Nigerians that the CCT trial was indeed a smokescreen of a sort and attempt by the presidency to bully the NASS into being submissive to its whims and caprices, which is a perversion of the spirit and letter of separation of power as enshrined in the presidential system of governance.
Incidentally, while all the forgoing overt and covert denigration of democracy was unfolding, the judiciary, which is the third arm of Government in a constitutional democracy either lent itself to the travesty of the rule of law by the executive arm by looking the other way or by acquiescence, did nothing to protect democracy.

While the judiciary had turned blind eyes to the dictatorial anomalies in the ways and manners that the executive arm of Government has been operating, with the false confidence that it would not be targeted, unbeknown to the third arm of Government, it was a question of time before it would join the long list of victims.





Now that the judiciary is facing assizes or inquisition of the dimension never before witnessed in the annals of Nigerian history, ostensibly for not being above board as the high office demands, who will speak out for the judiciary?
Ironically, the ranking justices of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, who are among the seven, 7 judicial officers under probe, are now being given same doses of medicine that they dished out to citizens in their courts, as the judiciary becomes the new centre of gravity in the so called anti corruption war in Nigeria.
Having had their homes ransacked in the middle of the night by men of the DSS before being herded off and clamped into detention in their pyjamas, according to their petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, the judiciary which was like the big masquerade that cannot be unmasked publicly in a traditional African setting, has been demystified.
The pertinent question that the shocking event elicits is: will such furious, if not barbaric approach to fighting the epidemic of corruption, fix the malaise for good?
In my considered opinion such savage attitude of the DSS is intolerable to the generality of Nigerians who believe in upholding the tenets of democracy by insisting on maintaining the rule of law, due process and preserving the sanctity of the Principle of separation of powers, which is the heart and soul of democracy.
My justification for the position espoused above is that despite the bar beach show of publicly executing alleged drug traffickers between 1984/85 under the watch of then General Buhari’s regime, drug trafficking did not stop. In fact it has increased as evidenced by the Nigerian recently caught with several wraps of the illicit substance hidden in his body cavity-anus.

Now, some Nigerians, particularly Nigerian Bar Association, NBA have proposed that the accused judges should be suspended from office to allow investigation of the alleged corrupt practices and possibly bring the top ranking Judicial officials to trial, if there are reasonable grounds to do so.
After initial resistance by the National Judicial Council, NJC, on account of the fact that due process was not followed in arresting the seven, 7 judges under investigation, the accused judicial officers have now been suspended or asked to step aside and their prosecution is under way.
As the judicial dictum goes, he who seeks Justice must come with equity.
Arising from the scenario above, it is only fair that the presidency follows the moral rectitude of the NJC by suspending cabinet members that stand accused by the suspected judges.
As the aphorism goes, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Other wise the argument that the arrest of the judges by the DSS which is an arm of the presidency amounts to the executive arm of Government using security agencies which it controls to persecute the judiciary which is an equal and independent arm of Government, may gain potency and be sustained in the public arena and even amongst the masses who are ardent supporters of president Buhari.

Given the gravity of the allegation, there is the risk or threat of erosion of democracy in Nigeria which is based on independence of the three arms of Government- Executive, Legislative and Judiciary- through separation of powers, but as stated earlier, such perception or misconception could be defrayed if the presidency does not engage in the antics of shielding the accused cabinet members from investigation.
Anything short of demonstration of such transparency and uprightness, would only give fillip to the belief that the action of the DSS arresting sitting judges amounts to intrusion and bullying of the judiciary arm by the executive which is a major threat and danger to the continued practice of democracy in Nigeria.
Just as the presidency detests the judges remaining on the bench while being prosecuted, and they are now relieved of the job, it’s also fair game for the judiciary via NJC not to trust DSS or EFCC to impartially investigate the accused ministers.
So the issues that have been tossed up by the executive and judicial arms of Government face-off should engage the NASS and civil society organizations in the coming days, weeks and perhaps months with a view to nipping in the bud, situations tending towards degenerating into constitutional crisis.
Based on trend analysis derived from recent antecedents of the DSS buoyed by the support of the presidency, it won’t surprise me, if civil society organizations, CSOs become the next victim of the executive arm of government high handedness.
This would happen when the anti graft agencies finish with the judiciary and shift their gaze to suspected ‘bad eggs’ amongst the rights activists who might have constituted themselves into a torn in the flesh of law enforcement agencies, which being under the ambit and sphere of influence of the executive arm of Government, are being upbraided by some CSOs for doing the president’s bidding, instead of working in the overall interest of Nigerians.