Malleable Judiciary And Executive Recklessness In Nigeria

By Casmir Igbokwe

The executive arm of government controls the police and other security agencies. Somehow, it also controls the judiciary, which is supposed to be a separate arm of government. Being tied to the apron strings of the government in power, these handicapped institutions find it difficult to uphold the rule of law. This is the fundamental problem of Nigeria’s democracy. And unless we find a solution to it, we are going nowhere as a nation.

Take the police, for instance. After my intervention penultimate week on the Nigeria Police Force, a very senior police officer sent me a message. According to him, a lot of journalists and some Nigerians alike do not care to find out the challenges divisional police officers go through in maintaining their stations, patrol vehicles and getting their stationery.

“Casmir, could you believe,” the man lamented, “that government only provides the sum of N20,000 quarterly for maintenance of patrol vehicles, fuelling and purchase of stationery?” He challenged me to investigate further and write accordingly.

My first reaction was to doubt the veracity of the story. How, I wondered, can the police survive with this kind of funding? And how can an average Nigerian obtain justice in this type of situation? Obviously, this scenario can only breed cash-and-carry justice or rule of force.

The same problem of underfunding militates against military operations. Those fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in the North are the worst hit. With poor and insufficient equipment, they face terrorists who sometimes overwhelm them with superior firepower.

It is in the judiciary that the problem is more devastating. At the special court session to mark the commencement of the 2019/2020 legal year, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, lamented, “If you say that I am independent but, in a way, whether I like it or not, I have to go cap in hand asking for funds to run my office, then I have completely lost my independence. It is like saying a cow is free to graze about in the meadows but at the same time, tying it firmly to a tree. Where is the freedom?”

If I may add, where is the hope for the common man? Little wonder some powers that be recently charged some citizens who exercised their freedom of expression with phantom crimes, ranging from treason to insulting public officials.

The recent travails of some Nigerians like Omoyole Sowore and Agba Jalingo illustrate this better. Sowore, activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, is facing trial together with Olawale Bakare for alleged treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari. He has been in detention since August 3, 2019, when the Department of State Services (DSS) picked him up for organising “Revolution Now” protests in the county.

On September 24, 2019, Justice Taiwo Taiwo granted bail to Sowore.  The DSS bluntly refused to release him. To add insult to injury, the Federal Government threatened to drag Justice Taiwo to the National Judicial Council for granting bail to the activist. The FG apparently forgot that this same judge had granted the DSS the permission to detain Sowore for 45 days. The case was later reassigned to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Justice Ojukwu imposed stringent bail conditions on the defendants. She granted Sowore a N100 million bail with two sureties who must be resident and have landed properties in Abuja. The sureties must deposit tax clearance certificate for three years and the original documents of their properties to the court registry. The judge also barred the journalist from travelling outside Abuja and asked him to deposit his passport with the court. The two are still languishing in DSS dungeon.

On his part, Jalingo, who is the publisher of online CrossRiverWatch, is facing treason charges over a report alleging that the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million. He appeared in court handcuffed to another inmate on October 4, and was denied bail by Justice Simon Amobeda of the Federal High Court, Calabar.

Before these arrests, there had been clampdowns on journalists and activists and suppression of freedom of expression, in contravention of the UN human rights treaties. Some media organisations like DAAR Communications Plc and Daily Trust newspapers were victims of this clampdown in recent times.

In Kaduna, blogger and human rights activist, Steven Kefas, has been in Kaduna Prison without bail for about five months now for alleged inciting comments against Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and the chairman of Kajuru Local Government Area, Cafra Caino. Last Thursday, Kefas reportedly filed a N500 million suit against el-Rufai, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu and four others at the Federal High Court, Kaduna, over alleged infringements of his fundamental human rights.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has decried the disturbing suppression of citizens’ human rights in Nigeria. In an open letter it sent to the CJN recently, SERAP noted, “These charges, refusal of bail and granting of bail on stringent conditions seem to be dangerous manipulation of judicial authority and functions by high-ranking politicians, something which the NJC and the judiciary under your watch should resist.”

It is this judicial loophole that some politicians exploit to buy and manipulate justice. They rig election and when the case gets to the tribunal, they rig it there as well with money. Recall that the late Justice Kayode Eso of the Supreme Court once described election tribunal judges as billionaire judges.

It is to prevent things like these and enhance the independence of the judiciary that First Alteration Act 2010 came into being. Essentially, Section 6 of the act amended Section 81 (3) of the 1999 Constitution by ensuring that funding for the judiciary goes directly to it. But it appears this too is not working.

An apparently frustrated CJN threatened last Friday that disobedience to court orders would attract grave consequences. Speaking at the launch of the 9th House of Representatives Legislative Agenda, the CJN, represented by Justice John Tsoho, said, “Justice must be served without fear or favour. Every law of the land must be obeyed. Let me assure everyone present here that the consequences of disobeying lawful court orders will be too grave to bear. We all should gird our loins to do our constitutionally-assigned duties with due diligence so that Nigeria can be the pride of everyone.”

Very good! The CJN should start by decisively dealing with all those who have disobeyed court orders to release former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik El-Zakzaky, Sowore and many others.

 

Re: Beyond Nigerian Army’s spiritual warfare  

Casmir, for us who believe in supremacy of God, the army’s spiritual warfare is a well thought act. David, the psalmist, believed it. That is why Ps. 127 vs 1, said, “If the lord does not protect the city, it is useless for the sentries to stand guard.” However, there are rules. The army must acquire the right trainings and gadgets. Again, they must have faith in God. If there is faith, the leadership must not deny the combatants their rights. A commander who buys inferior weapons for houses and cars at the expense of the armies at the warfront must not expect miracles.

– Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

Casmir, it is crystal clear that the present military chiefs have overstayed their usefulness and exhausted their strategies because one can’t give what one doesn’t have. Hence, rejigging is long overdue. Does it mean that Boko Haram and bandits are more sophisticated and equipped? Also, what happened to the allowances, welfare and the families of the deceased soldiers? Of course, morale is supposed to be low. The military echelon should stop sending our soldiers to the warfront with obsolete weapons. For them to perform efficiently, there must be a carrot-and-stick approach, since there are bad eggs among them. Otherwise, the law of karma will be invoked.

– Smart, +2348134774884

If prayers and fasting will be solution to the insecurity in Nigeria, let security agencies embark on it now. Insecurity is threatening the unity of Nigeria and something has to be done. Every hand must be on deck to fight insecurity; not only security agencies will do the job. If there is security in Nigeria, everybody will enjoy it.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

 

Re: Other side of Nigeria Police Force

Casmir, I was so impressed after going through your beautiful write-up and equally very sad. But why the mixed feelings? A lot of our journalists and some Nigerians alike do not care to find out the challenges DPOs go through in maintaining their station, patrol vehicles and getting their stationery. Casmir, could you believe that government only provides the sum of N20,000 quarterly for maintenance of patrol vehicles, fuelling and purchase of stationery? Kindly assist in finding out what I told you through your investigative journalism. Let it be your next write-up. Waiting patiently to read it. Wishing you the best.

  • Anonymous, +2348126125812

Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 14, 2019

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